Tulane came out starving for momentum, and the Green Wave held it early. After Syracuse deferred to the second half, Tulane worked a reverse, slip-screen and several misdirection plays on its first drive. It was capped by a 40-yard burst from standout tailback Orleans Darkwa, who seized the cutback opportunity on the over-pursued SU defense.
‘Cuse responded on its first chance, as Jeremiah Kobena returned the ensuing kick 79 yards to the Tulane 5. SU evened the score in its first offensive play from scrimmage, as Antwon Bailey dove in for a 5-yard score less than four minutes into the game.
The Green Wave continued to pace the game with more down-the-field attempts and even a fourth-and-one conversion on its next drive, but Shamarko Thomas made his presence felt in his return with a big hit on Justyn Shackleford to halt the effort.
After a Tulane punt, Syracuse put together a methodical and balanced drive. Nassib was able to find Alec Lemon and Nick Provo to provide 43 yards on the effort. Bailey broke several tackles on a handful of runs, but the drive stalled after a missed assignment on the offensive line led to a sack of Nassib courtesy of an untouched rusher, Matthew Bailey. Ross Krautman provided SU with its first lead of the night, 10-7, after a 29-yard field goal.
The Orange forced a three-and-out on the ensuing possession, with seconds remaining in the opening quarter.
The Syracuse offense continued to click in the second quarter, taking three more minutes off of the clock on the way to another score. This time, Nassib found Dorian Graham in the back-corner of the end zone after executing a rub route to perfection. Adonis Ameen-More got his first two career touches on the drive, rushing for 6 yards.
The Green Wave continued to try and use trickery with a hook-and-ladder early on the next drive, but running back Albert Williams could not hold onto the pitch.
'Cuse stayed on the ground with a short field ahead, scoring four plays later on a Nassib QB-keeper. Bailey gashed Tulane on a 21-yard gallop to set up the touchdown.
The SU defense was at it again on the next drive, forcing another turnover. Linebacker Dan Vaughn got through the block of Darkwa on a blitz, and he was able to strip-sack QB Ryan Griffin. Marquise Spruill recovered, but Syracuse went three-and-out on the ensuing possession.
After Darkwa broke for 27 yards on a screen pass, more trickery ensued from the Green Wave offense. A double-reverse pass, which came from high school quarterback and leading receiver Joe Kemp to Stephen Suchy, netted 35 yards. A swing pass from Griffin to fullback Stephen Barnett got TU down to the 1-yard line, and Darkwa punched it in from there.
Kobena jump-started the SU offense with another big return, but it was nullified by a personal foul. Nassib immediately took to the air, connecting with Provo for 21 yards. Graham got loose on a 29-yard screen to put the offense inside the Tulane 10-yard line. Three plays later, Graham hauled in a 1-yard slant from Nassib for his second score of the night.
True freshman Xavier Rush was in a footrace with Kevyn Scott as Tulane tried another deep shot soon after, and the SU cornerback lost the ball in the air. Rush walked into the end zone after the 60-yard play for his first career score. The offense rallied again before the end of the second quarter, notching a field goal to cut the Syracuse lead to 31-24 at the half.
Stats at the break
Nassib finished 10 of 19 for 124 yards and two scores, and he rushed for one. Bailey already has 73 yards and a score on 11 carries. Graham leads the pass-catchers with three grabs for 40 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
For Tulane, Griffin was 15 of 19 for 194 yards in the half with a touchdown. Darkwa had two scores to his name to go along with eight carries for 56 yard. Rush, who had one catch coming into the game, had three grabs for 70 yards and a score at the break.
The Green Wave offense accounted for 312 yards in two quarters after amassing just 199 during last week's loss to Army.