After jumping into the national rankings for the first time in four years, No. 24 Houston turned in a dominating 42-7 win over Tulane on Friday night at Yulman Stadium in New Orleans. Here's a breakdown of the night's action:
What the win means for Houston: Halfway through their season, the Cougars (6-0, 3-0 American) look strong. They are one of three undefeated teams in the American Athletic Conference (Memphis and Temple are the others), so there's still a long way to go but by virtue of their ranking, they are in strong position to make a run at the Group of 5's New Year's Six bowl bid. No. 22 Toledo remains ahead of the Cougars in the rankings while No. 21 Boise State -- who lost big on Friday night to Utah State -- appears likely to fall. Houston coach Tom Herman has the Cougars rolling and they are the first team in the American to be bowl eligible this season.
What the loss means for Tulane: The Green Wave, who were without starting quarterback Tanner Lee (concussion) and started backup Devin Powell, fall to 2-4 overall and 1-2 in the American. Sitting in fourth place in the West division, things don't get easier in the near future as the Green Wave must travel to Navy and Memphis in the next two weeks. A strong finish is required if Tulane wants to attain bowl eligibility.
How the game was won: The Houston defense was dominant, allowing the Green Wave a meager 262 yards and just four yards per play. The Cougars didn't allow a first down on the Green Wave's first four drives of the night. Offensively, Houston quarterback Greg Ward turned in another excellent performance, completing 17-of-25 passes for 222 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 77 yards and three touchdowns. A late first-half interception was the only real blemish on his stat line Friday night. The dual-threat quarterback is making a name for himself nationally with his dynamic performances.
Player of the game: Houston receiver Demarcus Ayers was everywhere on Friday. The Lancaster, Texas, product finished with a whopping 283 all-purpose yards: 175 punt return yards and a touchdown on eight attempts, six receptions for 93 yards and two rushes for 15 yards and a touchdown. He could have had more, but had a 63-yard punt return called back because of a penalty. It was a pretty good night's work for the junior receiver, who recently was named to the Biletnikoff Award watch list.