DALLAS – Junior quarterback Jonathan Banks was ruled just inches short of the goal line as time expired, and Tulane football fell at SMU, 41-38, Saturday in front of a crowd of 14,209 at Gerald J. Ford Stadium.
On first and goal from the SMU one-yard line with 0:09 left, Banks ran for the end zone, but the official marked the ball short of the goal line and time expired before the ball could be set for play. The ruling stood upon replay review. The Green Wave’s season ends at 5-7 overall and 3-5 in American Athletic Conference play.
“When I looked at the big screen, I thought it would be changed to a touchdown, but I guess those are tough ones to overturn. That’s not my call,” head coach Willie Fritz said. “Banks did a good job of driving us 87 yards down there, but sometimes it comes down to inches.”
Tulane took over possession with 1:59 remaining after the Mustangs (7-5, 4-4 American Athletic Conference | West) scored to take the lead on a 19-yard pass from Ben Hicks to Trey Quinn with 2:05 left. Redshirt senior running back Sherman Badie returned the kickoff 21 yards to the 27-yard line, where the Wave began their drive. The offense moved down to the SMU five-yard line in eight plays, and a pass interference penalty put the ball at the two-yard line. On third down, a second pass interference penalty placed the ball at the one-yard line with 0:09 on the clock.
Banks topped single-game career high in completions (18) and passing yards (314) with two touchdowns 48 rushing yards. Sophomore wide receiver Darnell Mooney caught both touchdowns and finished with six receptions for 168 yards. Redshirt junior wide receiver Terren Encalade caught seven passes for 111 yards, and sophomore running back Darius Bradwell led the way with a career-high 80 rushing yards on nine carries and two touchdowns.
The Green Wave totaled 485 yards of offense, while the Mustangs finished with 478 yards of offense, including 375 passing yards.
Tulane trailed 27-21 at the half, but took advantage of the receiving the second half kickoff and then an SMU fumble to sprint ahead, 35-27. Banks hit Mooney for a 15-yard strike to cap a 12-play drive that traveled 75 yards on the first possession of the third quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, sophomore defensive end Larry Bryant forced a fumble on the return and senior defensive end Luke Jackson recovered it at the SMU 14-yard line. On the first play, senior running back Dontrell Hilliard galloped into the end zone untouched to extend the lead to 35-27 with 9:07 on the third quarter clock.
SMU answered with a 29-yard touchdown pass from Hicks to James Proche to cut it to 35-34 with 3:46 left in the period. The Green Wave then drove 67 yards, and sophomore placekicker Merek Glover knocked a 25-yard field goal through the uprights to make it 38-34 near the end of the third quarter.
The game started with what Tulane thought was a long fumble return for a touchdown on SMU’s opening possession, but upon replay review, it was ruled the ball carrier’s knee was down. Three plays later, Ke’Mon Freeman scored a touchdown on a three-yard run to give the Mustangs a 7-0 lead.
The Green Wave responded with a 77-yard touchdown drive that took six plays and 2:13 to tie the game, 7-7. Mooney caught a short pass over the middle, and did the rest of the work, winding 52 yards through the defense to the end zone. The Mustangs went ahead, 14-7, on a four-yard run by Freeman with 2:55 to play in the first quarter.
Three touchdowns within 0:32 resulted in a 27-14 SMU lead with 5:55 left in the half. SMU extended its lead to 20-7 on a 23-yard pass from Hicks to Ryan Becker with 6:27 left in the third. Tulane answered immediately with a 57-yard run by Bradwell on the first play of the ensuing possession, cutting it to 20-14. The Mustangs, however, then scored on a 77-yard touchdown pass from Hicks to Quinn to make the score 27-14.
Tulane cut it to 27-21 by halftime when Bradwell scored his second touchdown of the game on a one-yard dive with 0:56 left in the half. The score capped a 13-play, 75-yard drive that elapsed 4:50. Banks found Encalade for a 37-yard gain on third-and-10 down to the SMU six-yard line to set up the score two plays later.