Nov 12, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats quarterback Desmond Ridder (9) runs with the ball in the 3rd quarter against the South Florida Bulls at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Reper-USA TODAY Sports

No. 5 Cincinnati needs impressive win over SMU in CFP chase

No. 5 Cincinnati can clinch a spot in the American Athletic Conference championship game with a victory against visiting SMU on Saturday.

Of course, as far as the Bearcats (10-0, 6-0 AAC) are concerned, the Mustangs (8-2, 4-2) represent the next obstacle in a bigger pursuit: trying to become the first Group of Five program to earn a College Football Playoff berth since the arrangement began in 2014.

After SMU, the Bearcats end the regular season at East Carolina and could face No. 24 Houston in the conference title game on Dec. 4.

“We’ve got a really tough game this week. We’ve got a really tough game the following week,” Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell said Tuesday. “If we’re fortunate enough to have a third one, we’ll have another really tough one that will give us every opportunity that we want, and I truly believe that.

“I know you’ve got to be in the realm to have any shot, and all we care about is we’re in the realm, and now we’ve got to take care of business.”

Cincinnati can’t afford a slip-up. Not being one of the Power 5 schools leaves the Bearcats needing to not only win but to do so impressively.

SMU looms as a challenge because its offense averages 41.6 points per game, sixth nationally. The Mustangs are led by quarterback Tanner Mordecai, who threw for 377 yards and three touchdowns in a 55-28 win against UCF last week to end a two-game losing streak.

Those two losses — 44-37 to Houston and 28-25 to Memphis — were on the road, and the Mustangs will face another hostile environment for the Bearcats’ Senior Day.

“If you want to win a championship, you’ve got to play well on the road. I think that’s the deal,” SMU coach Sonny Dykes said. “There’s all these things you’ve got to do, and I think playing well on the road is one of them. If we want to try to keep our championship hopes alive, then we’ve got to go play well Saturday and win the game.

“Our guys are excited,” Dykes added. “They like challenges, and this is obviously a challenge, and it’s a good barometer for us to see where we’re at.”

Cincinnati’s 32 seniors to be honored include quarterback Desmond Ridder, who has a 41-5 record as a starter.

Last week, in a 45-28 win at South Florida, Ridder threw two touchdown passes. The second was the 79th of his career to break a tie with Bearcats quarterbacks coach Gino Guidugli for the most in school history.

The senior class is 41-6, and the fifth-year seniors are 45-14 with Ridder sporting a 24-0 record at Nippert Stadium.

“There’s some special people that have done some special things, and I don’t just mean win football games,” Fickell said. “I mean really kind of change the locker room and create an expectation, create a brotherhood and create a lot of amazing things.

“Now, they’ve got to be able to balance emotions. It’s a huge, huge game.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 30, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Southern Methodist Mustangs quarterback Tanner Mordecai (8) attempts a pass during the first quarter against the Houston Cougars at TDECU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

No. 23 SMU looking to rebound against Memphis

SMU will look to pick up the pieces after last week’s disheartening loss when it travels to Memphis on Saturday afternoon for an American Athletic Conference game.

The 23rd-ranked Mustangs (7-1, 3-1 AAC) allowed a 100-yard kickoff return with 17 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter of a 44-37 setback at Houston last Saturday.

“Yeah, we’ll see where we go from here,” SMU coach Sonny Dykes said. “… It’s just hard to win every game, especially when you’re not one of the elite teams in football from a talent standpoint, know what I mean? Where you can just line up and it doesn’t matter who you play, you’re just going to be better than they are.

“We’re a good football team. We’ve got good players. We’re not going to have 15 first-round draft picks.”

Dykes, however, expressed concern that the dark cloud which followed last week’s loss could carry to Saturday’s game against Memphis (4-4, 1-3).

“It’s like I told our guys, we haven’t been very good after we lose a game, know what I mean?” Dykes said.

“We lost a couple years ago. Didn’t play well at the end of the season in 2019. We lost the Memphis game, and then we lost to Navy a couple weeks later and didn’t play well in the bowl game. Last year, we just didn’t play well at all down the stretch.”

SMU’s Tanner Mordecai has played well this season, ranking second in the nation with 32 touchdown passes. That total is just two shy of Shane Buechele’s school record, set in 2019.

Mordecai on Monday was named one of 15 semifinalists for the 85th Maxwell Award for the Collegiate Player of the Year.

The Mustangs snapped a six-game losing streak in the series with a 30-27 win over the Tigers last season. They haven’t won in Memphis since 2013, however.

While Mordecai will be set to go on Saturday, the same might not be true for Memphis quarterback Seth Henigan as he nurses a right-shoulder injury.

