SMU’s bowl game in 2021 was cancelled before it could be played, but in 2022, the Mustangs were able to compete in the postseason.
Rhett Lashlee’s first season at the helm of SMU ended with a 7-6 record. It would have been 8-4 had the Mustangs converted a two-point try in the closing seconds of Saturday’s New Mexico Bowl. Instead, the BYU Cougars ended their time outside the Power Five with a 24-23 victory.
After being tied 10-10 at the half, BYU scored 14 points in the third quarter. SMU did mount a comeback, but it fell just short after a 12-yard touchdown pass from Tanner Mordecai with eight seconds left. Unfortunately for Lashlee and company, they’ll have to wait a bit longer to get their first bowl win since 2012. There are still positives to take away from SMU’s season, however.
Here are the biggest takeaways from an exciting night in Albuquerque.
Tanner Mordecai’s Place In The Record Books
SMU finishes the year with 4117 passing yards, which is the most they’ve ever accumulated in a season as a team. Obviously, senior quarterback Tanner Mordecai has played a huge role in that with 3,524 yards through the air for the Oklahoma transfer. He threw for 218 yards on Saturday.
Additionally, with two passing touchdowns in the bowl game, Mordecai broke the SMU career record for touchdowns responsible for with 76, and passing touchdowns with 72. Mordecai finished the season with 33 passing touchdowns. Keep in mind, Mordecai only played for SMU for two seasons.
Mordecai is now off to the NFL, but even without a bowl win, his legacy as a Mustang should be secure.
Strong Day For Senior Linebackers
Saturday did mark the end of the college careers of two of SMU’s best defenders.
Senior linebacker Jimmy Phillips Jr. had nine tackles in this game and broke the SMU career record with 59 games played. Phillips was the Mustangs’ leading tackler this season with 85.
Shanon Reid, a transfer from Illinois State and also a senior linebacker, posted a season-high 9 tackles on Saturday. He also recorded a sack and an interception. The interception was his second of the season.
Rhett Lashlee Starts Things Off Right
Seven wins are the most that an SMU head coach has totaled in their first season since Bobby Collins won 11 games in his first year back in 1982. Given this was the former Arkansas quarterback’s first season as a head coach anywhere in the collegiate ranks, there’s obviously room to grow.
In his last year as SMU’s head coach in 2021, Sonny Dykes won eight games. The drop off could certainly be a lot worse.
There will certainly be some hindsight criticism of both Lashlee’s decision to go for two and the win in this game, as well as the play call on said two-point conversion. However, starting things off in year one should make Mustang fans optimistic, even with the frustrating end.
“I’d go for it again a heartbeat,” Lashlee told the AP after the game. “I trust these guys and I wanted to give them a chance to win.”