SMU's Bryan Massey (0) returns an interception on the final play of Saturday's game against ACU at Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas on Sept. 4, 2021. The Mustangs won 56-9.

Hof 8420 2

Reports: ACC considering SMU for expansion

Stanford and Cal aren’t the only schools the Atlantic Coast Conference is weighing for potential expansion.

SMU, the private university in the Dallas metro area, is a third option being considered for an ACC invite, Yahoo Sports and The Athletic reported Tuesday.

ACC administrators are meeting Tuesday evening to review the financial outlooks for adding all three schools or adding just the two California schools, according to the reports.

SMU currently plays in the American Athletic Conference and has been passed over as an expansion target for other power conferences like the more geographically fitting Big 12.

The Mustangs claimed national football titles in 1935, 1981 and 1982. A longtime member of the Southwest Conference, SMU went on to play in the Western Athletic Conference and Conference USA after the Southwest folded.

A pay-to-play scandal led SMU to receive the so-called death penalty in the 1980s. The program was not allowed to compete in the 1987 and 1988 seasons.

–Field Level Media

Cincinnati Bearcats cornerback Arquon Bush (9) tackles Southern Methodist Mustangs wide receiver Rashee Rice (11) in the fourth quarter of the American Athletic Conference game at Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022. Cincinnati Bearcats defeated Southern Methodist Mustangs 29-27.

Cincinnati Bearcats At Southern Methodist Mustangs 730

SMU WR Rashee Rice ruled out for New Mexico Bowl

SMU star wide receiver Rashee Rice will sit out the upcoming New Mexico Bowl, coach Rhett Lashlee announced Saturday.

Rice reportedly has been nursing a broken toe since the Mustangs’ 42-34 loss to TCU on Sept. 24.

The senior recorded 96 catches for a school-record 1,355 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns in 12 games this season. His average of 112.9 yards per game led the nation.

Rice totaled 233 receptions for 3,111 yards and 25 touchdowns during his four-year career at SMU. His receiving yards are good for No. 5 on SMU’s all-time list.

He was a first-team All-American Athletic Conference selection in 2022.

The Mustangs (7-5) will play BYU (7-5) in the New Mexico Bowl on Dec. 17 in Albuquerque, N.M.

–Field Level Media

Oct 22, 2022; Dallas, Texas, USA; Southern Methodist Mustangs quarterback Tanner Mordecai (8) throws downfield during the first half against the Cincinnati Bearcats at Gerald J. Ford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

Tanner Mordecai’s status uncertain for SMU vs. Tulsa

SMU and host Tulsa will meet in an American Athletic Conference game on Saturday in Oklahoma in which both teams are seeking a much-needed win if they are to become bowl-eligible.

The Mustangs (3-4, 1-2 AAC) have dropped four of their past five games after a 29-27 loss to then-No. 21 Cincinnati on Saturday. The Golden Hurricane (3-4, 1-2) ended a three-game losing streak with a 27-16 win at Temple on Friday.

The biggest question facing the Mustangs is at quarterback. Tanner Mordecai suffered a concussion late in the third quarter against Cincinnati and was replaced by Preston Stone. Mordecai is in concussion protocol and his status is unclear for Saturday.

“Tanner’s in a day-to-day world,” SMU offensive coordinator Casey Woods said. “We’ve got confidence in Preston. He’s done a good job, so seeing him operate within the entirety of the offense has been fun and I know he’ll be ready if called upon.”

Stone almost rallied SMU from a 15-point, fourth-quarter deficit. But his two-point conversion pass was incomplete following Tyler Lavine’s 1-yard touchdown dive that pulled the Mustangs to within 29-27 with 1:57 remaining.

Mordecai — a transfer from Oklahoma — has completed 60.8 percent of his passes for 2,121 yards with 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions, while Stone has gone 17 for 31 for 169 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

Rashee Rice, the team’s top receiver with 53 catches for 802 yards and four touchdowns, has been slowed by a toe injury.

Tulsa also has one of the conference’s top receivers. Keylon Stokes became the school’s all-time leading pass-catcher after posting 37 yards on four catches against Temple, giving him 3,352 receiving yards for his career. Stokes has 48 receptions for 802 yards and four scores this season.

Deneric Price rushed for 231 yards, including an 84-yard touchdown run, on 20 carries against the Owls. He also scored on an 18-yard reception.