Peter Parrish started for Memphis on Oct. 22 in a 24-7 loss to UCF and threw for 215 yards, with three interceptions, while being sacked six times.

Despite the uneven performance and a conservative offensive game plan, Tigers coach Ryan Silverfield said the extra time afforded by the team’s bye week should do wonders for Parrish.

“I do think you’re not feeling like you’re drinking out of a fire hose,” Silverfield said. “I think maybe less anxiety for Peter as he feels more comfortable with the offense. As he continues to study the game plan, if he’s the guy, then he’ll be ready to roll.”

For all of the hiccups, Parrish showed a comfort level in rushing the ball. He led the team with 60 yards on the ground against the Knights.

Calvin Austin III, who leads Memphis in catches (57), receiving yards (901) and TD receptions (eight), had six grabs for 78 yards and one score in last season’s loss to SMU.

The Tigers have committed 12 turnovers in losing four of their past five games. They will try to avoid falling under .500 for the first time since the 2013 season.

–Field Level Media

Oct 30, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Cougars quarterback Clayton Tune (3) looks for an open receiver during the first quarter against the Southern Methodist Mustangs at TDECU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Houston stuns No. 19 SMU on 100-yard KO return in final minute

Marcus Jones produced a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown with 17 seconds remaining and the Houston Cougars knocked the 19th-ranked SMU Mustangs from the ranks of the unbeaten with a 44-37 victory on Saturday at TDECU Stadium.

Jones recorded his ninth career special-teams touchdown, and fourth this season, to answer a 45-yard field goal from SMU kicker Blake Mazza that pulled the Mustangs (7-1, 3-1 American) even 13 seconds earlier.

Jones’ kickoff return was the second of the game, as Bryan Massey opened the second half with a 100-yard return that gave the Mustangs their first lead at 27-23.

Houston (7-1, 5-0) extended its winning streak to seven consecutive games despite blowing a 17-point lead, the largest deficit of the season for the Mustangs.

Cougars quarterback Clayton Tune passed for a career-high 412 yards and four touchdowns, with Houston receiver Nathaniel Dell producing career highs in receptions (nine), receiving yards (165) and touchdowns (three).

Tune and Dell connected for the third time with 9:22 left in the third quarter to answer the Massey kick return and push the Cougars back ahead 30-27. Tune answered another SMU touchdown with a 4-yard pass to KeSean Carter for a 37-34 lead that held until the Mazza kick.

Tanner Mordecai passed for 305 yards and three touchdowns for SMU, but the Cougars held off the Mustangs by controlling the time of possession (35:25) with three scoring drives of 10-plus plays from the end of the second quarter into the third.

Houston scored on each of its first four possessions yet, after the Cougars turned over the football on downs when SMU defensive end Elijah Chatman forced a fumble at midfield, the Mustangs closed to within 20-14 when Mordecai hit Tre Siggers on a wheel route for a 50-yard touchdown with 7:28 remaining in the first half. Less than five minutes later, SMU pulled even.

After SMU safety Chace Cromartie forced a fumble that linebacker Isaac Slade-Matautia recovered at the Houston 35, Mordecai found Rashee Rice for a 6-yard touchdown on fourth down.

But Gleson Sprewell blocked the ensuing PAT to prevent the Mustangs from grabbing their first lead and the Cougars followed by covering 62 yards in 12 plays before Dalton Witherspoon booted a 30-yard field goal as the first half expired to give Houston a 23-20 lead.

–Field Level Media

Oct 9, 2021; Annapolis, Maryland, USA;  Navy Midshipmen fullback Kai Puailoa-Rojas (21) catches a pass for a touch down as Southern Methodist Mustangs safety Isaiah Nwokobia (12) defends during the first half at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Tanner Mordecai heroics push No. 24 SMU past feisty Navy

Jordan Kerley hauled in a diving, go-ahead touchdown pass from Tanner Mordecai to help the No. 24 SMU Mustangs escape Annapolis, Md., Saturday with a 31-24 win over the Navy Midshipmen.

The 22-yard strike came with 8:19 remaining, and the Mustangs’ defense forced two turnovers on downs to keep Navy at bay the rest of the game.

SMU (6-0, 2-0 AAC) remained undefeated as Mordecai went 30-for-40 passing for 324 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. The nation’s leader in passing touchdowns now has 26 on the year.

In his second straight start, QB Tai Lavatai went 4-for-7 for 64 yards and a touchdown and led Navy (1-4, 1-2 AAC) with 53 rushing yards.

