Tulane rally falls short at Navy, 23-21

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Tulane football nearly erased a 10-point, second-half deficit but came up short, falling at Navy, 23-21, in its American Athletic Conference opener Saturday afternoon in front of a crowd of 30,420.

The Green Wave (1-1, 0-1 American Athletic Conference | West) held the potent Midshipmen rushing attack to just 194 yards on the ground. Navy (2-0, 1-0 American Athletic Conference | West) totaled 326 yards of offense, while the Wave finished with 262 total yards, including 191 on the ground.

Sophomore quarterback Johnathan Brantley rushed nine times for a team-high 73 yards and a touchdown, and completed 5-of-8 passes for 58 yards. He entered the game in the second quarter after junior starter Jonathan Banks was injured. Senior running back Dontrell Hilliard ran 16 times for 68 yards and a touchdown.

“I thought our guys really fought back,” head coach Willie Fritz said. “We had some big plays in there that we converted to get back in the ballgame, which was great. I’m proud of the guys and their effort, and everything else. But I would have liked to have the opportunity to see what we could have done there at the end. It would have been tough but I would have liked to have that opportunity.”

Trailing 23-13 with 7:11 to play in the third quarter, the Tulane defense stepped up and forced Navy to punt after five plays. The Green Wave then drove 83 yards in 16 plays to cut the deficit to 23-21.

Dontrell Hilliard converted a fourth-and-one opportunity, and after Brantley completed a 24-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Darnell Mooney, the Houston native ran for 11 yards on fourth down to keep the drive going. Hilliard then plunged into the end zone for a one-yard score, and junior tight end Charles Jones II caught a pass from Brantley and dove at the front pylon for the two-point conversion.

On its next two possessions, Tulane attempted to convert on fourth down, but fell short both times. The Wave then had stopped Navy on third-and-7 to force a punt, but had too many men on the field on the punt, which would have given Tulane the ball with about 2:00 remaining. Navy converted on fourth-and-short, and then ran out the clock.

“There were a lot of good things,” Fritz said. “We took a lot of chances and we converted on some fourth-and-shorts. We had to kind of get ourselves back in the ball game and we did with a few conversions. We would have liked to have an opportunity to see if we could go 80 yards with two minutes and win.”

Navy extended its 14-13 halftime lead to 23-13 early in the third quarter. After a Tulane punt, the Midshipmen drove 42 yards in nine plays to make the score 21-13. On the next Green Wave possession, a shotgun snap went awry, and was batted out the back of the end zone for a safety, making it 23-13 with 7:11 left in the third quarter.

Tulane scored two touchdowns in the second quarter to take the lead. Junior safety Roderic Teamer Jr. picked up a fumble caused by senior linebacker Rae Juan Marbley, and raced 52 yards for a touchdown to tie the game, 7-7.

After entering the game, Brantley handed off the senior running back Sherman Badie three times to gain 21 yards, then ran for 42 yards to the Navy three-yard line. On the next play, he found the end zone to give the Green Wave the 13-7 lead after the PAT was no good.

Navy responded with a 79-yard pass from Zach Abey to Tyler Carmona on the second play of the ensuing drive to take a 14-13 lead with the point-after. The Midshipmen held the one-point lead at the half.

Senior cornerback Parry Nickerson picked up his first interception of the season, and the 11th of his career, on Navy’s first possession of the game. After the Midshipmen had driven 62 yards, including a 54-yard run by quarterback Zach Abey, Nickerson picked off Abey’s third down pass at the 2 and returned it to the 10-yard line.

Tulane was forced to punt, however, and Navy drove 63 yards in three plays, including a 52-yard pass from Abey to Darryl Bonner, to take a 7-0 lead.

The Green Wave are on the road again next week, traveling to Norman, Okla., to take on Oklahoma. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. on Fox Sports Oklahoma and SoonerSports.tv.

Follow Tulane football on Twitter, Facebook and @GreenWaveFB on Snapchat. Follow Tulane Athletics on Twitter, Facebook­, Instagram and @TulaneAthletics on Snapchat.

TULANE FOOTBALL POSTGAME NOTES AT NAVY

Sept. 9, 2017

GAME

  • Game captains were senior nickelback Jarrod Franklin, senior defensive lineman Sean Wilson, senior long snapper Aaron Golub and redshirt junior offensive lineman John Leglue.
  • Tulane won the toss and deferred. Navy opted to receive and Tulane chose to defend the north goal.
  • Attendance was 30,420.

TEAM

  • Tulane wore green pants, white jerseys and green helmets.
  • Senior running back Dontrell Hilliard carried the No. 18 flag, and senior safety Jarrod Franklin carried the

American Athletic Conference P6 flag leading the Green Wave out of the tunnel.

  • The Green Wave have rushed for 100 or more yards in 17 straight games, dating back to the final three games of the 2015 season.
  • Tulane’s scoring drive in the fourth quarter hit season longs in plays (16), yards (83) and time (7:23).
  • Tulane allowed a safety for the first time since doing so at Houston on Nov. 12, 2016.
  • Tulane converted a two-point conversation for the first time since doing so at Houston on Nov. 12, 2016 (Glen Cuiellette pass to Josh Rounds).
  • In 14 games under head coach Willie Fritz, Tulane has forced a fumble in seven games (six last season and Navy this season) and had a fumble recovery in seven games (six last season and Navy game last season).
  • Fritz is now just two wins away from reaching 200 for his coaching career. Of his 198 wins, 62 have come on the NCAA Division I level (Football Bowl Subdivision and Football Championship Subdivision).

PLAYERS

  • Senior cornerback Parry Nickerson made his 35th career start, Franklin made his 26th consecutive start, senior defensive lineman Ade Aruna made his 20th straight start, Hilliard made his 15th straight start, Leglue, junior receiver Terren Encalade, junior safety Roderic Teamer Jr. and sophomore offensive lineman Leeward Brown made their 14th consecutive starts.
  • Hilliard scored his first rushing touchdown of the season and the 19th of his career at the 12:56 mark in the fourth quarter.
  • Sophomore quarterback Johnathan Brantley’s three-yard touchdown run in the second quarter was the first touchdown (passing or rushing) of his career.
  • Redshirt junior defensive end Peter Woullard made its first start of the season and fifth of his career.
  • Nickerson recorded his first interception of the season at the 11:43 mark of the first quarter. It was his 11th career interception.
  • Teamer Jr.’s 52-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown at the 12:34 mark in the second quarter was his first score of his career and his first career fumble recovery.
  • Teamer’s fumble return touchdown was the sixth-longest fumble return in school history, and longest since Darion Monroe returned a fumble 54 yards for a touchdown vs. Memphis on Nov. 10, 2012. Tulane’s previous fumble recovery for a touchdown was a 48-yard scoop and score by Parry Nickerson at Army on Nov. 14, 2015.
  • Senior linebacker Rae Juan Marbley was credited with the first forced fumble of his career in the second quarter.
  • Marbley also recorded the first sack (1.0) of his career.
  • Senior defensive tackle Sean Wilson was credited with a half sack (0.5), moving his career total to 6.5 sacks.
  • Senior linebacker Luke Jackson was credited with 1.5 sacks, moving his career total to 3.5 sacks.
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