Texas posted its second shutout in four games. The last time the Horns have pitched two shutouts in the same season was in 1991. (In fact, the Green Wave has remained scoreless against Texas for 16 quarters in this sporadic series, dating back to the fourth quarter of a 35-8 Longhorn win in 1962.)
Texas held Tulane to 192 yards total offense, well below the Waves 337.3 yards-per-game average.
The game marked just the 19th time since 1990 that Texas has held an opponent to less than 200 yards, and 15 of those have come under the tutelage of coordinator Carl Reese.
The defense held Tulane RB Muwelde Moore to a season-low 51 yards on 15 carries. The Doak Walker Award candidate, who will become Tulanes all-time leading rusher with just an average game next week, had been averaging 103.5 yards-per-game.
Tulane QB J.P. Lossman entered the game completing 61 percent of his passes but was just 13-29 for 127 yards (two interceptions).
Tulane was just 4-of-15 on third-down conversions, giving up four sacks and punting nine times.
"When they (offense) struggle a little bit, our job is to get the ball back to them and let them continue to struggle until they work it out," defensive coordinator Carl Reese said.
The struggling Texas offense, meanwhile, played well enough to win against a vastly inferior opponent.
Texas netted all of 176 yards (34 attempts) on the ground against the nations No. 105 run defense.
RB Cedric Benson was held to 88 net yards on just 17 touches (good for 5.2 yards per carry) while the lightning-quick Selvin Young carried for a career best 66 yards on 12 carries.
The Horns were just 3-of-12 on third down conversions.
Tulane won the time-of-possession battle, controlling the clock for 30:39.
How special were special teams? Consider this:
Freshman RB Selvin Young (sharing punt return duties with FS Dakarai Pearson for injured CB Nathan Vasher) broke the game open with his 71-yard return of a Seth Marler punt in the third quarter. It marked Texas longest punt return for a touchdown since Bobby Dillon took one back 84 yards in 1950 against TCU.
The defensive shutout was preserved largely by DT Marcus Tubbs block of a Marler 38-yard field goal attempt that freshman SS Cedric Griffin returned 56 yards for a score.
On the ensuring kickoff, Michael Ungar forced a Brant Hocke fumble that Tim Van Nguyen recovered at the Tulane 13. The play set up a two-yard Young touchdown run.
Sophomore Dusty Mangum broke the Longhorn record for consecutive extra points (Kris Stocktons old mark was 57 set in 1998-99) following Texas third touchdown of the game, and now has a string of 62 straight.
With the win, Texas posted just its second 4-0 start since 1983.
"Half the teams that played today got beat," Texas head coach Mack Brown said. "We have to be excited to be 4-0. Its hard to be 4-0 any more."
The Horns now lead the overall series against the Wave, 16-1-1.
Tulane served notice early it would not be intimidated by Texas' lofty ranking or by its gaudy defensive stats, sprinkling in into its game plan gumbo a mixture of quick screens, quick slants and quick-hitters.
On Tulane's opening driving, Losman connected on three consecutive tosses for 24 yards before Moore scampered 21 yards on a pitch. (He would gain just 30 more yards on his final 14 carries.) Suddenly, an opposing offense found itself on rare earth (i.e., on Texas end of the field during the first half of play.)
But facing a third-and-10 from the Texas 40, WLB Derrick Johnson broke up a pass intended for WR Cletus McGee.
"They were throwing the ball hoping to make four or five yards," Reese said. "It gets you out of your rhythm a little bit, but I thought our kids did a good job of finally settling down. I thought they might use their (running) back more. Instead of trying to control the ballgame by running the ball, they just used a real quick passing game."
WR Tony Jeffery was credited with partially blocking Mahlers punt (his first of nine) that netted just 16 yards. After Bensons 16-yard carry (his longest of the day) on Texas first play from scrimmage from its own 24, the Wave stiffened, forcing a Texas punt. P Brian Bradford responded with a career best 60-yarder.
After each team exchanged possessions, Texas first big defensive play came when Tulane took over on its own 16, lined up in a five-wide set and faced a befuddled Texas squad lined up in rare zone defense.
Thats when MLB Reed Boyd intercepted a tipped Losman pass, giving Texas a first down at the visitors 27 yard line.