“Obviously, Deneric had a couple of big, explosive runs,” Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery said. “The one late — man, what a huge play that we needed right there to really extend the lead.”

Tulsa is 13-15 all-time against SMU but has won two straight in the series.

–Field Level Media

Sep 24, 2022; Orlando, Florida, USA; UCF Knights head coach Gus Malzahn calls a play during the second quarter against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at FBC Mortgage Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

UCF, SMU finally meet after multiple delays

After multiple postponements, host UCF and SMU finally will get together for their American Athletic Conference opener Wednesday night in Orlando, Fla.

UCF (3-1) and SMU (2-2) originally were scheduled to meet Saturday, but that was changed to Sunday in anticipation of Hurricane Ian. The game was then moved to Wednesday after the storm ravaged Florida.

With his team having to travel and in need of some recovery time, Mustangs coach Rhett Lashlee said his squad benefitted from the delay.

“It gave us maybe 36 to 48 hours for the guys a chance to catch their breath, not only physically but mentally,” Lashlee said. “Like we said last week, we’re beat up, so one of the positives is getting an extra few days maybe to try to get a little healthier.”

Lashlee views the conference schedule as a “new season” after his team came away with losses to Maryland (34-27) and TCU (42-34) the previous two games.

“We’ve got a really good league,” he said. “It’s wide open and we want to get off to a good start. Our goal is to try to be one of the two teams left, after those eight games, (that is) still in it.”

The only blemish on the Knights’ season so far is a 20-14 setback to Louisville at home Sept. 9. They bounced back with consecutive victories, including a 27-10 win over Georgia Tech on Sept. 24, when quarterback John Rhys Plumlee ran for a team-high 100 yards and a touchdown to guide the Knights.

“Obviously, the game we lost, we had an opportunity to win,” UCF coach Gus Malzahn said. “I really think we’re getting better as a team. I know we’re getting better.”

Malzahn and Lashlee have a relationship that dates back to when Malzahn coached high school football and Lashlee was his quarterback. Lashlee later joined Malzahn’s staff as an assistant at Springdale (Ark.) High School and also was an assistant under Malzahn at Arkansas State and Auburn.

“(Lashlee) is one of the smarter coaches I’ve ever been around, been able to work with,” Malzahn said. “He’s very good with players and one of best offensive minds in college football.”

Lashlee said he spoke on the phone with Malzahn last week to make sure everyone was safe.

“I think they’ll be ready to go and so will we,” Lashlee said.

–Field Level Media

Sep 10, 2022; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA;  Maryland Terrapins quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa (3) makes a throw during pregame activity against the Charlotte 49ers  at Jerry Richardson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Efficient QBs headline high-powered battle between Maryland, SMU

Stepping down from elite programs has paved the way to success for two of the more prolific quarterbacks in the Football Bowl Subdivision this year — SMU’s Tanner Mordecai and Maryland’s Taulia Tagovailoa.

Saturday night in College Park, Md., when former Oklahoma backup Mordecai takes on former Alabama reserve Tagovailoa, it will be a matchup of quarterbacks guiding 2-0 teams that have yet to be tested.

In the third-ever meeting of the teams, expect more offense than in the first two games — a pair of Maryland wins in the 1960s in which the teams scored a combined 27 points.

Mordecai has thrown for 644 yards and seven touchdowns — ranking No. 11 in pass efficiency in the FBS — while Tagovailoa has thrown for 681 yards and four touchdowns to rank 13th in efficiency.

Both lead well-rounded offenses that average more than 500 yards and 40 points per game, though the competition has been suspect.

SMU is off to a quick start under new coach Rhett Lashlee with wins over North Texas, 48-10, and Football Championship Subdivision side Lamar, 45-16. Lashlee took over after former coach Sonny Dykes left for TCU.

“You all have seen our schedule,” Lashlee said. “The preseason’s over. It’s about to get real, both out of conference and in conference.”

Mordecai will look to receiver Rashee Rice, who has 17 catches for 298 yards and three touchdowns, and running backs TJ McDaniel and Velton Gardner, who have combined for 237 rushing yards and two touchdowns this season. Gardner missed the season opener against North Texas after ripping one of his contact lenses.

Maryland’s offense features a trio of veteran outside threats. Dontay Demus led the Terps in receptions and yards in 2019 and 2020. Rakim Jarrett led those categories last year. This year, that distinction belongs to another wideout, Jeshaun Jones.

