Tulane drubbed by Hunt, Syracuse 52-17
By LINDSAY KRAMER
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Tulane needed to play near-perfect football to hang around Syracuse University on Saturday, and the Green Wave came up well short of that standard.
The wide chasm between expectation and implementation was reflected by an even larger gap on the Carrier Dome scoreboard.
The Orange shoved Tulane into self-destruction in every way imaginable to crush the Green Wave 52-17 in a game that was a runaway from the first quarter on.
Syracuse (2-2) blocked two Tulane punts and one field goal attempt, and got more help it didn't need courtesy of a handful of undisciplined Green Wave penalties.
"The special teams really hurt us," said Tulane coach Curtis Johnson, whose team dropped to 2-2. "That was the one thing about us, we're not good enough where we can have penalties and turnovers and be competitive."
Terrel Hunt, making his first career start for the Orange, threw for four touchdowns and ran for another to spark the rout. Hunt completed 16 of 21 passes for 175 yards.
Clay Cleveland snared two of Hunt's scoring strikes for quick-paced Syracuse, which put the game away early and took a 42-17 lead into halftime.
"I think it demoralized our kids. The kids didn't play well," Johnson said. "We thought we'd come out and play better but we just didn't."
Jerome Smith found the end zone twice, scoring on a run from the 1-yard line and another on a 15-yard touchdown catch. Prince-Tyson Gulley also ran for a Syracuse score.
Tulane Quarterback Nick Montana, who was playing in front of his father, former NFL great Joe Montana, took a brutal pounding while completing 22 of 38 passes for 213 yards and one touchdown for the Green Wave (2-2).
"We just didn't execute. We just have to execute," Montana said. "We let them start and let them get momentum and they just kind of rode that. We were trying to fight back but we never really got back all the way."
Not even close.
The Green Wave was on the precipice of making it a game early in the second quarter before three more crucial special teams blunders buried the team.
With the Orange up 21-10, the Tulane defense held Syracuse on its own 34. Syracuse punted, and the ball bounced alongside of returner Kedrick Banks. Banks was uncertain whether to field it or back away, but instead he did neither. He sideswiped the ball with his legs, creating a live ball and allowing SU's Devante McFarlane to recover at the Tulane 15.
Three plays later, on a third-and-11 from the 16, Hunt broke free around the right side for a touchdown scramble that made it 28-10 with 13:39 left in the half.
Syracuse bottled up Tulane on its next possession, forcing Peter Picerelli to punt from the Green Wave 27. SU's Eric Crume rammed through the punt protection to block the kick, and the ball rolled out of bounds at the Tulane 17.
Part of the trouble was that Tulane was working with a new snapper, Matt Marfisi.
"He (Marfisi) got the ball back but it's hard to tell whether it was on my end or whether it was a breakdown, but I take full responsibility," Picerelli said. "But it's something we can't have, especially coming in here and trying to win this game."
Crume said he sensed a letdown on the part of Tulane's special teams.
"We saw a weak point (on Tulane's protection). My eyes lit up," Crume said. "They were not going hard on all their special teams. It was kind of a progressive thing. If you have better effort than the other team, it might go your way one time."
Three plays later, Gulley bulled through the middle for a 1-yard score that bloated SU's cushion to 35-10 with 10:43 remaining in the second.
The half only deteriorated from there for Tulane. With 5:33 left in the second quarter, the Green Wave's Cairo Santos lined up for a 32-yard field goal, a mere chip shot for him. Santos had converted 26 straight field goals, four shy of the FBS record held by former Washington kicker Chuck Nelson.
But the streak ended right there when Orange defensive tackle John Raymon seeped through the line to block the kick.
"It looked like it was leakage on the front line," Santos said. "It looked like it was going straight and it felt great on my foot. I think it was just a blocking issue but it was a good run."
Santos played in the game after returning from Brazil, where he attended the funeral of his father who died in a stunt plane crash.
"It was a tough week, but I'm thankful I had the chance to go home and want to thank my coach and athletic director for helping me to get there," Santos said. "I'm thankful I was able to be with my family and I'm thankful for being able to be here."
The Green Wave finally counter-punched with 1:44 left in the half when Montana found wide receiver Justyn Shackleford in the right corner of the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown that cut the Orange lead to 35-17. But Tulane couldn't escape the first 30 minutes without first serving up two more mental mistakes that gave Syracuse seven more points.
The Orange took over on its own 15, perhaps content to take an 18-point lead into the locker room. With a first-and-10 at his team's 25, Gulley picked up four innocent yards before going out of bounds. Tulane linebacker Zach Davis added 15 yards to that when he was called for a late hit.
The Orange drive later appeared stalled when Hunt was stopped for no gain on a third-and-3 on the Green Wave 36, but Tulane nose tackle Chris Davenport handed out a free first down when he tackled Hunt out of bounds, moving the ball to the Green Wave 21.
"There were too many penalties at the end of the half," Johnson said. "Guys were going out of bounds and we just have to let them go the best we can and that was our fault. It's very frustrating."
Syracuse waited until the final ticks of the half to cash in, when Smith powered around the left side for a 1-yard score and a 42-17 lead at the break.
Hunt orchestrated near-matching touchdown drives on SU's first two possessions to get the Orange revved-up. The first covered 75 yards in seven plays and 2 minutes, 21 seconds while the second chewed up the same amount of turf on the same amount of plays in 2:10.
Hunt put a bow on the opening march with a 15-yard pass to Smith on a crossing pattern for a score for a 7-0 lead. Santos answered with a 21-yard field goal with 7:31 left in the quarter to bring Tulane within 7-3.
But Hunt was ruthless again on his next drive, topping it with a 19-yard laser to wide receiver Chris Clark for a 14-3 SU advantage. Overall, Hunt was a sizzling 14-of-17 for 168 yards and three touchdowns in the first 30 minutes.
"The tempo definitely helped us a lot," Hunt said of his team's break from the gate. "At the moment, you feel unstoppable, on top of the world. You are scoring with ease. It felt really amazing to be part of something so great."