NEW ORLEANS -- Tulane University, celebrating its football centennial, undoubtedly will put its final-second 27-25 win over Navy at the Superdome near the top of unforgettable victories.
Just as the final gun sounded, place-kicker Bart Baldwin's winning 43-yard field goal split the uprights to spoil a dramatic fourth-quarter rally by Navy (2-2).
Junior quarterback Jim Kubiak had thrown touchdown passes to wide receivers Matt Scornavacchi and Damon Dixon to overcome a 24-13 deficit with 3:25 left to play.
But that was enough time for senior quarterback Billy Duncan, who had lost his starting job to redshirt sophomore Craig Randall, to move the ball 38 yards to the Navy 30 to set up Baldwin's winning kick.
The Midshipmen had mostly themselves to blame for this heartbreaking loss. They had dominated the first half in gaining a 13-0 lead, but made a complete reversal of form in the third quarter when fumbles by Todd Mill and Jason Van Matre led to a pair of touchdowns by Tulane (2-3).
A 53-yard interception return by cornerback Brandon Hamilton off a flutterball by Kubiak gave the Green Wave a 24-13 lead at the start of the fourth quarter before Navy began its comeback.
"Our six turnovers were the story of the game," said Navy coach George Chaump, robbed of a chance to win three straight for the first time since 1981. "Actually, I don't know if we got beat or let a game get away."
The Mids jumped out to a 13-0 lead in dominating the first half. But a disastrous six-minute stretch at the start of the third quarter turned the game suddenly in the Green Wave's favor.
It was sweet revenge for Tulane, which accounted for Navy's lone victory last season in Annapolis. Second-year head coach Buddy Teevens gambled and won by benching Randall in favor of Duncan in the second half after a homecoming crowd of 21,117 had booed the team's inept performance at halftime.
"I just felt we needed a spark," said Teevens, celebrating his birthday. "Duncan did a great job of rallying the troops. We could have folded after the first half, but we didn't."
Longtime Navy nemesis Will Ursin, who had caught 16 passes against the Mids the previous two meetings, came back to haunt them.
Ursin, second on Tulane's all-time reception list, kept the winning drive alive with a pair of receptions, including a 22-yard grab on a third-and-17 play from the Tulane 29.
On third-and-six from the Navy 30, tailback John Hubert gained 4 yards. It was short of a first down, but put the ball in perfect position for Baldwin.
"I didn't hit it real well," Baldwin said. "I thank the Lord that it was good."
Navy, which plays host to Air Force on Saturday, can only regard this as one that got away.
Kubiak completed 25 of 38 passes for 274 yards and two touchdowns, but will be haunted by his three interceptions.
It was a roller coaster ride for both teams, perhaps best categorized by a 4-yard touchdown run on a fumble recovery by 303-pound Tulane guard Reggie Davis in the third quarter turnabout.
"I wouldn't trade this feeling for anything in the world," Davis said. "I just picked up the ball and asked it to carry me into the end zone."
NEXT FOR NAVY:
When: Saturday, at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium
Yesterday: Lost to Wyoming, 31-18. The loss was the Falcons' fourth straight.