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Green Wave Washes Away Trojan Lead, Wins Cotton Bowl

Posted on January 2, 2023 at 5:05 PM

  Article by Dan Tortora

  This was more than a game for the person writing you this article.

  The adult version of the kid who grew up with a Troy Aikman poster in a wooden frame on his wall, courtesy of a Dad, who bought the poster, saying simply, "I saw it, and it reminded me of you."

  That same Dad said, "You better like this team FOREVER," as he prepared to have the Dallas Cowboys' logo run across the wall of his son's bedroom, a pattern that remains there to this day.

  As I looked around that room this past Christmas, it was different, tangible, knowing that I would be coming to visit the home of the team I have liked since I was in elementary school.

  In fact, the Deion Sanders #21 jersey that I got as a child still fit, and that was the apparel of choice for the plane ride into Arlington.

  As I sit here with you all reading from wherever you call home or wherever you are in your travels, I am still in awe of my surroundings.

  The AT&T Stadium is breath-taking, a place that can leave someone speechless.

  A building that just feels different.

  I want to thank that kid for always believing in himself, looking at those Dallas stars as he fell asleep, trusting that God is good and when you go after your dreams, you can and will catch them.

  What a positive chill that runs through my body as I write this to you.

  And on to the game...

  The USC Trojans of the PAC-12 (for now) began the match-up with an opening drive that ate away at the game clock, taking 9:02 off on a drive that ended with a nine-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Caleb Williams to sophomore wide receiver Michael Jackson, III.

  USC would take 5:13 off the clock on their second drive of the game, concluding this possession with another touchdown pass from Williams, this for three yards to redshirt-senior wide receiver Terrell Bynum, who was open to the right of the "C" in the end zone.


  In total, on two possessions, both scoring drives, the Trojans ate almost an entire quarter off the game clock, with their offense on the field for 14 minutes and 15 seconds.

  Junior quarterback Michael Pratt gained 40 yards on a keeper on the second drive of the game for the Tulane Green Wave.

  Shortly after, Pratt would send the ball out right to junior running back Tyjae Spears who would lower his body to elude redshirt-senior defensive lineman Nick Figueroa to the tune of 14 yards. He would be handed the ball on the very next play to finish the job, which he did, entering the end zone for the first Tulane score of the contest, a three-yard touchdown run, that made it 14-7 USC with 9:30 remaining in the first half.

  On the third drive of the game, junior cornerback Jarius Monroe was flagged for defensive pass interference on a questionable moment where he appeared to fall onto the ground with contacting the intended Trojans' receiver.

  But, on the very next play, Monroe would intercept Williams, turning the wave back heading toward USC, with the Green Wave beginning their third drive of the game from their own eight after preventing the Trojans from scoring on three consecutive drives.

  On the second play of the following drive, Pratt sent the ball to the middle to junior wide receiver Jha'Quan Jackson who turned what could have been potentially a first-down gain into a touchdown, when he showed that Tulane and the American Athletic Conference (AAC) have some speed of their own, breaking out to the right and out-running everyone en route to the end zone for an 87-yard touchdown that tied the game at 14-apiece with 5:42 left on the first-half clock.

  USC would have a response.

  Heading up the middle, freshman running back Raleek Brown had to get by the middle official, and from there he took off for a 39-yard rush that ended in the end zone to move the Trojans into the driver's seat once again, 21-14, with 2:21 before halftime.

  Pratt would go back to Jha'Quan Jackson on the following Tulane drive, but this time the ball would fall to the ground on a 3rd-&-3 attempt, resulting in the Green Wave punting the ball away for the second time in four first-half drives.

  With 12 seconds to go before the break, Williams found his third different receiver in the end zone, this time going to junior wide receiver Brenden Rice for a four-yard score in the back right corner of paydirt, giving the Trojans a 28-14 advantage that they would take into the locker room.

  USC scored on four of their five drives in the first half, never punting, while Tulane split their drives, scoring on two and punting on two before running the clock out after the Rice score.

  The Green Wave would roll themselves into a one-possession game coming out of the break, scoring on their first possession of the second half as Spears entered the end zone for a second time, this on a seven-yard run, to make it 28-21 Trojans at the 11:55 mark.

  What was called a touchdown coming from Williams to redshirt-junior wide receiver Tahj Washington was ruled incomplete upon further review.

  USC would choose to go for it to follow, on 4th-&-6, with Williams completing to Williams, that being sophomore wide receiver Mario Williams, for a 12-yard gain to a new set of downs.

  However, Caleb Williams would be pressured by three Green Wave defenders on 3rd-&-11, throwing the ball out-of-bounds, resulting in 4th-&-11.

