Tulane Kicks Off Bowl Season In Impressive Fashion

ORLANDO – The bowl season kicked off in the Sunshine State on Saturday afternoon and it did so to what was billed as the Bayou Battle between Tulane and Louisiana in the Cure Bowl.

Led by Darius Bradwell’s career-high 150 yards rushing, the Green Wave piled up 337 yards on the ground in a 41-24 win over the Ragin’ Cajuns in front of an announced 19,066 at Camping World Stadium.

It was Tulane’s first bowl appearance since 2013 and first win since defeating Hawaii in the 2002 Hawaii Bowl.

“There were some tough times here at Tulane,” said coach Willie Fritz, in his third year with the Green Wave. “These guys embraced me and the coaching staff and just worked forward every day. Every game this season was kind of like fourth-and-inches. There was a time where we started the year off 2-5 and to come back and win this game is just very, very special.”

After coming within inches of being bowl eligible last season, coming up short at the goal line on the final play of the season at SMU, the Green Wave won four of their last five to earn the bowl bid.

Because last season concluded in such heart-breaking fashion, this bowl victory was all the more sweet.

“Obviously, last year was tough for us,” said senior safety Rod Teamer Jr. “It was something that we focused on and talked about all year and all season. Football is a game of inches and we got it full circle last year. To come here and participate in a bowl game and actually win is a great feeling for all of us. It kind of makes last year not sting as much.”

The 6-foot-1, 230-pound Bradwell stung the Louisiana defense time and again. The game’s MVP, who had a career-high 35 carries, scored a pair of touchdowns, including a four-yard run with 3:49 remaining in the fourth quarter to give his team some breathing room at 34-24.

“I wasn’t too tired but, 35 carries, that is the most that I have ever had in a game,” said the redshirt junior, whose previous high in rushing attempts was 19.

During their first trip to Florida this year USF fans grew tired of watching Bradwell and the Tulane running game gash the Bulls’ defense in a 41-15 throttling at Raymond James Stadium on November 3. That afternoon Bradwell ran for 135 yards, including a 73-yard TD run, on 15 carries and the Green Wave piled up 365 yards rushing.

On Saturday, his effort put him over the 1,000-yard mark. He finished the season with 1,134 yards.

“That’s a heck of an accomplishment at the college level, particularly in a league like this,” said Fritz. “The American is an excellent conference, lot of good defenses. You know, you think it’s an individual accomplishment, but it’s a team accomplishment with the offensive line, tight ends, other running backs, quarterbacks. That’s great for our team.”

The Green Wave scored on its first four possessions in building a 24-7 lead. The Ragin’ Cajuns came within 27-24 on Andre Nunez’s 13-yard TD pass to Jarrod Jackson with 10:16 remaining in the final quarter.

Bradwell’s second touchdown pushed the lead back up to double digits while capping a drive that was a thing of beauty: 13 plays, 75 yards and consuming 6:27.

Shortly thereafter it was time for Tulane to celebrate its first bowl win in 16 years.

Tom Layberger has been a sports writer and editor since 1990. Among the companies he has worked for are Beckett Publishing, The Topps Company and Comcast. In addition to being a contributing writer for sportstalkflorida.com, Tom also writes for forbes.com and Tampa Bay Business & Wealth Magazine. A native of the Philadelphia suburbs and a University of South Florida grad, Tom is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the National Football Foundation. He resides in Tampa.