NEW ORLEANS (AP) Tulane was usually terrible when Green Wave linebacker Tyler Grubbs was a kid in New Orleans.

Not anymore.

Makhi Hughes rushed for a career-high 166 yards and a touchdown, Tulane's defense produced five turnovers and a fourth-down stop on its own 10, and the No. 18 Green Wave defeated UTSA 29-16 on Friday to secure the right to host the American Athletic Conference title game for a second straight season.

“To do what we’re doing right now, I mean, you can’t really put into words what’s happening,” said Grubbs, a Louisiana Tech transfer who remembers longing to be part of something like the celebration he watched on TV when Tulane won last season's conference crown at Yulman Stadium.

“You just kind of have to experience it," Grubbs continued. "The feelings that you get out on that field after the game, it’s something special.”

Tulane (11-1, 8-0 AAC) has won 10 straight, with its only loss coming in Week 2 against No. 12 Mississippi - a game Green Wave starting quarterback Michael Pratt missed with a leg injury.

AAC newcomer UTSA (8-4, 7-1) came up one victory short of advancing to the league championship game after winning the Conference USA title the previous two seasons.

“You can’t get any more disappointed than we are right now,” UTSA coach Jeff Traylor said. “We worked our tail off to get here and didn’t play well.”

SMU (9-2, 7-0) can clinch a spot in New Orleans on Dec. 2 by beating Navy on Saturday.

Chris Brazzell caught five passes for 93 yards and two touchdowns to prop up a Green Wave passing game missing leading receivers Lawrence Keys and Jha'Quan Jackson.

“Offensively we weren't in synch all the time but we made plays when we needed to,” said Tulane coach Willie Fritz, who has led his team to 23 victories - including a Cotton Bowl triumph over Southern California - in less than two full seasons.

UTSA's offense twice reached the Tulane 10 in the second half only to come away with nothing.

Defensive back Cam Pedescleaux's strip of running back Robert Henry at the Tulane 8 with 3:23 left in the third quarter.

A failed fourth-down play ended another Roadrunners drive at the Tulane 10 with 11:01 left.

“We've got some clutch guys,” Fitz said. “It's a whole lot of nothing when they drive a long time and don't get any points out of it."

Another failed UTSA fourth down on its own 32 with 7:26 left set up Tulane's final TD. Pratt connected with Brazzell for 22 yards and again for a 3-yard touchdown to give the Wave a 29-10 lead.

Tulane scored first after Bailey Despanie's interception of a tipped pass on Harris' first throw of the game set up Pratt's 7-yard TD pass to Brazzell.

Devean Deal intercepted Harris near midfield on the Roadrunners' second series. But UTSA got the ball right back when Pratt lost the ball on Jamal Ligon's sack. The Roadrunners tied it shortly after on Rocko Griffin's 23-yard run.

Hughes' 58-yard run - his second run of 30 or more yards - set up Valentino Ambrosio's short field goal to put Tulane up 13-10.

UTSA's third turnover came when defensive back Lance Robinson punched the ball from running back Kevorian Barnes near midfield.

Brazzell then made a one-handed, 47-yard grab along the right sideline, setting up Hughes' short TD run.

UTSA's fourth turnover - an interception on a fake punt - was followed four plays later by a Roadrunners defensive pass interference penalty on a Tulane fake punt. That helped the Wave drive for Ambrosio's third field goal and a 23-10 halftime lead.


UTSA: The Roadrunners ran more plays than Tulane, had more total yards and had the ball longer, but had too many catastrophic failures when they were on the brink of getting back in the game.

“Our defense played plenty good enough for us to win," Traylor said. "That was totally on the offense and the head coach.”

Tulane: Defensive coordinator Shiel Wood now has two straight victories over UTSA and the prolific Harris. He was Troy's coordinator when the Trojans beat the Roadrunners 18-12 in last season's Cure Bowl. Tulane's defensive play-making was needed on a day when Pratt completed nine passes for 125 yards.


UTSA: Awaits a bowl bid.

Tulane: Hosts the AAC title game on Dec. 2.


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