With 11 minutes left in the Cotton Bowl, it seemed like USC had Tulane dead to rights. Tulane had just turned the ball over via fumble, and USC held a 12-point lead.
USC then drove down the field for a field goal to make it 45-30 Trojans, seemingly putting a button on the game in Dallas with 4:30 left on the clock.
Tulane, however, bounced back and pulled out a miraculous comeback victory that involved a quick touchdown, a safety, and an overturned incompletion that resulted in a touchdown. It was a heartbreaking 46-45 loss for USC to cap off a season with playoff aspirations, and a tremendous win for the Group of 5 Green Wave to finish an all-time bounce-back season.
After USC’s field goal, Tulane had no delusions about what it needed to come back. In just two plays (23 seconds), Tulane went 63 yards to score, featuring a Deuce Watts 59-yard reception.
MORE: Jim Harbaugh ‘done deal’ to leave Michigan if offered NFL job, per report
On the ensuing kickoff, Mario Williams made arguably the biggest play of the game when he muffed a fair catch out of bounds at the 1-yard line of USC. Two plays later, Tulane swarmed Austin Jones in the end zone for a safety.
Following the free kick, Tulane drove down the field in 12 plays and 3:11 to score the game-winning touchdown, which was overturned from an incompletion.
Tulane, which went 2-10 last year, capped off this year with a 12-2 record a New Year’s Six bowl win. Suffice it to say, the celebration was earned.
“I’ve got the utmost respect for those guys,” Tulane linebacker Dorian Williams, the 2023 Cotton Bowl defensive MVP said postgame. “But I know our guys– We’re not going to give up on anything. I knew we weren’t going to give up.”
It was a disappointing finish for USC and Heisman winner Caleb Williams, particularly given the way the lead fell apart. Tulane caught every break in the last four-and-a-half minutes and made every play, leading to its thrilling 46-45 victory.