  Redshirt-freshman kicker Denis Lynch would attempt a 52-yard field goal that would fall short, giving Tulane the ball on their own 35, still down by seven.

  On their following drive, Pratt would take the Green Wave 23 yards on a quarterback keeper and the Trojans would tack another 15 yards onto that due to a facemask penalty on redshirt-senior defensive lineman Solomon Byrd.

  Tulane would conclude this drive with a score, their first field goal of the game, off the foot of redshirt-junior kicker Valentino Ambrosio for a 42-yarder that brought the Green Wave deficit to its smallest of the game, four points, down 28-24 with 4:02 left in quarter #3.

  Good special teams' decision-making by the Green Wave and an illegal block penalty on the Trojans molded together to place the Trojans at their own seven-yard line to begin their second drive of the third quarter, at the 3:54 mark.

  But, USC would change fields quickly when, on the second play of this drive, Williams found Rice for a 74-yard gain to the Tulane 19.

   The Green Wave would roll forward again, with Spears carrying the ball for a 62-yard gain to open the third drive of the third quarter for Tulane. Two plays later, he crossed the threshold for a three-yard score, his third touchdown of the game.

  A two-point conversion trick play would be intercepted in the end zone by the Trojans, leaving the score at 35-30 USC with 40 seconds remaining on the third-quarter clock.

  Senior middle linebacker would end the third quarter by handing USC a three-yard loss.

  USC would begin the fourth quarter by continuing this drive into the end zone with Williams finding his fourth different receiver for a score in this match-up, this time having redshirt-freshman wide receiver Kyron Hudson on the end of a four-yard pass, advancing the Trojans out to a 42-30 lead with 12:09 to go in the game.

  Not that there is any good time to turn the ball over, but it was especially poor timing when Spears, who had three touchdowns already on the day, fumbled the ball just outside of the USC redzone, on the 28-yard line. The fumble was forced by redshirt-senior cornerback Mekhi Blackmon and recovered by Byrd.

  The Trojans would capitalize on the fumble they forced when Lynch booted a 43-yarder through the uprights to elevate the Trojans to a 45-30 advantage with 4:30 to play.

  Tulane's first play of their next drive was a 59-yard catch-and-run from Pratt to senior wide receiver Duece Watts that was followed by Spears' four-yard touchdown run, with Spears finding the end zone after fumbling on the last drive. This score made it 45-37 USC with 4:07 remaining.

  Spears' four touchdown runs set a new record for the most touchdown runs by any player in Cotton Bowl history.

  Mario Williams would fumble the kickoff return out-of-bounds, starting his team at their own one-yard line.

  Two plays later, sophomore defensive tackle Patrick Jenkins would senior running back Austin Jones in the end zone for a safety, condensing the Green Wave deficit to six, 45-39, and forcing the Trojans to kick it away.

  Pratt would keep the Tulane drive alive on 4th-&-6 whne he eluded a sack attempt and decided to take off, gaining eight yards to his own 46.

  This drive would be kept alive on fourth down once again by Pratt, this time on a 24-yard completion on 4th-&-10 to freshman tight end Alex Bauman to the Trojans' 30-yard line.

  Watts would get his own 24-yard reception on th next pass attempt by Pratt, following the spike, bringing the Green Wave to the Trojan's six-yard line.

  After the catch, Watts was hit helmet-to-helmet and after review, the officials stated it was not targeting, leaving Tulane 18 seconds, down by six.

  Bauman got his hands on a pass over the middle in the end zone. The officials reviewed what they had originally called an incomplete pass and overturned their ruling, stating the ball did not touch the ground, making it a six-yard touchdown pass from Pratt to Bauman.

  Ambrosio would send the extra-point attempt through the uprights, giving Tulane a 46-45 lead with nine seconds remaining.

  Williams first pass was incomplete, leacing two seconds on the clock.

  The Tulane defense would keep USC in front of them as laterals galore happened, securing their one-point victory as time expired.

  With 4:30 to go in the game, they were down by 15 to the Trojans.

  The Green Wave washed away that deficit by scoring 16 unanswered points en route to their Cotton Bowl Classic title, 46-45.

  Pratt finished 8-for-17 for 234 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions to go with 15 carries for 83 yards for the Tulane offense.

  Spears gained 205 yards on 17 carries, with four rushing touchdowns for the Green Wave.

  Jackson and Watts both gained 80+ yards receiving, Jackson with 87 and Watts with 83 for Tulane.

  Caleb Williams went 37-for-52 for 462 yards, five touchdowns, and one interception for USC.

  Brown took six carries 61 yards, with a rushing touchdown for the Trojans.

  Rice and Washington each ended the day with over 100 yards receiving for USC, Rice with 174 and Washington with 109.

Categories: College Football, American Athletic Conference, NCAA