HOUSTON – Michael Pratt threw for 263 yards and accounted for three touchdowns as No. 22 Tulane held on to defeat Rice 30-28 Saturday for its sixth straight win.
Pratt finished 22 of 30 and threw touchdown passes of 26 yards and 1 yard. He rushed for a 1-yard TD in the first half as the Green Wave (7-1, 4-0 AAC) built a 27-7 lead by the break. He finished with 40 rushing yards.
Tulane nearly lost a 20-point lead for a second straight week. The Green Wave blew a 21-point lead in the second half last week against North Texas before earning a 35-28 win.
Pratt pointed to the team’s culture for its ability to pull out the close victories.
“I don’t think we should have been in that situation this week or last week,” Pratt said. “I have to do a better job as a leader on this team of keeping the guys corralled and keeping the intensity up, so I take part ownership of that. It shows that no matter what the situation is and no matter the adversity we are going through, we keep our foot on the gas and fight all the way until the end.”
Tulane has won each of its four conference games by 12 points or less.
“I’d rather win by a whole bunch to be honest with you,” Tulane coach Willie Fritz said. “We’ll take it how we can get it. I’m just glad we played until the bitter end and came out with the W.”
Tulane’s Makhi Hughes rushed for a career-high 153 yards.
“He just runs hard,” Fritz said. “He runs behind his pads. He’s just a really good football player. Smart, hard worker. That’s a lot of yards. That helps us offensively. That helps us defensively being able to run the ball.”
Chris Brazzell II caught five catches for 75 yards, and Yulkeith Brown had five receptions for 57 yards and a touchdown. The Green Wave outgained Rice 457-271, including 194-82 on the ground.
JT Daniels was 18 of 29 for 189 yards and two touchdowns and Juma Otoviano rushed for two scores for Rice (4-4, 2-2). Luke McCaffrey caught five passes for 79 yards and a touchdown.
“A wave of emotions of being so disappointed with the way we played the first half where we weren’t playing anywhere near what we were capable of,” Rice coach Mike Bloomgren said. “Then, coming out in the second half and putting the ball in the (end zone), then making a big play on defense.
“I felt we had turned the tide and we were going to find a way to win this thing. We came up short. They got it done. We didn’t.”
The Owls opened the second half by scoring 14 straight points on a 4-yard touchdown run by Otoviano. After a 72-yard interception return by Gabriel Taylor, Daniels found Boden Groen for a 4-yard TD pass with four minutes remaining in the third quarter.
But after Valentino Ambrosio’s third field goal increased Tulane’s lead to nine points, Daniels connected with McCaffrey for a 35-yard touchdown with eight minutes remaining, cutting the deficit to 30-28. However, Tulane ran out most the clock, and a last-second play by Rice was snuffed out to end the game.
“There are a lot of decisions to be made in the second half,” Fritz said. “I hate those kinds of games. I’d rather it go smooth. Our guys, when we needed to make some tough calls, they came through. … We played well in the first half. We didn’t play very good in the third quarter. We had to answer, and we did.”
Tulane: The Green Wave won their eighth straight road game dating to last season. … Hughes rushed for at least 120 yards for a fourth straight game. … Tulane finished 5 of 13 on third downs and were 2 of 3 on fourth downs.
Rice: The Owls fell to 0-2 against ranked opponents this season. … Rice dropped to 2-2 in games decided by seven points or less this season. … Daniels was able to pass the ball around, connecting with nine receivers. … Rice was 4 of 9 on third downs.
Tulane should at least hold firm at No. 22, but could move up in the poll after the close win.
Tulane: Travels to East Carolina Saturday
Rice: Hosts SMU Saturday.
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