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Tulane Hangs Tough but Falls Short against UCF

Once again, the Green Wave almost did enough to earn their first FBS win of the season but ultimately falls to 1-8 on the season.

NCAA Football: Tulane at Central Florida Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

For three and a half quarters on Saturday, it seemed as though the Green Wave might pull off a big upset to grab their first conference win of the season. The defense was rendering the Knights ineffective, the offense had given them a slim lead and Willie Fritz’ group was clicking just enough to maintain that lead. When all was said and done, though, UCF prevailed and left the Wave trying to find answers after yet another loss.

The Knights got the scoring started in the first quarter when quarterback Mikey Keene connected with receiver Ryan O’Keefe for a 15-yard touchdown. O’Keefe, who caught 11 passes for 94 yards in this contest, turned out to be the only scorer of the opening half.

Tulane, despite having Michael Pratt from injury, was unable to produce anything on offense in the opening two quarters. The Green Wave punted four times in the opening half before kicker Merek Glover missed a 42-yard field goal try.

Fortunately, however, the Tulane defense looked much sharper than it has for most of the season. The Knights offense that knows how to put up big numbers was held in check. Green Wave big man JoJo Dorceus recovered a fumble at the end of the first half to ensure it remained 7-0 at the break.

The second half got off to a much better start for Tulane's offense. Pratt and company orchestrated a lengthy 80-yard drive that chewed over five minutes off the clock. More importantly, however, that drive ended in a touchdown thanks to an eight-yard run from Tyjae Spears. Spears, who was Tulane's leading rusher on the day, ran for 77 yards on 15 carries.

NCAA Football: Tulane at Central Florida
Tyjae Spears (#22) scored Tulane’s only touchdown on Saturday against UCF.
Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

After forcing yet another UCF punt, the Wave took the lead off another productive drive. Glover drilled a 25-yard kick to put Tulane up 10-7 late in the third.

The back-and-forth drama that defined the first half took over again. Knights kicker Daniel Obarski missed a 42-yard field goal before the teams began trading punts again. With 12 minutes to play, the Green Wave held onto a narrow lead.

It was about then that the UCF offense started clicking again. Aided by tremendous field position, they drove just 38 yards to score the eventual game-winning touchdown. Keene tossed his second score of the day, this time to Brandon Johnson, and the Knights regained the lead 14-10.

Tulane had their opportunity at the end. After receiving the ball with 2:05 left, Pratt did all he could to lead his team down the field. A costly sack by Quadric Bullard made things too difficult though and the offense simply ran out of time.

While this loss is another in a long line of many this year for Tulane, it doesn't feel quite as disheartening as some others. UCF is a good team and to stick around the way the Green Wave did says something about their mental fortitude. This was a 1-8 team playing as if they had much more on the line. This season may be coming to a dead end but there's no reason to believe Fritz's team won't snag a win before the end of the year.

Up Next: Tulane returns home next Saturday to face Tulsa in a contest that kicks off at 3:00 PM CT.

UCF hits the road next weekend to play SMU. That game kicks off at 11:00 AM CT.