SMU opened the scoring just 92 seconds into the game when Mordecai found Roderick Roberson Jr. over the top for a 66-yard TD connection on a fourth-and-1. Navy tied it on its second possession when Chance Warren broke free on an option pitch for a 23-yard score.

The run-heavy Navy offense surprised the Mustangs in the second quarter with a flea-flicker, and Lavatai hit Kai Puailoa-Rojas for a quick 37-yard touchdown to push Navy ahead.

Mordecai guided SMU down the field on the next drive until he was intercepted in the end zone by Navy’s Johnny Hodges. Mordecai turned the ball over once again on his next possession; Mids nose guard Clay Cromwell stripped him and defensive captain Diego Fagot returned the fumble 20 yards to make it 21-7.

Navy’s growing momentum went out the window on the following kickoff, returned by Bryan Massey 95 yards down the right sideline for a Mustang touchdown. SMU leveled the score 21-21 before halftime when Tre Siggers punched it in from 2 yards.

The two sides traded field goals in the third quarter, including Navy’s Bijan Nichols converting from 50 yards out.

The result marked SMU’s first road win over Navy since 1998. The Mustangs and No. 5 Cincinnati remain the American Athletic Conference’s only remaining unbeaten teams.

–Field Level Media

Nov 14, 2020; Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA;  Southern Methodist Mustangs head coach Sonny Dykes on the sidelines during the game against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane at Skelly Field at H.A. Chapman Stadium. Tulsa won 28-24. Mandatory Credit: Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

SMU set for second try at Frisco Bowl victory

Southern Methodist University won’t be traveling too far to compete in a bowl game this month.

The Mustangs on Wednesday accepted an invitation to the Frisco Bowl, which will be played Dec. 19 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, less than 30 miles from SMU.

SMU, which went 7-3 with a 4-3 record in the American Athletic Conference, will be making its 18th bowl appearance and second trip to the Frisco Bowl. The Mustangs lost the inaugural Frisco Bowl to Louisiana Tech in 2017.

SMU’s opponent, which will likely be a team from Conference USA, will be determined at a later date.

“We are excited to extend an invitation to SMU to play in the Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl,” the game’s executive director Sean Johnson said in a statement. “We are happy to have a local team with a great fan base and look forward to an exciting game next week at Toyota Stadium.”

The Mustangs haven’t won a bowl game since their 2012 win over Fresno State in the Hawaii Bowl.

The Frisco Bowl noted in its statement that there would be “very limited” attendance for its game because of COVID-19 concerns.

–Field Level Media

Nov 28, 2020; Greenville, North Carolina, USA; Southern Methodist Mustangs head coach Sonny Dykes looks on before a game against the East Carolina Pirates at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

SMU looks to rev up again vs. Houston

The SMU Mustangs have generated pride and respect over how they’ve handled every aspect of their program during this season ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.

By cultivating and maintaining a tight circle around players and staff, the Mustangs have played 10 games and reported only three positive coronavirus tests since September. However, an expected drawback of the program lockdown is mental fatigue that has the Mustangs weary.

SMU (7-3, 4-3 American Athletic Conference) will host Houston (3-3, 3-2) on Saturday night in a conference game originally scheduled for Nov. 21, before COVID issues in the Houston program forced the postponement. The Mustangs have dropped consecutive games during that stretch, crumbling late against Tulsa in a 28-24 loss before stumbling 52-38 against East Carolina after trailing by 38 at halftime.

“I think we’re dealing with a little bit of that (mental fatigue),” SMU coach Sonny Dykes said. “I think that’s why we’ve probably been a little bit flat coming out of some ballgames for a couple of weeks. I think it’s drained us a little bit emotionally, and I think that the key for us is to get back going again.”

“That’s what we need to do, and I think we will,” he added. “We had a really good conversation about everything (over the weekend). I think our guys have a pretty clear understanding of what’s going to happen moving forward in our program just in terms of schedule and what we’re doing, and there’s some relief in sight. I think that’s been a big positive for our players.”

Following postponements against SMU and Tulsa over consecutive weeks, the Cougars are approaching their second set of preparations for the Mustangs with an understandable measure of confidence blended with trepidation resulting from a season ravaged by stops and starts.

After losing the bulk of its non-conference schedule to coronavirus issues, Houston found a groove Oct. 8 against Tulane in its delayed season opener. The Cougars reeled off six consecutive games relatively unscathed, only for their season to come to a halt.

“We had a good little stretch there of nine weeks where we were ready to go,” Houston coach Dana Holgorsen said. “Got disappointed a couple of times and maintained faith and optimism and lined up and played six weeks in a row. And every time we lined up and got a chance to play I said, ‘Let’s be thankful that we get a chance to play because it’s reality.’