"Our job is to go in there and force a three-and-out," Boyd said, "but every phase of the game today was tremendous. We scored on special teams, we scored on defense, we scored on offense. You couldnt ask for a better day. When every phase of the game has an opportunity to score, you know youre a great team."
After two Benson runs netted 16 yards, Simms found WR Sloan Thomas on a 11-yard scoring screen pass to get Texas on the board with 3:02 remaining in the first quarter. In Roy Williams' absence, Thomas was the leading receiver for the second consecutive game (42 yards on 5 grabs).
Texas leads, 7-0.
An eight-play, 44-yard Texas drive to start the second quarter ended when Mangums 30-yard field goal attempt hit the upright. Facing third-and-six from its own 39, Losman then overthrew WR Tristan Smith who had two steps on Griffin. Looking more like the Green Bay Packers than the Green Wave, Tulane forced a three-and-out as its best defensive back/return man CB Lynar Elpheage returned a 48-yard Bradford punt the other direction for 26 yards.
The return gave Tulane a first down at the Texas 27, but the Longhorn defense stiffened and forced a 47 yard field goal attempt. In an inexplicable slump, Marler missed his fourth FG attempt of the young season after the 2001 Lou Groza Award-winner connected on 15-of-16 tries last year.
The ensuing nine-play, 55-yard Texas drive that reached the Tulane 15 came to an abrupt finish when DT Roxie Shelvin recovered a Simms fumble.
After coming up empty on two previous trips inside the red zone, Texas took over on the Tulane 48 where Simms hit B.J. Johnson in stride for a 41-yard completion. Two plays later, Simms found freshman TE David Thomas on a misdirection play for a two-yard scoring toss. (It was Thomas first career touchdown grab.) Mangums PAT with 44 seconds remaining in the period gave Texas a 14-0 lead going into the locker room.
But the two-touchdown advantage was less than savory (it felt like trekking into the French Quarter for some zesty Cajun cooking but settling for McDonalds.)
"Offensively, we werent in sync in the first half," Brown said. "We didnt make the plays that we ordinarily make. I was mad at our offense at halftime. Our standards are pretty high."
The second half started poorly for the Texas offense. Johnson pounced on a loose football, the result of an errant pitch from Simms to Benson, at the Longhorn 12 yard line. On third down, Simms was nearly sacked in his own end zone. In fact, the Big 12 officiating crew waived off a flag that appeared to indicate an intentional grounding penalty that would have given Tulane a two-point safety. As it was, Bradfords punt was nearly blocked and carried for just 32 yards.
"I thought (Tulane) played harder on defense than any one weve faced this year," Brown said.
After Tulane took over on the Texas 44, the defense forced a three-and-out.
On its second possession of the second half, Texas caught a huge break on a drive that couldnt have started any uglier. On this one, Texas had a holding penalty while Simms had two passes knocked down followed by an interception by FS Quinten Brown. If Brown takes a knee, his team has a first down near mid field, all the momentum and one score from getting back into the game. But Thomas and Johnson became a two-man wrecking crew on the exchange, creating a fumble following Browns two-yard return that Kyle Shanahan recovered at the Tulane 44.
Benson carried twice for 10 yards, and then Simms found Tony Jeffery on a 23-yard strike. Once again, Texas would turn near-disaster into a score. Under a heavy blitz, SS Tra Boger hits Simms one nano-second after the Texas QB handed the ball to Benson on a delay. Benson scampered virtually untouched into the end zone to boost Texas to a 21-0 advantage with 7:53 remaining in the quarter.
On its final possession of the third quarter, Tulane turned to backup QB Derrick Joseph who took over on the Tulane six yard line. CB Rod Babers came up big in forcing two incompletions but then got flagged for 15 yards for whispering sweet nothings into the opponents ears. Texas responded with a heavy blitz and then forced Marlers eighth punt on the day. Thats when the special teams unleashed the greased lightning that is Selvin Young, who returned a 46-yard punt 71 yards for the score (Imagine what this kids return yardage would look like had it not been for the phantom flag on his 100-yard return last week against Houston).