The Terps’ top three running backs — two redshirt freshmen and a sophomore — each average at least 8.9 yards per carry.

“That backfield reminds me of the young group that our receivers were that now have become those veteran players,” Locksley said. “And I think they’ll continue to get better.”

For the second straight week, Maryland will be without starting cornerback and punt returner Tarheeb Still (finger), Locksley said on Tuesday. A platoon of Jones, Deonte Banks and Shadrick Byrd filled in for Still in the return game in the 56-21 win at Charlotte.

–Field Level Media

Nov 20, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Virginia Cavaliers head coach Bronco Mendenhall looks on from the sidelines against the Pittsburgh Panthers during the second quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Virginia, SMU meet at Fenway Bowl amid coaching transitions

Two coaching eras end when Virginia and SMU meet in the inaugural Fenway Bowl on Wednesday at Boston.

It is the final game for Cavaliers coach Bronco Mendenhall, who made the surprising announcement on Dec. 2 that he was stepping down after six seasons. His successor, former Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott, will take charge after the bowl game.

Defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt is the Mustangs’ acting head coach for the game at Fenway Park, home of baseball’s Boston Red Sox. Head coach Sonny Dykes departed for TCU at the end of November and his replacement, former Miami and SMU offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, takes the Mustangs’ reins in 2022.

Virginia (6-6) and SMU (8-4) both stumbled toward the end of the regular season. The Cavaliers are on a four-game losing streak and the Mustangs have dropped four of their last five.

Virginia fell 29-24 to rival Virginia Tech in its last game on Nov. 27.

“We don’t want to send (Mendenhall) off with the V-Tech game,” Cavaliers quarterback Brennan Armstrong said. “I’m glad we get one more opportunity to send him on a good note, send our fifth-year seniors out, and the COVID-year seniors. That’s my goal. That’s what I really want: to send those guys out on a high note, because you always remember your last game here, and you want it to be a W.”

Armstrong ranks second in the nation with 4,449 passing yards and set a UVA record with 31 touchdown passes.

SMU counterpart Tanner Mordecai, an Oklahoma transfer, has passed for 3,628 yards and ranks fourth in the country with 39 TD passes.

After going 5-7 in Dykes’ first full season in 2018, the Mustangs have posted a 25-10 record since. They started 7-0 this season and climbed to No. 19 in the polls before the rough finish.

Running back Tyler Lavine said he is happy to “be a part of a team that’s changed this program around” and he is hoping for a home-run finish in Boston’s ballpark.

“I feel like everyone has been killing it,” Lavine told Spectrum News 1 in Dallas. “Everyone sees the end goal and I think we can keep going.”

The Mustangs are 7-9-1 in bowl games, with their most recent victory coming at the 2012 Hawaii Bowl. The Cavaliers are 8-13 all-time in bowl games, including 1-2 during Mendenhall’s six seasons.

This is the first meeting between the programs.

–Field Level Media

Oct 9, 2021; Annapolis, Maryland, USA; Southern Methodist Mustangs head coach Sonny Dykes durnign the first half against the Navy Midshipmen  at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

No. 19 SMU, Houston square off in AAC clash

The first in a series of anticipated collisions atop the American Athletic Conference standings will take place Saturday night when the Houston Cougars host the 19th-ranked SMU Mustangs.

The Cougars (6-1, 4-0) have six consecutive victories since a 38-21, season-opening loss to Texas Tech.

SMU (7-0, 3-0) throttled Tulane 55-26 on Oct. 21 and is seeking its second 8-0 start in three years after finishing the 2019 season 10-3.

Second-ranked and unbeaten Cincinnati (7-0, 3-0) lurks for the Mustangs in the chase for the conference title.

Starting with the Cougars, SMU will play three of four games on the road, concluding with a showdown at the Bearcats on Nov. 20. The long, methodical climb to national prominence requires SMU to maintain the momentum it has built thus far this season.

“That’s the kind of consistency you want in a program,” SMU coach Sonny Dykes said. “That’s kind of been our deal from the get-go. If you want to be a big-time college football program, the name of the game is consistency. You can have some good years and you can be a flash in the pan, but if you want to be the real thing, then you have to do it consistently.

