MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Three Cairo Santos field goals and a fourth-straight 100-plus yard receiving game by Ryan Grant were not enough as miscues plagued the Tulane football team on Saturday night in Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium as the Green Wave committed five turnovers and fell to host Memphis, 37-23, in Conference USA action.
Tulane (2-8, 2-4 C-USA) was led by Santos, a recently named semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award, who connected on a career-best three field goals in the game. The junior place kicker hit two in the first half, including a 45-yarder with 0:57 left in the opening quarter to extend the Green Wave's lead to 10-6.
Santos then nailed a 43-yarder with 8:12 left in the half to knot the score at 13-13. He added a 30-yarder with 8:57 remaining in the third quarter that tied the score at 16-16. Santos remained perfect on the year, hitting all 17 field goal attempts, including 11 from 40-plus yards despite windy conditions.
"I knew this game would be windy and cold so that's what I prepared for during practice this past week and we even had a windy day," Santos said. "So, I try not to even think about anything else but the kick, especially when the wind is a factor. I thought I hit every ball on all three field goals pretty well. Now we'll go back into the Superdome next week and I hope to stay perfect next week."
Unfortunately for Tulane, Memphis (2-8, 2-4 C-USA) then scored 21 straight points once Santos tied the score to pull away and secure the victory.
"Hats off to Memphis, they came out, they played well, and they got some turnovers. I thought they did a great job tonight," Tulane head coach Curtis Johnson said. "Unfortunately, we came out and had some turnovers and did not play our best game tonight. Memphis they played a heck of a game tonight."
Grant, a junior receiver, pulled down a career-high 11 receptions for 113 yards and Tulane's only offensive touchdown. Grant's performance marked his fourth straight 100-plus yard receiving game.
Senior quarterback Ryan Griffin passed for 211 yards on25-of-43 passing, including a five-yard touchdown pass to Grant in the first quarter. Griffin did have three interceptions and a fumble as well.
"It's tough to start a game with an interception but I thought we bounced back quickly by driving the length of the field and scoring a touchdown on the next possession," Griffin said. "I thought we really were back in the groove after that. I thought we ran the ball well tonight and I thought the offensive line played well. They played a lot of man coverage on defense and we just didn't complete a lot of passes.
Griffin's touchdown to Grant gave Tulane a 7-6 lead, answering Memphis' eight-play, 54-yard drive on its first possession of the game for a touchdown.
The Tigers then retook the lead 13-10 with a 10-play, 75-yard drive that resulted in a one-yard run by Jai Steib.
The play that broke the game open was Memphis' 52-yard catch and run by Tevin Jones, which snapped the 16-16 tie with 7:34 left in the third quarter.
Defensively, Tulane was highlighted by freshman cornerback Darian Monroe's two fumble recoveries, including returning his second 54 yards into the endzone. His first recovery was returned 38 yards.
Junior linebacker Zach Davis collected a game-high 11 tackles and sophomore safety Sam Scofield added 10 stops.
Memphis gained a total of 386 yards, including 110 on the ground. Tulane managed 291 total yards with 80 on the ground.
Dante Butler and Orleans Darkwa each had eight carries. Butler gained 33 yard and Darkwa collected 32.
Tulane closes out the home part of the 2012 schedule next Saturday when they host East Carolina on Senior Day in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome at 2:30 p.m. CT.