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


Mustangs fall to South Florida, still one win away from bowl eligibility

Photo credit: Mollie Mayfield


Second-and-nine at the South Florida 14 yard line. Trailing 35-27 and knocking on USF’s door, Ben Hicks lines up under center, receives the snap, looks right and throws. The pass lands in the hands of the Bulls’ Deatrick Nichols, his second interception of the game.

A touchdown on that drive would have put the Mustangs a two-point conversion away from tying the score with about 3:50 to play.

SMU’s 35-27 loss to South Florida on Saturday felt a lot like the Mustangs’ previous loss to the Bulls in Dallas. In 2014, USF ruined SMU’s homecoming on a rainy and blustery night in Ford Stadium – the Bulls took the lead with four seconds remaining to win 14-13.

While this season’s loss to USF at home may not have been as dramatic, it may prove to cost the Mustangs more than the last. 2014’s loss dropped the Mustangs to 0-9. Just one win away from bowl eligibility in 2016, the 5-6 Mustangs’ hopes for a postseason birth now hinge on one final game.

“We just failed to convert in the key moments of the game,” SMU head coach Chad Morris said in the postgame press conference. “I thought we gave too many what I call ‘walk-offs’, too many one-play-and-scores.”

Giving up big plays was SMU’s biggest problem, an issue characteristic of the Mustangs’ defense of a year ago. The Bulls converted only two of twelve third down chances, yet scored 35 points. Three of USF’s touchdowns came on one-play drives, including the Bulls’ opening score. Only one of USF’s five touchdowns was shorter than 20 yards.

“We just got caught flat-footed,” Morris said. “We got some young guys back there, but in the same sense, I mean we’ve seen that play over and over in practice. They opened the game with it, and that’s just very disappointing.”

Though playing catch-up for the entire game, SMU never trailed by more than two TDs.

SMU running back Braeden West ran for 120 yards on 29 carries, his sixth 100-yard rushing game of the season. West’s only miscue was a fumble in SMU territory that set USF up for a quick score.

Quarterback Ben Hicks threw for a season-high 380 yards with two touchdowns, but also two interceptions. He played turnover-free in last week’s 55-31 win at East Carolina. His interception total on the season now stands at 13.

Courtland Sutton set an SMU single-game receiving record with 13 catches for 252 yards and two touchdowns. He was targeted twice as many times as SMU’s next most targeted receiver, Xavier Castille.

“I wish I could have done more,” Sutton said postgame. “I wish that I’d have been able to catch a few I didn’t catch, give our team a better chance of pulling away and getting this win.”

To become bowl-eligible, the Mustangs must beat Navy, which has been ranked as high as 22 this season. The Midshipmen have already clinched the American Athletic Conference’s western division.

“It’s our motto, our whole offseason we strived to push the motto of one more,” Sutton said. “One more rep, one more sprint, one more everything. And it literally has come down to one more game.”

“It’s a one-game season. That’s it,” Morris said. “This is really your bowl game, you got a chance to play one to get another one. That’s what it comes down to. There is no next week. This is it.”

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