If anyone's paying attention, No. 10 Tulane says it made its case to be considered national champion.
Michael Jordan returned an interception 79 yards for a touchdown, and Shaun King of St. Petersburg threw for two touchdowns and ran for one as Tulane beat Brigham Young 41-27 Thursday afternoon in the Liberty Bowl, ending the Green Wave's best season ever at 12-0.
A Green Wave player held up a small sign with the words "NATIONAL CHAMPS."
"We're 12-0," linebacker Brian Timmons said. "They can't take that away from us. We feel in our hearts we are the true national champions."
Tulane came in as one of only two undefeated teams in Division I-A, with Tennessee (12-0). But the Green Wave, with its Conference USA schedule, wasn't part of the Bowl Championship Series.
So the Green Wave had something to prove against Brigham Young (9-5).
King shredded a defense that ranked fifth nationally, completing 23 of 38 for 276 yards and rushing 16 times for 109 yards as Tulane went one better than an 11-1 record in 1931.
It was the Green Wave's first bowl victory since the 1970 Liberty, improving its bowl record to 3-6.
"Hopefully, we answered some of our doubters," King said. "Any time you go undefeated, you should be ranked in the Top 5."
Tulane's Chris Scelfo won in his coaching debut in place of Tommy Bowden, who left a month ago for Clemson. Scelfo handled the game with help from five assistants, including offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez, who will join Bowden at Clemson.
Before Bowden's arrival in 1997, the Green Wave had won 11 games in five years and hadn't had a winning record in 16. Bowden's departure didn't seem to bother King much.
"Coach Bowden never played a game for us. Now coach Scelfo has never played. The team was still the same. The players are still the same. We took that to heart and said we can do it without Coach Bowden," King said.
Tulane's defense never let Brigham Young get going with an offense hampered by the loss of tailback Ronney Jenkins, expelled last week for an honor code violation.
The Cougars scored on their second possession but had only 168 yards offense through three quarters. They didn't get inside the Tulane 20 again until the fourth quarter, when they scored three times.
Tulane started slowly, and it looked as if BYU would take advantage.
Kevin Feterik found Brian Horton in the left corner of the end zone for an 11-yard TD on BYU's second possession. But a celebration penalty backed Owen Pochman for a 35-yard extra point attempt that was blocked.
The Cougars had a chance to add to the lead before Jordan put Tulane ahead to stay near the end of the first quarter. He stepped in front of Feterik's pass to Mike Rigell at the Tulane 21 and ran up the left sideline, cutting back at the BYU 15 to score untouched on the 79-yard return for a 10-3 lead.
"The touchdown off the intercepted pass was very huge," BYU coach LaVell Edwards said. "Up to that point, we were moving the ball well and doing some good things."
Tulane finally got its offense going in the second quarter as King keyed a six-play drive with a 47-yard pass to Kerwin Cook despite double coverage. King scored three plays later on a 3-yard draw for a 17-6 lead. He also tossed TD passes of 60 yards to Cook and 13 yards to Jamaican Dartez in the third quarter.
Brad Palazzo added his second field goal of the half, a 23-yarder, just before halftime for a 20-6 lead.