UTEP 24 - Tulane 20: Recap and Reaction

A recap and thoughts on Tulane's tough loss to the Miners in El Paso.

Tulane elected to defer possession until the 2nd half and UTEP took advantage by scoring on their opening drive, going 10 plays for 75 yards and scoring on a Josh Bell touchdown run. On the ensuing possession Tulane worked their way into Miner territory but could not get in range for a field goal and was forced to punt. On Tulane's next possession Tulane drove 6 plays and 79 yards and capped it off with a 31 yard touchdown pass from Ryan Griffin to Justyn Shackleford.

In the 2nd quarter UTEP jumped back ahead 14 to 7 early after QB Nick Lamaison hit Mike Edwards for a 28 yard touchdown pass. The following drive Tulane drove into Miners territory on a 30 yard pass from Ryan Griffin to Ryan Grant which lead to a 46 yard field goal from Cairo Santos. Nick Lamaison continued his solid half on the next drive where he lead the team 80 yards and added a score on a 9 yard touchdown throw to Mike Edwards, putting the Miners up 21 to 10 halfway through the 2nd quarter. UTEP was forced to slot in back up QB Carson Meger after Lamaison tweaked his hamstring that had been bothering him after last week's loss. After a string of first downs into the red zone, Tulane held firm and forced a field goal with 29 seconds left in the half. Looking to mimic last weeks fourth quarter drive, Griffin managed to get the Wave into Miner territory on two pass plays to Rob Kelley. Griffin was eventually sacked and their push for last second points vanished and the score remained at 24 to 17.

The third quarter saw two Wave drives into UTEP territory but a fumble lost and and stop by the Miners left the Wave with no points. On the other end, Tulane stymied two drives into their territory and forced two punts.

In the 4th quarter Tulane drove from their own 4 yard line down into UTEP territory but failed to generate a touchdown, settling for a Santos field goal to push the score to 24 to 20. The Wave's defense impressively did not yield any points and forced a punt on every possession to that point. After going three and out with 5:05 left in the game Tulane punted it away and UTEP started from midfield. After a first down UTEP's RB LaQuintus Dowell fumbled and a recovery by Darion Monroe gave Tulane the ball at their 30 yard line. Tulane could not capitalize as they went 4 and out, giving the ball back to UTEP with 2:25 left. After rushing for a first down the Miners were able to take a knee and take the win 24 to 20. Tulane moves to 1 and 6 and 1 and 2 in conference play.

Reaction:

- Ryan Griffin looked stellar tonight and while his stat line looks nice the lack of points on 2nd half drives eventually caught up to the Wave as they ran out of opportunities. He was 28 of 44 for 363 yards and 2 touchdowns. Obviously this is a different team with him running the offense.

- 9 receivers caught balls tonight, with Justyn Shackleford grabbing 6 for 130 yards and a TD while Ryan Grant also nabbed 6 for 115 yards and a TD tonight. Some of those catches were tough; have to be happy with their hands at this point.

- The running game showed signs of life tonight, especially later in the game where Orleans Darkwa got the Wave from inside their 5 yard line and closer to the 20. The team only averaged 3.2 YPC but Darkwa and Rob Kelley went for 4.4 and 6.4 respectively. The offensive line also seemed to do a better job in both rush and pass blocking.

- The offense looked more comfortable and effective when they were running out of spread sets. The effectiveness of the passing game helped the run game later on. Overall the team garnered 24 first downs, 440 yards of offense and kept the time of possession close at 29:43 to UTEP's 30:17. One has to wonder how the games without Griffin would have turned out with him orchestrating the team. Certainly they would not have been such one-sided blowouts.

- The pass defense was shaky in the first half allowing 2 touchdowns through the air and 180 yards. The second half was a different story where the team only allowed 58 pass yards. Additionally, the team made stops when they needed to, holding UTEP to zero points in the second half despite multiple drives across midfield. The rush defense also clamped down in the second half and they bottled up those big gainers that did damage earlier on.

- Tulane drops another game in conference and moves to 1 and 6. Would need to win out to be bowl eligible. That said, the remaining slate is very manageable if they play like they did tonight it is easy to see a few more wins out of this season.

- Cairo Santos is pretty good - now 10 for 10 on the year. Always good to have faith in special teams, an area where this team has struggled in recent history.

- I also think it is important that the team feels competitive again. In terms of mindset it must help to be close in games and be provided opportunities to win. Not to say that this was a moral victory but it does build confidence in execution and what they are doing. After a string of demoralizing loses the SMU win gave fans some encouragement. This loss was tough to swallow given the offensive efficiency but it is promising to see improvement.

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