Cotton Bowl: No. 16 Tulane rallies from 15 down to slay No. 10 USC

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Michael Pratt connected with Alex Bauman on a 6-yard scoring pass with nine seconds left and Valentino Ambrosio followed with the decisive extra point as No. 16 Tulane scored 16 points in the final 4:07 to notch a dramatic 46-45 victory over No. 10 Southern California to win the Cotton Bowl on Monday at Arlington, Texas.

After a series of late-game laterals by the Trojans were unsuccessful, the Green Wave players and coaches stormed the field to celebrate a signature win for Tulane’s program.

Tulane (12-2) completed the biggest year-to-year turnaround in FBS history after going 2-10 last season. It’s the first time the Green Wave have won a New Year’s Six bowl game since 1934 and only the second 12-win season in program history.

Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams did all he could for USC (11-3), completing 37 of 52 passes for 462 yards and five touchdowns. Playing without star wideout Jordan Addison (ankle), Williams’ favorite target on the day was Brenden Rice, who hauled in six passes for a career-high 174 yards and two scores.

Tulane was led by a rushing attack powered by Tyjae Spears, who racked up 205 yards and four touchdowns on 17 carries. Pratt ran for 83 yards and completed 8 of 17 passes for 234 yards.

USC is still searching for its first bowl win since the 2016 season.

After USC opened the scoring with a pair of passing touchdowns from Williams, Tulane tied the game at 14 with its first passing score of the contest, with Pratt finding Jha’Quan Jackson in the middle of the defense. Jackson made two defenders miss after bringing in the catch, then broke up the sideline and outran the rest of the USC defense for an 87-yard score.

That touchdown for Tulane came after Williams was picked off by Jarius Monroe, and it seemed to tilt momentum in the Green Wave’s favor. But the Trojans scored twice more to take a 28-14 advantage into halftime.

Tulane cut the deficit to four points in the third quarter, but USC again pulled away with two more scoring strikes from Williams to eventually lead 45-30.

The Trojans grinded out long possessions and kept the Green Wave’s tired defense on the field for long stretches. USC converted 13 of 17 third and fourth downs and held possession for more than 39 minutes. Still, USC’s well-rested defense couldn’t stop the Green Wave.

With less than five minutes to play, Tulane showed life and began erasing that 15-point deficit. After Spears’ fourth score, Tulane defensive lineman Patrick Jenkins stuffed a USC rush attempt in the end zone for a safety. That trimmed the deficit to six points and set up Pratt to orchestrate a 12-play, 66-yard game-winning drive.

–Field Level Media

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