Houston and Tulane appeared to be headed into overtime on Thursday night after the Green Wave rallied from 21 down to take a lead late in the fourth quarter before the Cougars eventually tied the game with seconds remaining. That was until Tulane decided it had no desire to play an extra period in its home stadium and reached into its bag of tricks to pull off a stunning 38-31 victory.
After Houston ran 5:49 off the clock and hit a game-tying field goal with 21 seconds remaining, Tulane returned the ensuing kickoff for 9 yards, taking over at its own 29 with 18 seconds to play. Rather than kneel the ball and take the home-field advantage into overtime, Green Wave coach Willie Fritz called for a fake, and it worked beautifully.
Running back Amare Jones took the sneaky hand-off from the fake kneel 18 yards to near-midfield at the Tulane 47, giving his team one more snap with 12 seconds remaining.
That’s when quarterback Justin McMillan wound up and nailed Jalen McCleskey at the 26-yard line, but McCleskey refused to go down, escaping a would-be tackler and charging the remaining distance into the end zone to send the crowd into hysterics. Houston did have a chance to bring back a kickoff with 3 seconds left, but it failed and solidified the 38-31 victory for Tulane, which just so happened to cover the spread (-4) that the Green Wave had not touched all game.
It was a rough outcome for the Cougars (1-3, 0-1 AAC), which continue to fall short on the young season. The Green Wave (3-1, 1-0 AAC), on the other hand, are thrilling in Year 4 under Fritz with their electric offense.
On a night when Cougars QB D’Eriq King and recorded three scores on the evening, McMillan just edged him out with four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing) despite completing just 7-of-20 passes.
Houston led 28-7 with 13:16 left in the second quarter, but Tulane scored a touchdown on the following series and posted the first 17 points of the second half to take a 31-28 lead with 6:10 to play. That’s when the Cougars too off on a 16-play, 68-yard drive that ended in the game-tying field goal that looked to force overtime but ultimately did not due to Tulane’s trickeration.