“Our goal is to end the year in the Top 25, which we haven’t done. We’ve lost games late, and we can’t afford to do that this year. Our goal is to continue to move up in the rankings, but most importantly finish the season ranked.”

The recent schedule in advance of the meeting with Houston could provide the Mustangs an advantage. SMU had an open week before defeating the Green Wave on a Thursday, meaning the Mustangs will have played just one game over the three weeks before meeting Houston.

Dykes has taken precise measures to keep his players rested and sharp during that stretch.

“This time of the year, I think it’s really important to get your football team as fresh as you can,” he said. “It’s such a grind, and any chance you have an opportunity to get a day or two of rest, you want to take advantage of it.”

Conversely, the Cougars endured a bit of an ordeal last Saturday against East Carolina. Inclement weather delayed kickoff several hours, and then the Cougars needed overtime to win 31-24. Given the circumstances, and the underrated quality of the Pirates’ defense, it’s no surprise that Houston scuffled offensively.

“I knew they were good on defense,” Houston coach Dana Holgorsen said. “I knew that we were going to have problems with some of their stuff. I’ve got to figure some stuff out on offense. There’s no mistake about that.”

Houston will have quarterback Clayton Tune, who ranks second in the AAC and 14th nationally with a 69.1 completion percentage, available against SMU despite a lingering hamstring injury. His presence should help Holgorsen advance his goal of improved play on offense, but given the stakes for both teams, the Cougars realize that even more will be required on Saturday.

“How we played offensively is not good enough,” Holgorsen said. “If we play like that against SMU, we’re going to have some problems.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 9, 2021; Annapolis, Maryland, USA;  Southern Methodist Mustangs quarterback Tanner Mordecai (8) signals after a play in the first half against the Navy Midshipmen at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Undefeated No. 21 SMU ‘halfway there,’ ready for Tulane

Every undefeated run through a 12-game, regular-season schedule comes with distinct challenges, and the ability to overcome those obstacles can result in achieving perfection.

On Oct. 9, No. 21 SMU had to push through a historic stretch of futility on the road against Navy plus an early 14-point deficit to keep its unblemished record intact. The Mustangs (6-0, 2-0 American) defeated the Midshipmen 31-24 for their first victory in Annapolis since 1998.

And following a much-needed week off, the Mustangs will resume their season by hosting Tulane (1-5, 0-2) on Thursday in Dallas. SMU has claimed six consecutive series wins, but four of the last five have come by four points or fewer. The Mustangs are unbeaten through six games for the second time in three seasons and are bowl-eligible for a third straight season.

“Halfway there,” SMU coach Sonny Dykes said.

While a sterling defensive effort enabled the Mustangs to rally past Navy — the Midshipmen scored their final touchdown via a fumble return and were limited to a 50-yard field goal in the second half — their high-octane offense remains central to their success thus far this season.

Junior quarterback Tanner Mordecai was a midseason addition to the Maxwell Award Watch List, and his 26 touchdown passes are tied for first in the country and are eight shy of the school single-season mark set by Shane Buechele in 2019. Five different Mustangs have at least three touchdown receptions this season while Danny Gray, Rashee Rice and Reggie Roberson Jr. have all eclipsed 350 receiving yards while combining for 17 touchdown receptions.

Where SMU must continue to make inroads is running the football. Ulysses Bentley IV and Tre Siggers have combined for nearly 800 yards and four touchdowns, but after Navy flooded the secondary with defenders, the Mustangs will surely see more opponents angle to stop the pass.

“We’re going to see a lot of that drop eight (coverage),” Dykes said. “Sometimes it’s hard to try and throw the ball. We’ve got to be able to run it more consistently than we did.”

The Green Wave have dropped all five of their games against FBS programs in 2021, allowing 44.2 points per game in those contests. Like SMU, Tulane hasn’t played in two weeks, suffering a 40-22 setback to Houston on Oct. 7, a loss that continued their string of sluggish starts.

The short week after the off week might provide a pathway to recovery. At least, that’s the hope.

“We did get a little bit of time off and got the guys to recharge their batteries, and I think that’s important on the off-week,” Tulane coach Willie Fritz said. “When we came in on Saturday to prep, I talked about working on Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday on what we are going to do on Thursday.

“A lot of times guys try to start experimenting early in the week and then all of a sudden by the time Thursday rolls around they’ve got it kind of locked in on what they want to do. Hopefully, that allows us to start better because we have not started very well the last couple of weeks.”

