Posted on October 6, 2019, by Travis Pulver
Many college football fans probably don’t even know where SMU is. Some may remember the Mustangs only as that school hit with the death penalty many years ago. But most fans have only known the Mustangs as NCAA bottom feeders—which is what they have been for most of the last three decades.
However, that trend appears to be changing.
Following last week’s win over USF, the Mustangs became ranked (No. 24) for the first time since 1986. But with Saturday’s unlikely victory over Tulsa, they are 6-0; they haven’t been undefeated this late in the season since before the team got hit with the death penalty in the late ’80s (1982; the death penalty was in ’87).
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For much of the game, it looked like the undefeated mark was coming to an end.
SMU got on the board first when Ar’mani Johnson returned an interception 64 yards for a touchdown about midway through the first quarter. But the kicking woes continued for the Mustangs as they missed the extra point. Later in the quarter, Tulsa tacked on a field goal to make the score 6-3 SMU heading into the second.
It was in the second, that things got away from the Mustangs. Tulsa scored a touchdown early in the quarter to pull ahead 10-6. But on the ensuing kickoff, SMU let the ball bounce around after no one was in a position to catch the kick rather than recover the ball. Eventually, a Tulsa player caught up with the ball and pounced on it in the endzone for a touchdown.
Tulsa tacked on another touchdown to make the score 23-9 going into the break. They extended the lead to 30-9 with a touchdown on their opening drive of the second half. Things were certainly not going SMU’s way, but the Mustangs never gave up and closed out regulation with three touchdown drives forcing overtime.
Both teams started OT with touchdowns, but then it looked like SMU was doomed when they fumbled on their second possession. But the defense came through and forced a field goal, which Tulsa missed. When the Golden Hurricanes missed again on their next possession, the door was open for the Mustangs to complete the comeback—which they did on the first play.
Shane Buechele connected with James Prochte on a 25-yard touchdown that was initially ruled incomplete, but that call was overturned upon review.
“If you’re ever play for, or coach for, a championship football game, you have to win some games like this,” SMU head coach Sonny Dykes said after the game via Dallasnews.com. “It’s just part of the road to a championship, is winning some games that, you know, at some point in the game you kinda think, ‘Well this is not gonna go our way.’”
So—does this win, and their undefeated record, mean it is time to start believing in the SMU Mustangs?
As far as the national title picture is concerned—no, of course not. At +10000 (via BetOnline.ag), it would be nice to think they could win, and lucky gamblers could strike it rich. But it isn’t going to happen. They are not going to come close to sniffing the top four.
But their conference, the American Athletic? They still have tough games ahead against Memphis, Navy, and Tulane, but they could certainly make it to their conference title game—and win it.