SMU won a wild one on Saturday against a surprising Tulsa team that showed tremendous grit especially on defense. SMU erased a 21 point deficit in the fourth quarter to force overtime and ended up winning on a spectacular catch from James Proche in the back the corner of the end zone.
This was one of the better college football games I’ve seen this season and a perfect example of why college football is so great. It seemed as though all hope was lost multiple times for the Mustangs but every time SMU needed a play they got it. Both teams had multiple calls go their way and the momentum swung a few times throughout the game despite SMU trailing by 21 points in the second half. This game had almost everything you could think of from an entertainment standpoint. Lots of long touchdowns and big plays including a flee flicker and a one handed TD catch, 3 missed field goals by Tulsa, missed extra points from both teams, a pick 6 plus 2 other INTs, a special teams score and triple OT. Calling this a wild game is an understatement.
If we’re being honest, SMU looked like trash on offense for 3 quarters. The Mustangs were behind 30-9 at the start of the fourth quarter. Finally, the offense got going in the fourth scoring 21 unanswered to force OT. It’s wild to think that this game ended in a 43-37 shootout after SMU didn’t have an offensive TD going in to the fourth quarter. Five of SMU’s last 6 drives (including OT) ended in TDs after they only had produced 3 points from their first 8 offensive drives.
Tulsa had the game in hand multiple times but were never able to finish it off. Tulsa kickers Jacob Rainey and Zack Long combined to miss 3 field goals for the Golden Hurricane Saturday night which is unheard of. Two of those field goals would have ended the game had they been good.
Credit this Tulsa team for showing up ready to play though. The Tulsa defense had allowed 3 points to one of the nation’s most high-powered offenses through the first 3 quarters. Xavier Jones wasn’t able to really get anything going on the ground until well into the second half. The Tulsa secondary didn’t allow any big plays downfield for the majority of the game. However, James Proche made a number of big plays when it mattered most including a one handed TD grab in the fourth quarter that looked very similar to the one he had against USF last week. Proche exploded late and ended with 11 receptions for 153 yards and 2 TDs.
Reggie Roberson Jr. left the game with an injury and did not return on Saturday night. SMU WR Rashee Rice did well stepping up to fill Roberson’s place. Rice finished with 4 receptions for 78 yards including a big reception from WR Tyler Paige on a trick play that went for 30 yards.
SMU’s offense struggled for most of the game. Tulsa did a good job of covering the SMU playmakers downfield. Shane Buechele’s struggled to throw the ball down the field with accuracy until well into the second half. The SMU offense began to click on a second half scoring drive that ended with a touchdown to start the 4th quarter. Buechele finished the game having gone 23/40 for 280 yards and 2 TDs. Buechele played well when it mattered most especially on his downfield throws late.
The SMU defense played really well at times and made a number of crucial stops late in the game. SMU corner Ar’mani Johnson had 2 INTs, one which opened the scoring in the first quarter when Johnson returned his first pick for a touchdown. Chevin Calloway also added another INT later on in the game.
This SMU defense made plays when the team needed it but the bottom line going forward is this SMU secondary will have to play better to continue to excel in the American. Multiple touchdowns for Tulsa came from blown coverages from the SMU secondary. These could have just been miscommunication issues and not systemic problems because SMU doesn’t normally give up huge plays regularly but the SMU secondary must step up their level of play to hang with the other passing attacks in the conference i.e. Memphis in a few weeks. Tulsa QB Zach Smith was able to move the ball well at times ending the game with 346 yards and 4 TDs.
The Tulsa offensive line did really well to keep the pocket clean for Smith most of the night. SMU only had one sack and it came in OT.
Other notable drama was when Sonny Dykes lost his mind on the referees (a few times) in regulation and in OT. One particular time Tulsa scored a TD in OT on a play where the ball was snapped by Tulsa after the play clock hit :00. The play was deemed not reviewable so Dykes lost his mind. It will be interesting to see if Dykes has anything further to say about it this week. Earlier in the game coach Dykes was also handed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for behavior on the sidelines.
The biggest takeaway from this Tulsa game for the Mustangs is that SMU faced true adversity and responded very well this weekend. Coming back from a 3 TD deficit in the fourth quarter and winning in triple OT is a thrilling storyline but should be a wake up call for the Mustangs as they roll into the bye week.
SMU moved up to #21 in the AP poll this week.
If Tulsa plays like they did Saturday for the rest of the year, they will rack up some big wins and probably make a bowl game. Zach Smith was a lot better than expected. Only one of his INTs was really a bad throw. One INT was an accurate ball that was tipped by the receiver and was intercepted. The third INT was just a jump ball thrown into the endzone that Chevin Calloway made a sick athletic play on. Tulsa has to keep their head up and know they have the talent to compete in this conference.
As mentioned, SMU has their bye week this week before the Temple Owls come to Dallas in 2 weeks. After the bye week, SMU will begin the toughest part of their schedule with road trips to Houston and Memphis following the matchup with Temple. SMU must work out the kinks on both offense and defense during their bye week so they’re fresh and ready for Temple.
Tulsa will return home to face Navy as they aim to bounce back from last week’s heart break. The Golden Hurricane should play with plenty of confidence after taking SMU to the wire.
The American Conference is pretty deep this season so both division races will be fun to watch. Memphis crept in to the AP top 25 this week and currently sit at #23. That makes SMU’s trip to Memphis on November 2 that much more intriguing.
Game highlights here:
With 3 INTs, the bottles were out often on the SMU sideline:
I’m not sure if I agree with the SMU crowd storming the field after beating 2-3 Tulsa but it’s the first time since the 80’s the Mustangs have been ranked so I guess let the kids have their fun.