No finer tragedy made its debut this side of the Atlantic Ocean than "The Ballad of Devon Breaux" last Thursday night inside Yulman Stadium.
It was a simple one-man show, featuring none other than Tulane junior wide receiver Devon Breaux and a cameo by sophomore quarterback Tanner Lee.
By the time Breaux took the stage early in the fourth quarter of his team’s 37-7 loss to Duke, less than half of the crowd remained in their seats. Many of the 25,470 patrons in attendance at the start grew tired of the comedy of errors during the preshow and left.
There had to been little to cheer about against the Blue Devils and Breaux’s opening act added to the misery. Breaux went to his knees to field a kickoff following Duke’s second touchdown that put the visitors up 23-0.
Minor problem: Breaux wasn’t in the end zone. His knees touched at the 1-yard line.
With the crowd and Green Wave coaching staff staring on in disbelief, Breaux ran to the sideline. Most likely beating himself up on the inside, Breaux issued a directive to Lee.
"I told Tanner I had to make up for it," Breaux said. "We needed a big play. The whole time on the sideline I’m telling them, ‘All it takes is 30 seconds … thirty seconds for us to turn the game around.’"
Tulane had plenty of 30-second opportunities throughout the first three quarters (36.5 of them, to be exact – 18 minutes, 15 seconds of possession) and did nothing with them. It looked as if another minute and a half of anemic offense would follow until the Blue Devils were flagged for pass interference on third down and bailed out the Green Wave.
That’s when Breaux stepped back into the spotlight for the final act.
Duke had blitzed all night, but this time Tulane’s offensive line held strong. It left Lee more time in the pocket and Breuax in single coverage against a freshman cornerback. Lee spotted Breaux and chucked the ball deep. While it was a little bit underthrown, Breaux adjusted on the fly and stole the ball out of Jeremy McDuffie's hands. The junior wide receiver kept his balance and completed the 76-yard touchdown catch.
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"The ball doesn’t have to be perfect," said Breaux, who finished with four receptions for 92 yards. "We just tell ourselves at the end of the day, we have to make a play."
Breaux’s touchdown ended the shutout, which would have been the Green Wave’s first in a season opener since 1969. More importantly, it absolved him for his earlier mistake.
"Devon is that kind of player," Tulane head coach Curtis Johnson said. "I wish he hadn’t knelt on the 1-yard line – that he’d been a little bit more mature. But that was one of those plays where you can’t believe that happened, but then he came back and made a great play."