Michael Pratt threw for 394 yards and four touchdowns and ran for another to lead No. 18 Tulane to the American Athletic Conference title with a 45-28 victory over visiting No. 22 UCF on Saturday in New Orleans.
Pratt went 20-for-33 passing with an interception as Tulane (11-2) moved into position to claim a New Year’s Day bowl invitation as the highest-ranked Group of Five team.
Tulane, which is projected to play in the Cotton Bowl, hasn’t played in a New Year’s Day bowl since falling to Texas A&M in the Sugar Bowl in 1940.
UCF (9-4), which defeated Tulane 38-31 during the regular season, was likely denied its fourth BCS/New Year’s Day Bowl game in the past 10 seasons. The Knights will play in the Big 12 next season.
Shae Wyatt had five receptions for 110 yards and two touchdowns, while Duece Watts had three catches for 134 yards, including a 73-yard touchdown, for Tulane. Tyjae Spears powered the ground game with 199 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries.
John Rhys Plumlee, slowed by a lingering hamstring injury, went 21-for-39 passing for 209 yards and a touchdown. Backup quarterback Thomas Castellanos went 2-for-8 passing for seven yards.
Isaiah Bowser ran for 85 yards and a score on 20 carries, and Kobe Hudson had four receptions for 98 yards and two touchdowns for the Knights.
Leading 17-7 at halftime, Tulane took control of the game when Spears burst up the middle and weaved his way for a 60-yard touchdown run and a 24-7 lead with 12:09 left in the third quarter.
UCF pulled to within 24-14 on Plumlee’s 17-yard touchdown pass to Hudson with 1:53 left in the third quarter.
Pratt responded by throwing a 73-yard touchdown pass to Watts for a 31-14 lead with 14:29 left in the game.
RJ Harvey threw a 49-yard touchdown pass to Hudson off a halfback-option pass to make it 31-21 with 12:26 remaining.
Bowser’s 10-yard touchdown run pulled UCF to within 31-28 with 9:48 left.
Pratt’s 60-yard touchdown pass to Wyatt extended the lead to 38-28 with 8:18 to go.
Pratt capped the win with an 18-yard touchdown run for a 45-28 lead with 4:04 left.
Tulane took a 7-0 lead on its first possession when Pratt threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Wyatt with 7:46 left in the quarter.
Valentino Ambrosio’s 27-yard field goal made it 10-0 with 1:01 left in the first quarter.
After the Knights stopped Pratt for no gain on fourth-and-2 from Tulane’s 32-yard line, Xavier Townsend’s 5-yard touchdown run eight plays later pulled UCF to within 10-7 with 6:48 left in the half.
Pratt responded four plays later with a 43-yard touchdown pass to Lawrence Keys III for a 17-7 lead with 5:00 left in the half.
–Field Level Media