"Hes so quick, and hes got a lot of power in his lower legs, and hes got great vision," Brown said. "I thought he ran really well when we put him in, so hell get more playing time in the future. He and Cedric will both play a lot."
Youngs bolt gave Texas an insurmountable 28-0 lead with about a minute left in the third quarter.
Tulane lined up for a 38-yard FG attempt on its second possession of the fourth quarter, but Marlers woes would continue as Tubbs swatted the ball away, into Griffins grateful arms, who returned it 56 yards for the score. Mangums PAT made it 35-0 with 9:43 remaining.
On the ensuring kickoff, Michael Ungar forced a Brant Hocke fumble that Tim Van Nguyen recovered at the Tulane 13. QB Chance Mock entered the game for Texas and directed a four-play drive capped by Young's two-yard touchdown run. Texas lead 42-0.
Not to be outdone, another heralded member of Texas 2002 recruiting class added one more big play to the onslaught. Freshman CB Edorian McCullough picked off a Lossman pass at the Tulane 45. Other than a 17-yard completion to freshman WR Robert Timmons, Young negotiated the rest of the distance on five carries, including a three-yard scoring run with 1:30 remaining.
"Once again, it shows the depth we have on this team," Simms said. "Weve got so many playmakers. I mean David Thomas is our third tight end, and hes every bit as good as the first two. And Selvins performance speaks for itself."
Final score Texas 49, Tulane 0.
BOYD STEPS UP
Throughout two-a-days, both Brown and Reese were starting to sound like a broken record when talking about their linebackers: Johnson and Jackson were proven commodities, but Boyd needs to step up, Boyd needs to step up, Boyd needs to step up
When Boyd stepped up against Tulane late in the first quarter, his first career interception set the defensive tone for the rest of the game.
"We were still in a state at that point where we were struggling a little bit and not knowing what they were doing," Reese said. "He really made a nice play. He came over to the ball and reacted to it. After that point, we settled down on defense."
While the Horns ambled off the field, soaking up the lavish praises heaped upon them by the adoring crowd chanting "Beat OU!" (seems like theres one more game between now and the Oct. 12 clash against the Evil Empire), Boyd was the first player to sprint out of the Dome, trying to stay one step ahead of his first encounter with the mass media (which, by the way, grows more massive with each UT victory)? An understandable reaction, but Boyds custom is to race off the field to visits parents and grandparents who travel to watch him play.
"Reeds playing so much better even than he did in the spring," Brown said. "You lose a guy like D.D. Lewis who started for four straight years, and Reed made the big play that leads to the first points. There was pressure on Losman but Reeds got great hands. Hes a real good blitzer."
THE ORANGE WAVE
There was a decidedly Burnt Orange tint at the Superdome Saturday as the strong Longhorn contingent relegated Tulane to, in essence, a visiting team in its own Dome. (Then again, it was for the large gate receipt and the guaranteed $300,000 payout that Tulane scheduled this game. Meanwhile, UT fans jumped on a way cool away-game -- Hurricane? What hurricane? -- that wasnt Waco, Lubbock, Manhattan, Kansas or that little town up in Nebraska where they used to play football.) The announced 46,678 in attendance represented the largest Superdome crowd for a Tulane game since 50,240 inhabited the facility when No. 6 Alabama came to town 10 years ago.
"When you can have this many people come from the state of Texas, during the week of a storm when youre not even sure if the games going to be canceled or not, is amazing," Brown said. "The fans were fired up. Sometimes during the first half, when I was mad at us, Id turn around and the fans were pumped. So I thought I must be wrong because the fans were positive in trying to help our team. Thats what it needs to be like across the country."
To put it in perspective, the Dome can hold 69,767 without adding a single cheap seat. Or, imagine a Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium thats nearly 40 percent empty. On Saturday, while boasting the largest home attendance since 1992, the Domes second level was partially filled while there was enough wide open spaces on the third-tier to shoot skeet. All this despite the fact that Tulane officials gave away (repeat: gave away) tickets to all (repeat: all) New Orleans area schoolchildren to see the highest ranked opponent since No. 2 Florida State came to town in 1990. Its indicative of why the only wave in this Dome is a tide of red ink that has beset the football program in recent years, and why Darrell Royal told Brown to get the hell out of New Orleans in 1987.