Tulane shocks Houston thanks to fake kneel down, wild last-second TD pass

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Tulane quarterback Justin McMillan throws a pass during the first half of the team's NCAA college football game against Houston in New Orleans, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
A 53-yard touchdown pass by Justin McMillan gave Tulane a wild win over Houston in the game's final seconds. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Tulane pulled out a last-second 38-31 win over Houston in unbelievable fashion.

After Houston tied the score 31-31 with 21 seconds to play, the Green Wave looked like it was about to take a knee and go to overtime. Instead, head coach Willie Fritz pulled out a trick play to give his guys a shot at a victory in regulation.

Justin McMillan pretended like he was going to take a knee, but instead stealthily handed the ball off to Amare Jones. Jones, after a brief hesitation, took off for an 18-yard gain.

(via ESPN)
(via ESPN)

Now with the ball near midfield, Tulane looked to the air to get the offense into field goal range. But it got much more than that.

McMillan threaded the needle to Oklahoma State transfer Jalen McCleskey, who broke through a swarm of Houston defenders and took off for a game-winning 53-yard touchdown.

The touchdown set off a wild celebration on the Tulane sideline and left the Houston side in complete disbelief.

And that included head coach Dana Holgorsen:

Tulane overcame a 28-7 deficit

The win capped off a remarkable comeback for Tulane, who trailed 28-7 in the second quarter. But the Green Wave came all the way back, eventually taking a 31-28 lead on a field goal — one that went over the upright — with 6:10 to play.

Houston, led by explosive quarterback D’Eriq King, did now go down quietly, however. King led the UH offense deep into Tulane territory and the Cougars were helped out by a questionable late hit penalty assessed to Tulane.

It looked like that penalty may help Houston escape with a win. Instead, the Cougars, after a dropped pass in the end zone on third down, settled for a short field goal to tie the score with 21 seconds to play.

That field goal paved the way for the best finish of the young season so far — and the best comeback in Tulane history.

The Green Wave rushed for 325 yards in the win while McMillan completed only seven of his 20 pass attempts. But he made them count. Three of those completions went for touchdowns, including two long ones (38 and 53 yards) to McCleskey and a 48-yarder to Darnell Mooney early in the third.

McCleskey was one of the better receivers in the Big 12 during his time at Oklahoma State. He ended up being one of the first college football players to utilize the new redshirt rule and left OSU after four games in 2018. That allowed him to play his final season of college ball at Tulane, where his dad is an assistant coach.

McCleskey had only four catches for 20 yards entering Thursday night’s game. He leaves it with eight catches for 140 yards and two scores, including one he will never forget.

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