Tulane Stuns USC in Cotton Bowl Classic


Tulane beats USC | Image by ESPN

Michael Pratt’s 6-yard touchdown pass to tight end Alex Bauman with eight seconds left in the game lifted No.16 Tulane past No.10 USC 46-45 in the 87th annual Cotton Bowl Classic on Monday afternoon at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

The Trojans’ offense controlled the game from the beginning. They bled 10 minutes off the clock on their way to the opening touchdown and added another early in the second quarter to go up 14-0.

Tulane got back in the game on a Tyjae Spears touchdown run that followed a 50-yard run by Pratt in the second quarter. The defense came up with an interception on the next drive, and Pratt found Jah’Quan Jackson, who raced 87 yards to tie the game two plays later.

USC responded with two touchdowns in the final 2:21 of the first half to take a 28-14 lead into halftime.

Tulane tried to battle back several times throughout the contest, but USC found ways to answer each time. It was not until the fourth quarter that momentum seemed to swing toward Tulane.

A Spears touchdown run helped Tulane cut the lead to 35-30, but the Green Wave failed to convert on a two-point conversion attempt and recover a surprise onside kick, which gave USC a short field to add more points. A Spears fumble also allowed USC to take more time off the clock and build its lead up to 15 on a Denis Lynch field goal.

But Tulane still refused to falter. Pratt found Deuce Watts for a big gain, and Spears found the endzone again on a drive that lasted two plays and 16 seconds. After USC’s Mario Williams fumbled the kickoff out of bounds at the one-yard line, Tulane’s defense forced a safety, making it a 45-39 game with just over three minutes remaining.

The Green Wave took the ball on a free kick after the safety with 3:20 remaining and needed a touchdown to claim its 12th win for the first time since 1998. They achieved that feat with the final touchdown to Bauman capping a 12-play 66-yard drive.

“It’s huge for the program,” Tulane head coach Willie Fritz told reporters after the game. “A huge win for the university, and a huge win for the city. I think we’ve seen this year what competing at a high level can do for a program… I’m proud to be part of it.”


The 87-yard connection between Pratt and Jackson tied the Cotton Bowl record for the longest touchdown pass — first set by Syracuse in 1960.

Tulane’s 12-2 record after going 2-10 last season is the biggest single-season turnaround in Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) history.

USC quarterback Caleb Williams is the 16th Heisman Trophy winner to play in the Cotton Bowl and the 11th to do it during the same season in which he won the award.

USC was the 10th consecutive team to hold a double-digit lead at halftime of the Cotton Bowl.

Spears was named the Offensive Most Outstanding Player for this game, while Tulane linebacker Dorian Williams earned that distinction on defense. Williams made 17 tackles in the game, which tied for the third-most New Year’s Six history.

Tulane’s win is the first win for an American Athletic Conference team against a ranked non-conference opponent this season.


USC’s Caleb Williams threw for 462 yards, five touchdowns, and an interception. The five touchdown passes are a new Cotton Bowl record, passing Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell (2009) and Miami’s Craig Erickson (1991).

Tulane’s rushing offense gained 305 yards, with Spears running for 205 yards and four touchdowns. It was Spears’s eighth consecutive game with more than 100 rushing yards. The four rushing touchdowns are the most by one player in the Cotton Bowl.

Tulane scored 32 points in the second half, trailing only Penn State’s 38 points in 1975, while USC’s 21-point second quarter was also the second-highest behind the 2019 Penn State team.


Coach Fritz on what the win says about an extended playoff field:

“It’s big. Getting in the national playoff picture and [possibly] win a national championship as a Group of Five schools, it’d be big for our conference.”

USC head coach Lincoln Riley on the difference in this game:

“Their ability to run the football, you know, 300 yards-plus rushing, I mean, that’s the entire game right there. And we didn’t do a good enough job at it obviously. If you don’t tackle good players and a good running back, that’s what happens.”


Both teams enter the offseason. USC will try to improve on the season with a goal of reaching the College Football Playoff. Tulane will try to carry momentum from a historic season into next year.

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1 month ago

If this is called the Cotton Bowl Classic then it should be held in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. By having it in Arlington just puts more money into Jerry Jones pocket.