The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Rock Solid

Rock Dennis leads clutch Mustang defense to seal victory over Pirates
Rock Dennis celebrates with teammates after his interception return for a touchdown in the Mustangs 28-21 win over ECU Saturday night. CASEY LEE/The Daily Campus
Rock Dennis celebrates with teammates after his interception return for a touchdown in the Mustangs’ 28-21 win over ECU Saturday night. CASEY LEE/The Daily Campus

Rock Dennis celebrates with teammates after his interception return for a touchdown in the Mustangs’ 28-21 win over ECU Saturday night. CASEY LEE/The Daily Campus

Rock Dennis and the SMU defense helped lead the Mustangs to a 28-21 victory over East Carolina University, putting SMU at 3-2 and 2-0, the best conference start the program has seen in 23 years.

SMU’s win over the reigning Conference USA champions marks the first time the Mustangs have defeated the Pirates in the program’s history.

Dennis, a senior safety picked off ECU quarterback, Patrick Pinkney, in the third quarter, leading to a 53-yard return for a touchdown to put the Mustangs up 21-7.

While the SMU defense surrendered 357 yards to the Pirates’ game, the Mustang defense capitalized on key moments.

A goal line stand by the Mustangs in the first quarter led to Margus Hunt’s first blocked field goal of the game, earning Hunt the honor of Conference USA Special Teams Player of the Week. The first quarter ended with the score tied at 0-0.

The Pirates (3-3 2-1) scored first with a 10-yard run by Dwayne Harris in the second quarter, putting the Pirates up by a touchdown.

Hunt blocked a second ECU field goal attempt late in the second quarter, leading to a Bryan McCann touchdown return, tying the score at 7-7.

The 6-foot-8-inch Estonia native, in his first season ever playing football, blocked an extra point in last weekend’s loss to TCU.

DE Marqus Hunt, a 6-foot-8 world-class shot-put and discus thrower from Estonia, playing football for the first time, blocked an extra point the previous week against TCU and blocked a field-goal try against East Carolina.

The first score of the second half came with SMU backed up on their own 4-yard line when on the first play sophomore quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell threw a 96-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Aldrick Robinson. Junior Matt Szymanski tacked on the extra point, putting SMU up 14-7.

Mitchell completed 17 of 29 passes on the night for 226 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions.

Mitchell also tied the record for the longest touchdown in SMU history with his 96-yard pass to Robinson. Mitchell’s pass tied Jeff Courtwright’s 96-yard pass to Craig James against the University of North Texas in 1982.

In the final minutes of regulation, SMU fumbled the ball near midfield, giving the Pirates the ball and a short field. With ECU in possession, the SMU defense stepped up big, forcing a turnover on downs and regaining possession. As SMU continued to eat up the clock, Mitchell made a questionable decision on a third down conversion attempt, throwing the ball out of bounds instead of taking a knee, and forcing ECU to burn their final time out.

ECU regained possession with 47 seconds remaining, but with even one timeout left, could not move the ball down the field. In a desperate, last second Hail Mary attempt, the SMU defense knocked down the pass to end the game.

“I feel like we’re learning how to stay together as a group,” head coach June Jones said. “We’re still not playing the way we need to on offense to be a division leader, but don’t tell the kids that. We’re 2-0.”

SMU’s running game, led by junior running back Shawnbrey McNeal suffered against the ECU defense, gaining just 28 net yards.

With a 2-0 C-USA record, the Mustangs are tied with Tulsa for the top spot in the West division, but have one fewer win overall.

The Mustangs will host Navy (4-2) on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Ford Stadium.

Safety Rock Dennis sprints by ECU players on his way to a 53 yard interception return for a touchdown. The interception was his fourth pick of the year. CASEY LEE/The Daily Campus

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