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November 25, 2012HOUSTON - Senior quarterback Ryan Griffin threw for 346 yards and two touchdowns in his final collegiate game and junior kicker Cairo Santos connected on his lone field goal to finish 21-of-21 on the year and become just the second kicker in FBS history to finish perfect with 20 or more field goals, but it wasn't enough as the Green Wave fell to Houston, 40-17, in the season finale for both teams in front of 25,402 at Robertson Stadium.
Tulane (2-10, 2-6 C-USA) got off to a slow start and surrendered three first quarter scores to Houston (5-7, 4-4 C-USA) and quickly fell behind, 17-0. The Green Wave scored 10 second half points, but never got any closer than 10 points and Houston took advantage of six Tulane turnovers and tacked on 20 second half points.
"We came out very flat today and didn't play well at all," Tulane head coach Curtis Johnson said. "Coach (Tony) Levine prepared them to play today. They are extremely fast and have a sensational running back [Ryan Jackson]. Their defense is extremely hard hitting and physical. We were just outmatched today.
"You can't turn the ball over especially against a team like Houston. It doesn't matter what sport you play, you can't turn the ball over. Offensively, we did a bad job of maintaining possession. When you put yourself in a bad position you give the other team the ball with a short field. You have to give them credit, they are a great football team."
A 2012 Lou Groza Award finalist, Santos joined 1996 Groza winner Marc Primanti as the only kickers in FBS history to stay perfect throughout a season in which they attempted 20 or more, but Santos finished with one more make than Primanti, who finished 20-of-20 in 1996.
Griffin attempted a single game record 66 passes and tied his own mark with 36 completions, the second most in one game, but was sacked three times and was picked off four times. Griffin completes his standout career with 9,036 yards and 56 touchdowns on 836-of-1,396 attempts (.600). He is ranked among the top-10 career leaders in 12 different categories. He closed out his career in first in Tulane history in completion percentage, attempts, completions, second place in passing yards and 300-yard games and fourth in touchdown passes.
This season, he missed three and half games, but his 2,771 yards passing and 20 touchdowns ranks seventh and 10th, respectively, among the school's single season leaders. Griffin's 307.8 passing yards per game this season is the second-best total in a single season, trailing only Patrick Ramsey's 310 per game in 1999.
Tulane junior receiver Ryan Grant hauled in a career-high 13 receptions, the fourth-best effort in a single game in school history, for 108 yards. Grant concluded the year with seven 100-yard games, which is the most among C-USA players this season, and tied the school single season mark of seven set by Marc Zeno in 1987.
Grant completed the third-best season in school history with 1,149 yards and six touchdowns on 76 receptions, the fifth most catches in one season.
Sophomore running back Dante Butler paced the Wave's rushing attack with 42 yards on six carries.
Junior safety Kyle Davis, who filled in at weakside linebacker the majority of the game, led the Wave with a career-high 13 tackles, while Tulane defenders snagged three interceptions, including freshman cornerback Lorenzo Doss who recorded his Conference USA leading fifth pick on the year, which is the most by a Green Wave player since Sean Lucas notched five in 2003.
Tulane, which played without the services of junior linebackers Zach Davis and Dominique Robertson and freshman defensive end Aaron Bryant due to injuries, allowed Houston a fast start, while the Green Wave offense struggled to get going early on.
The first Houston score came with under a minute gone by in the opening stanza when back-up quarterback Crawford Jones, who started in place of regular starter David Piland, led the home team down the field on the games' opening possession and capped a 4-play, 75-yard drive with a 22-yard pass to receiver Ronnie Williams.
On its opening possession, Tulane drove to the Houston 40-yard line but a Griffin interception ended the promising drive. On the ensuing possession, Houston went 80 yards in eight plays and Jones hit Williams again for a nine-yard touchdown and the Cougars extended its lead to 14-0 at the 9:24 mark in the first quarter.
Following a three and out by the Green Wave, Houston drove 43 yards in seven plays and opened up a 17-0 lead when Matt Hogan booted a 32-yard field goal with 3:39 remaining in the quarter.
With the Tulane offensive unable to generate anything, the Green Wave defenders came alive on the next two Houston possessions with a pair of interceptions. Redshirt sophomore defensive end Andre Robinson snared a screen pass inside the Cougars 19-yard line, but a fumble on TU's first offensive play by junior running back Orleans Darkwa negated any kind of Green Wave scoring threat.
As the second quarter began, the Houston offense was once again on the march and found itself at the Tulane 20-yard line. However, sophomore linebacker Matthew Bailey turned back Cougars with his interception in the endzone.
Bailey's interception proved to be the spark the Green Wave was looking for. After taking over at its own 20-yard line, Tulane marched 80 yards in 11 plays and culminated the drive with a 10-yard touchdown strike from Griffin to sophomore receiver Xavier Rush to cut the score to 17-7 with 11:06 remaining in the half. One of the big plays on the drive was a 26-yard pass to junior received Brent Comardelle that took the Wave down to the Houston 15-yard line.
Houston extended its lead to 20-7 late in the first half when Hogan knocked in a 25-yard chip shot with 0:36 to before the half. The drive was set up by Griffin's second interception of the day after linebacker Zach McMillian pulled down a pass intended for Grant at the Tulane 44-yard line. UH's scoring drive went 36 yards in 10 plays in 3:59.
The first 10 minutes of the second half was a near stalemate before Tulane's offense found its rhythm and Griffin marched the Wave down the field to the Houston 15-yard line but the drive stalled and junior kicker Cairo Santos came on to boot his 21st field goal of the season from 32 yards to cut the score to 20-10.
However, Houston responded on its ensuing play and needed just three plays to find the endzone thanks in part to a 72-yard gallop down the right side of the field by Ryan Jackson that extended the Cougars' lead to 27-10.
Tulane returned the favor by quickly finding the endzone on its next possession in just two plays. Following a three-yard run by Darkwa on first down, Griffin hooked up with junior receiver Wilson Van Hooser for a 57-yard touchdown. Van Hooser initially hauled in the pass cleanly but had the ball punched out near the goal line. However, Van Hooser reeled in the carom for his fifth receiving score for the year.
Houston answered once again when Hogan drilled his third field goal of the game from 34-yards out at the beginning of the third quarter to cap a 9-play, 45-yard draw and extended the home team's lead to 30-17.
The Green Wave was once again on the move near midfield at the 10 minute mark of the fourth quarter, but Griffin's pass was intercepted by Houston's Trevon Stewart and returned 53 yards. TU's defense fended off the Cougar offense and UH was forced to settle for a Hogan 33-yard field goal and increased its lead to 33-17 with 7:04 remaining in the game. The field goal was Hogan's fourth of the game.
On Tulane's next possession, Houston's Eric Eiland knocked the ball away from Griffin on a pass attempt and recovered the fumble on the TU 11-yard line. Two plays later, Jackson found the endzone for the second time with a nine-yard scramble to put Houston up 40-17 with 6:11 remaining.