They may have been playing a game that determined which team would finish last in the American Athletic Conference but Tulane coach Willie Fritz said his players were extremely motivated against UConn Saturday.
Running backs Lazedrick Thompson and Josh Rounds combined for five touchdowns and Tulane snapped a six-game losing streak with a 38-13 win over UConn Saturday night in the season finale for both teams.
"It's been a really frustrating season," Fritz said. "We talked last night about how this is a game of pride. We have to come out, and number one, pride is something pretty important to play for. I thought our guys really exhibited a lot of competitiveness, toughness in all three phases."
Tulane (4-8, 1-7 American) scored the game's first 24 points to break a 14-game conference losing streak. Its last conference win came against Central Florida, 45-31, Oct. 3, 2015.
UConn (3-9, 1-7) saw its season end on a six-game losing streak.
"Tough game. Tough year. Long, hard year," UConn coach Bob Diaco said. "Expectations were spectacularly high. Obviously performance and production was spectacularly low."
Thompson finished with 108 yards on 23 carries and three touchdowns, including a 45-yard jaunt in the fourth quarter to complete the scoring.
Rounds had 78 yards rushing on 16 carries and two touchdowns.
UConn's Arkeel Newsome scored both of UConn's touchdowns. He ran for a season-high 166 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, while adding 28 yards and another score on two catches.
Donovan Williams, a true freshman making his third career start, completed 11-of-26 passes for 104 yards for the Huskies. He had two interceptions and his first career touchdown pass.
Tulane entered the game ranked 119th nationally in total offense and UConn was 122nd. Some had thought the game might resemble last year's meeting in New Orleans, a game UConn won 7-3.
Tulane's Larry Bryant blocked a UConn punt on the fifth play of the game, setting his team up at the 23-yard line for its first possession. But the Green Wave settled for a 23-yard Andrew DiRocco field goal and a 3-0 lead.
After quickly forcing another UConn punt, a 32-yard pass from Glen Cuiellette to tight end Kendall Ardoin set the Green Wave up with a first-and-goal. Rounds scored on a 1-yard plunge two plays later.
"Field position made it easy," said Cuiellette, whose team held a 19-minute advantage in time of possession. "It was a whole different mentality going in there for a drive starting on the 25, 20, inside the red zone. It makes it easier on us."
Tulane led 10-0 after one quarter as UConn completed the season without scoring a first-quarter touchdown — the only team in the nation that failed to do so. The Huskies were outscored 76-9 in the first quarter this season.
UConn wide receiver Noel Thomas caught six passes and finished with a school-record 100 this season. He also carried the ball three times for 20 yards and completed a pass to Williams on an early trick play.
UConn safety Obi Melifonwu made 24 tackles, tying the school record, in the loss.
UConn: Some fans and media have called for Diaco's firing but the $5 million buyout his contract calls for makes that a difficult proposition for the school. He said he expects to return. "No doubt. I have a contract until 2021. Unless my calendar is wrong, it's 2016," Diaco said.
Tulane: Fritz earned his first-ever American Athletic Conference win thanks to an inspired group that made big defensive and special teams plays: two blocked kicks and two interceptions.
UConn: The Huskies' season is over and Diaco's tenure with the team is in doubt.
Tulane: The Green Wave's season is over as well, albeit with a little more momentum.