QUICK HITS: SMU beats Rice 27-24

Things got interesting at the end of the game when the Owls scored a touchdown and had a successful onside kick with two minutes remaining, but SMU's defense got a huge stop on fourth-and-1 and eeked out its seventh victory of the season.

1. SMU just had to make things a bit more interesting to win on Senior Day.

Up 27-17 in the fourth quarter, the Mustangs allowed Rice to drive. With about two minutes left on the clock, the Owls scored to make it 27-24. Then they had a successful onside kick. Then converted on a fourth-and-5.

Facing fourth-and-1 from the SMU-40, quarterback Nick Fanuzzi looked for a receiver out wide, but safety Chris Banjo got a hand up and tipped the ball, knocking it incomplete with 36 seconds left.

The Mustangs kneeled to win 27-24 and move to 7-5 on the season.

June Jones after the game:

"We had a lot of stupid penalties and fumbled the ball…you can't do that," he said. "But the defense had a goal line stand and made some plays on third down to get them off the field early, which set the tone."

Jones on getting to seven wins:

"It feels a lot better going into a bowl game with seven wins. Winning this game and sending our seniors off like that…I told the kids before the game that this is a show of character because I knew rice was going to play that type of football game and the weather with the way it is, it's anybody's game. I'm glad we were at home."

2. Saturday was Senior Day. At the end of the game, SMU honored the 20 players who have done so much for this program. Players like Chris Banjo, Kelvin Beachum, Cole Beasley, Richard Crawford, Marquis Frazier, J.J. McDermott, Josh LeRibeus and Taylor Thompson. Guys who have put more blood, sweat, grit and time into rebuilding this program.

And there was hardly a fan base to support them. It was a pitiful and sad showing.

"It's disappointing, I don't know what other word to say," Jones said. "I'm happy for the fans that are here, very appreciative to them, but you certainly would like to send off this group of kids with more people."

Using the Thanksgiving weekend excuse does not cut it, as fans come out of the woodwork to sell out football games on Thanksgiving.

"It was expected," senior wide receiver Cole Beasley said. "It's Thanksgiving and people are home with their families…it's understandable. It will eventually get better as the program continues to get better. After 25 years, it's expected to be like that. You have to slowly get it back."

After the game, all 20 seniors were honored in front of their families and the loyal fans who stayed to watch.

3. Rishaad Wimbley had a career-high 115 yards rushing against Rice. Quite the crazy statistic considering he came to SMU as a defensive tackle and trained with the defense all through fall camp.

After about the first week of practice, Jones decided he'd be better off in their system as a running back.

"I'm sure Rishaad never figured he'd be rushing for 100 yards in a DI game 10 months ago," Jones said.

Jones said he saw how nimble Wimbley's feet were and thought he could be a good offensive weapon.

"And I guessed right," Jones said.

Wimbley, who is 290 lbs. and can run the 40-yard dash in 4.7 seconds, had two touchdowns against Rice, one of which was a 39-yard sprint up the middle in the fourth quarter to give the Mustangs a 10-point lead.

"He has light feet, is a good athlete and a very very powerful guy and I think once he loses a little more weight and can do some shake and bake like Zach [Line], I think we'll be in good shape next year."

4. The win was big, no question. But quarterback J.J. McDermott's turnover woes continued as he had two interceptions. Now he has as many interceptions (16) as he does touchdowns, and has thrown 11 picks in the last six games.

McDermott's final stat line read as 16 of 25 for 179 yards and a touchdown.

"That wind was a little rough," Jones said. "I thought that that probably had more to do with it than anything."

To be fair, when I got on the sideline at the end of the game, the wind was indeed ridiculous.

5. The defense was at it again, holding Rice to 250 yards on offense. Their best effort of the day was a goal-line stand in the third quarter. Fanuzzi rushed 38 yards to get inside the SMU-10, but the Mustangs stuffed the Owls on every play, including a 1-yard run on fourth down from Tyler Smith.

They also held the Owls to 10 first downs and only allowed them to convert four of 18 third downs.

SMU couldn't convert on third down either, going just 2 of 12.


For more SMU coverage, follow Laken Litman on Twitter!

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