How it Happened
In an exciting shootout, USF was just able to hold off SMU. The Mustangs had two fourth quarter drives come up short in the red zone, squandering a chance to become bowl-eligible.
The game could not have started worse for SMU. On the first play from scrimmage, USF quarterback Quinton Flowers threw a 77-yard touchdown to Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The two teams traded touchdowns on their next drives, with Ben Hicks throwing an 8-yard touchdown to Courtland Sutton and Marlon Mack breaking a 60-yard touchdown on 4th and 1 for USF. In the second quarter, Ke'Mon Freeman threw a halfback pass 43 yards to James Proche for a touchdown. SMU had a chance to take the lead after getting a stop, but Braeden West fumbled and USF scored on the next play. The Bulls went into halftime with a 21-14 lead.
SMU started the third quarter terribly. USF corner Deatrick Nichols picked off a back shoulder throw from Hicks to Sutton, and scored a 65-yard touchdown on the next play. That marked the third time that the Bulls scored a touchdown on the first play of a drive. SMU got those points back later in the third quarter, as Hicks found a wide-open Courtland Sutton streaking down the middle of the field for a 54-yard touchdown. On the ensuing kickoff, Jackson Mitchell speared USF's return man Rodney Adams and forced a fumble. SMU had a chance to tie the game with a short field, but USF's defense held them to a field goal. SMU could not contain Flowers on the next drive, as he ripped off a 35-yard run to set up another USF touchdown.
Down 11, Hicks went deep to Sutton for 49 yards, but the drive stalled at the 3-yard line and the Mustangs settled for a field goal. After getting another stop, SMU marched down the field again before Hicks was intercepted by Nichols. Needing a stop, SMU backed USF into a third-and-13; on that play, D'Ernest Johnson appeared to lateral the ball into the hands of Justin Lawler, but he was ruled down. Down eight with 3:19 left, Ben Hicks drove the Mustangs down into the red zone, but on 4th down and 1, Braeden West was stopped short of the first down marker.
What it Means
SMU showed that they could hang with one of the top teams in the AAC. They gave the Bulls all that they could handle, and fell just short of a comeback win. Courtland Sutton proved that he is the premier receiver in the AAC and among the top in the country. He was being covered by a capable corner in Deatrick Nichols, but still had a monster game. With a tough game against Navy next week, this was probably SMU's best chance to become bowl-eligible.
Player of the Game
Courtland Sutton. SMU's stud wideout had his second straight monster game. He was getting open on the sideline, and Ben Hicks was not shy in feeding him. Sutton was getting open on the sideline constantly for 10-yard curls, and beat USF deep when they tried to tighten up on those. Sutton broke the school record with 252 yards on 13 catches, for two touchdowns.
After rushing for a touchdown last week, Kevin Johnson did not play any offense tonight. Daniel McCarty missed this game.
SMU plays at home against Navy on Saturday. Game time is TBD.