Tulane did the impossible Saturday. Now, the 12th-ranked Green Wave has an even higher goal.
Shaun King threw a career-high five touchdown passes as Tulane remained unbeaten and won the Conference USA championship, 48-20 over Houston.
The Green Wave (10-0 overall, 6-0 in CUSA) accepted CUSA's automatic bid to the Liberty Bowl, contingent on Tulane not being invited to the Bowl Championship Series. Tulane concludes its regular season with a non-conference game against Louisiana Tech on Thursday.
It was the Green Wave's first conference championship since winning the SEC in 1949.
"We're excited, because we went undefeated in the conference, which was something some people said was impossible," said Tulane wide receiver JaJuan Dawson, who caught two touchdown passes. "We have one goal left and that's to finish the season undefeated."
Houston finished its season 3-8 and 2-4.
King, the NCAA Division I-A leader in passing efficiency, threw touchdown passes to four receivers. He threw two to Dawson and one apiece to Kerwin Cook, Adrian Burnette and P.J. Franklin. King, who completed a school-record 18 consecutive passes, finished 26-for-33 for 319 yards in his seventh game wearing a cast on his broken left wrist.
"It just looked like a normal performance by him," Tulane coach Tommy Bowden said of King." "He's really impressive. He's No. 1 in the nation in passing efficiency and he's been playing (for seven weeks) with a broken wrist. I was not surprised by what he did. I've seen him do it too many times."
Tailback Toney Converse also gained 135 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries for Tulane.
"They have the bst quarterback you could coach," Houston coach Kim Helton said of King. "There were times when we'd have him sacked and he'd come out of it and throw a touchdown. I don't think they could win five games without him at quarterback."
| Tulane's Kerwin Cook heads for the end zone during the Green Wave's 48-20 victory over Houston Saturday. (AP) |
"Their quarterback is really, really something special. Hurting his hand is the best thing that could have happened to them, because it forced him to go into the shotgun and he gets to play his type of game."
Houston's Ketric Sanford had 138 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.
Brad Palazzo kicked a 44-yard field goal on the first possession of the second half to give Tulane a 20-13 lead.
King threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Dawson on the next possession and those two combined on a 4-yard scoring pass on the following possession, giving the Green Wave a 34-13 lead after three quarters.
King threw a 14-yard scoring pass to Franklin on Tulane's next series.
"We didn't play well at first, then we stepped it up," King said. ``We made some plays. Now we're a step closer."
The Cougars concluded their scoring on Jason McKinley's 9-yard touchdown pass to Orlando Iglesias. But the Green Wave got its only rushing TD when Converse ran 8 yards with 1:18 left.
Sanford ran 50 yards for a touchdown on the third play from scrimmage to give Houston a 7-0 lead.
Palazzo kicked a 47-yard field goal for the Green Wave and Mike Waddell kicked a 23-yarder to give the Cougars a 10-3 lead in the second quarter.
Tulane evened the score on King's 38-yard pass to Cook. King threw the pass to John Wilson, who couldn't hold on, touching the ball three times before Cook grabbed it and sprinted down the sideline for the score.
On Houston's next play, Jerrian James fumbled and Alphonso Roundtree recovered at the Cougars 22. King threw a touchdown pass to Burnette on the next play to give Tulane its first lead, 17-10.
Waddell's 24-yard field goal with three seconds left in the half cut the Green Wave's lead to 17-13 at halftime.
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