STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) -- The Tulane football program is still
trying to regain its footing following Hurricane Katrina.
The Green Wave's 32-29 victory Saturday over Mississippi State
should help. It was Tulane's first victory over a Southeastern
Conference opponent on the road since 1989 and comes a week after
the team was embarrassed 45-7 by Houston.
"To be able to do that is a tremendous tribute to those
players," Tulane coach Chris Scelfo said. "It has been a long
Tulane quarterback Lester Ricard had an easy time against the
Mississippi State secondary, completing 16-of-23 passes for 298
yards and four touchdowns.
The performance helped end a string of eight consecutive losses
for the Green Wave (1-1).
The Bulldogs (0-3) ended an offensive drought. They scored the
first points of the season and mounted a fourth-quarter comeback,
but still fell short.
"We're always close, but in football close is not good
enough," Croom said. "The inexperience still shows."
The Green Wave led 14-7 at halftime, but put together a
three-play, 76-yard drive on their first possession of the second
half. Ricard found Gabe Ratcliff open down the sideline for a
55-yard completion, setting up Demarcus Davis for a 6-yard score.
Tulane would score three times in the third quarter -- twice on
Bulldogs turnovers -- sealing the win.
"We hit the big play to Gabe which really helped us," Scelfo
said. "In games like this there are going to be three or four
plays that decide it and that was one of them."
The Bulldogs mounted a comeback in the fourth quarter, scoring
first on a blocked Chris Berkman punt, then again two minutes later
on a 3-yard rush by Arnil Stallworth.
Mississippi State closed the gap with just under two minutes
left in the game as Omarr Conner led the offense on a 12-play,
77-yard drive and scored the team's first rushing touchdown of the
season on a 5-yard dash.
The Bulldogs pulled within three when Conner scored on a
two-point conversion, making the score 32-29.
However, Tulane grabbed the ensuing onside kick attempt, killing
all hopes of a Bulldogs rally.
Davis had a game-high four catches for 90 yards. Matt Forte
rushed for 170 yards and a touchdown for Tulane.
Conner, who has been shifted around Croom's West Coast offense,
switched from receiver to quarterback in the second quarter after
freshman starter Tray Rutland struggled to make things happen with
6 yards passing.
Conner went 15-for-25 for 241 yards, and led the Bulldogs
offense on its first touchdown drive of the year. He also led the
team in rushing with 55 yards.
"It's obvious that Omarr came in and gave us a spark," Croom
said. "He's probably played better quarterback (tonight) than the
entire time he's been here. He made some big plays when things
weren't there. He'll be starting next week."