–Field Level Media

SMU quarterback Tanner Mordecai (8) lets go of a pass during Saturday's game against ACU at Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas on Sept. 4, 2021. Mordecai threw an SMU-record seven touchdowns as the Mustangs won 56-9.

Hof 7364 2

No. 24 SMU visits Navy, hopes to remain unbeaten

Among 17 unbeaten teams in FBS this season lurks No. 24 SMU, which quietly made its season debut in the Associated Press poll this week.

After going 33 years without cracking the Top 25, the Mustangs (5-0, 1-0 AAC) have earned a ranking in three consecutive seasons under coach Sonny Dykes.

SMU’s next test comes Saturday in Annapolis, Md., against Navy (1-3, 1-1), which is coming off an upset victory for its first win of the year.

“It’s just hard to win. There’s a lot of parity,” Dykes said after the Mustangs’ 41-17 win over South Florida, per the Dallas Morning News. “Everybody plays hard and everybody is well-coached. It’s just a smaller margin for error now than there ever has been in college football.”

SMU has scored at least 35 points in each of its five victories, thanks largely to quarterback Tanner Mordecai. The junior has thrown for 24 touchdowns, tops in the country, and leads the conference with 1,569 passing yards.

Mordecai is in his first season at SMU after transferring from Oklahoma, where he had backed up the likes of Kyler Murray, Jalen Hurts and Spencer Rattler.

“He’s done an unbelievable job,” Dykes said of Mordecai. “I think that’s the thing I’ve been most impressed with is just how well he’s handled being the guy. I think he enjoys it. He’s really good at it.”

SMU is 22-6 since the start of the 2019 season. Given how the conference standings are shaking out, the Mustangs could end up being the final ranked opponent that No. 5 Cincinnati must overcome in its quest to be the first Group of Five team to make the College Football Playoff. The two teams will meet Nov. 20.

Navy was a home underdog by up to 16 1/2 points going into last week’s game against UCF, but the Midshipmen scored 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to pull off a 34-30 upset.

Eight players combined to gain 348 rushing yards for Navy, with new starting quarterback Tai Lavatai running for 57 yards and two touchdowns.

Navy went with Lavatai over former starter Xavier Arline against UCF. Lavatai had returned to full health after missing the start of the season with a lower-body injury.

“The way he ran is kind of how we expected,” coach Ken Niumatalolo said of Lavatai. “We’ve seen that, the third-and-shorts, the fourth-and-shorts where he’s able to get the first down. Those are huge for us just to keep the sticks moving. … It fits into kind of our power running option game, to keep the sticks moving.”

Famous for its triple-option offense, the Midshipmen had 76 total rushing attempts against Central Florida and just four pass attempts.

Navy leads the all-time series 13-9, but SMU has won two of the past three meetings. The Mustangs dropped 51 points on Navy in last year’s victory in Dallas.

–Field Level Media

Sep 21, 2019; Fort Worth, TX, USA; Southern Methodist Mustangs players celebrate with the Iron Skillet after the victory against the TCU Horned Frogs at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

SMU-TCU rivalry game off due to COVID-19

The annual football game between Texas rivals SMU and TCU scheduled for Friday night is off — at least for now — because of the coronavirus.

TCU athletic director Jeremiah Donati announced that an unspecified number of players and support staff tested positive for COVID-19, causing the change in schedule.

“These individuals were notified immediately and are currently abiding by CDC protocols,” Donati said. “No one is currently facing serious health issues, and we intend to continue our enforcement of strict standards to protect the program and our community. Everyone’s health and safety remains our top priority. We share in your disappointment, but firmly believe we will be ready to resume football activities soon.”

Donati said the athletic department will “continue to follow prevention and testing” protocols and plans to be ready to host the Big 12 Conference opener against Iowa State on Sept. 26.

Whether the Horned Frogs and SMU will make up the game remains to be seen, with Donati saying both programs will “monitor dates” as the season progresses to determine whether there is an opening on the schedule. The game was to be played in Fort Worth.

The teams play their annual rivalry for the Iron Skillet traveling trophy, and this was to be the 100th meeting between the North Texas teams. The Mustangs beat the Horned Frogs last year, 41-38, to break a seven-game losing streak in the series.

SMU, which plays in the American Athletic Conference, was set to open its season Saturday afternoon against Texas State.

–Field Level Media