NEW ORLEANS – Career days from redshirt junior wide receiver Terren Encalade and junior quarterback Jonathan Banks propelled the offense and the defense held Houston to just three points in the first half as Tulane football defeated Houston 20-17 in front of 19,026 fans at Yulman Stadium on Saturday evening.
Encalade had the biggest game of his career, scoring the game-winning touchdown on a 64-yard reception with six minutes remaining. He finished the game with 186 receiving yards – easily eclipsing his previous career high of 125 yards.
Banks threw for a career-high 251 yards in the win, completing 17 of his 25 pass attempts and throwing the game-winning touchdown pass to Encalade.
Senior running back Dontrell Hilliard finished the game with 52 rushing yards, surpassing 1,000 for the season on his Senior Night and becoming the Green Wave’s first 1,000-yard rusher since André Anderson in 2009.
The Green Wave (5-6, 3-4 American Athletic Conference | West) found themselves ahead of Houston (6-4, 4-3 American Athletic Conference | West) by a 13-3 score at halftime, but Houston scored touchdowns on consecutive drives at the end of the third and start of the fourth quarters to take a 17-13 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
That’s when Banks and Encalade hooked up for the game-winning score. Following an 11-yard reception by sophomore wide receiver Darnell Mooney that put the Green Wave at their own 36-yard line to start the drive, Banks found Encalade over the middle for a 64-yard strike to the end zone. Encalade caught the ball near midfield and motored past two Houston defenders on his way across the goal line.
Houston would get the ball back with 4:30 remaining and drive all the way to Tulane’s 32-yard line. On third-and-1, Cougars quarterback D’Eriq King rushed up the middle for no gain. On the decisive fourth-and-1, King’s pass was knocked down by redshirt senior defensive end Luke Jackson.
With possession and 2:41 left on the clock, Tulane ran two plays on the ground to force Houston to use its final two timeouts. On third-and-9, Encalade caught an 11-yard reception from Banks to seal the game. The Green Wave kneeled three times to complete their fifth victory of the season.
Redshirt senior nickelback Jarrod Franklin and senior linebacker Rae Juan Marbley co-led the team with eight tackles, while junior safety Roderic Teamer Jr. and freshman safety Chase Kuerschen had six apiece. Tulane converted 8 of 15 third downs in the game and had 23 first downs total.
With a 13-3 lead to open the second half, Tulane’s defense kept things that way as redshirt senior cornerback Parry Nickerson intercepted a King pass in the end zone to keep the Cougars off the board. That interception was his fifth of the season and moved him up to second all-time in school history with 15 career interceptions.
But two drives later, Houston finally got into the end zone. The Cougars got great field position thanks to an interception from Isaiah Johnson who brought it back 39 yards to the Green Wave 38. A 15-yard personal foul penalty after the play gave Houston the ball at the 23-yard line, and D’Eriq King went 33 yards untouched on the ground after a holding call on the Cougars’ first play moved them back 10 yards. That tightened Tulane’s lead to just 13-10 with one quarter to play.
Houston would take the lead for the first time on its next drive, moving the ball 91 yards in 12 plays after a six-play Tulane drive stalled. The Cougars picked up five first downs on the drive and had a crucial, diving third-down reception by Steven Dunbar that went for 23 yards to the Tulane 24-yard line and kept the drive alive. Three players later, King was in the end zone on a 16-yard rush that put the visitors ahead 17-13.
That set up Encalade’s dramatic receiving touchdown and Tulane’s comeback win.
Houston got on the board on its first drive, as Caden Novikoff kicked a 39-yard field goal. The drive was aided by a 46-yard run from King on the Cougars’ second play. Houston got a first-and-goal opportunity from the 7-yard line, but an offensive face mask penalty moved them back to the 22 and ended the drive’s momentum.
The Green Wave scored their first points thanks to capitalizing on a Houston turnover. After Teamer forced a fumble and Donnie Lewis Jr. recovered it on the Houston 42, Tulane moved the ball 35 yards to the 7-yard line before stalling. Sophomore placekicker Merek Glover knocked through a 24-yard field goal to knot the score at 3-3.
The Green Wave posted a huge goal-line stand to start the second quarter, stopping the Cougars on a fourth-and-1 from the 6-yard line. Jarrod Franklin and Ade Aruna combined to tackle Houston running back Mulbah Car as he attempted to rush up the middle for the first down.
After that defensive stop, the offense took over for Tulane’s longest drive of the season. The Green Wave picked up six first downs as they moved the ball 94 yards down the field. Sherman Badie capped the journey down the field with a 16-yard run to the right side. Badie began the play intending to run up the middle, but with his path blocked he changed course, rushed around the pile of linemen and found the checkerboards. That gave Tulane a 10-3 lead midway through the second quarter.
Following another defensive stop, Tulane added three more points before halftime as Glover knocked a 23-yarder through the uprights. Tulane drove 77 yards down to the Houston six-yard line before running out of time, with Glover’s field goal going through the uprights as the first half ended. That drive included a 45-yard reception from Encalade, putting him over 100 receiving yards for the day.