“I don’t think anything that comes our way is going to faze us one way or another. The clock’s ticking on 2020 and the clock’s ticking on the season and we have the opportunity to play. We’re going to relish the opportunity to be able to line up and play.”

The Cougars were hamstrung by injuries as the calendar turned to November, so one benefit of the unexpected time off is a return to relatively optimal health. Holgorsen was hesitant to say who could return for the Cougars against SMU, but the expectation is that several sidelined contributors might be back. That should bolster the Cougars’ hopes.

The adversity has done little to dampen how Houston has prepared through the sudden delays. Experience has shaped the Cougars, and with an opponent on the horizon, eagerness reigns.

“I’ve been happy with our guys as far as just maintaining the proper attitude to come in and work hard,” Holgorsen said. “Coaches get to coach the ones that are here, and looking forward to Saturday, lining back up and playing again.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 13, 2020; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; East Carolina Pirates quarterback Holton Ahlers (12) snaps the ball against the Cincinnati Bearcats in the first half at Nippert Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Pirates wrap up shortened season with visit from SMU

SMU had been one of a small group of programs largely unaffected by the coronavirus pandemic, both from an in-house and scheduling perspective. That was until last weekend.

For the first time since their nonconference matchup against TCU was postponed Sept. 11, the Mustangs had their schedule interrupted when their American Athletic Conference game against Houston was rescheduled for Dec. 5, a result of COVID-19 issues within the Cougars’ program.

SMU played eight games over a nine-week stretch prior to the postponement with the Cougars, and the Mustangs (7-2, 4-2 American) will travel to East Carolina (2-6, 2-5) on Saturday to face the Pirates at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium feeling something foreign: rejuvenated after a week off.

“I think this time of year everybody’s beat up and from a physical standpoint we definitely were,” Mustangs coach Sonny Dykes said. “But I think probably as much as anything else mentally we were a little fatigued and a little tired. If you go back and look at our schedule really since our guys reported, we haven’t had consecutive days off since August sometime. And the reason we haven’t is we didn’t want our players to go home.

“I felt like from the very beginning if we could keep them together and keep them around people who were being tested, that would increase the likelihood of being able to play games and keep guys healthy. So that’s been our approach: we haven’t had a lot of days off.”

Once the Houston postponement was announced, Dykes lightened the midweek practice load, allowing the Mustangs time to regroup before resuming practice over the weekend. On Sunday, the Mustangs followed a morning weightlifting session with an afternoon practice, and Dykes was pleased with the way the players approached the workload, recognizing the benefit of rest.

The Mustangs had suffered a disappointing 28-24 loss at Tulsa the previous Saturday. Getting an extra week to recover could prove beneficial as SMU prepares for the closing stretch.

“I think our guys are in a lot better spot than they were at this time last week,” Dykes said. “Both mentally and physically.”

East Carolina had its first three games of the season wiped out. A bout with South Carolina was canceled when the SEC settled on a conference-only schedule. Nonconference games with Marshall and Norfolk State were taken off the books thanks to COVID-19 issues.

As a result, East Carolina will play its regular-season finale against the Mustangs. That fact would seem anomalous, but given everything that has unfolded across the country, the Pirates are taking that reality in stride.

It certainly helps that East Carolina snapped a four-game losing skid with its 28-3 road win over Temple last weekend. With Senior Day at hand, the Pirates are aiming to carry the momentum of their previous contest through this weekend and to end the year on a high.

“That was my message to the team Sunday,” Pirates coach Mike Houston said. “There’s no doubt they feel the exact same way. You want to finish the season strong and put together a complete ball game. We did that a little bit against South Florida and Tulsa. There were some strong phases against Navy and Temple. As far as everything clicking in all three phases, we haven’t done that this year.

“That was a big thing I talked to them about Sunday. I promise you that they want to.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 14, 2020; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Cougars quarterback Clayton Tune (3) runs with the ball during the first quarter against the South Florida Bulls at TDECU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Trying to rebound, SMU hosts Houston

The disappointment was palpable for SMU following its loss at Tulsa last Saturday, a defeat that featured the Mustangs blowing a 21-point lead and cratering down the stretch.

The 28-24 setback cost the Mustangs their No. 19 national ranking and served as a stark reminder of what accompanies heightened expectations. For a nascent program like SMU, preparing to absorb the strongest blow from every opponent requires a mindset that takes time to fully cultivate.

It’s a reversal that SMU coach Sonny Dykes hopes his team can learn from. And it needs to happen quickly, heading into Saturday’s American Athletic Conference home game against Houston.

“We’ve just got to continue to understand that we’re going to have a target on our back when people play us,” Dykes said as his team tries to secure its eighth victory, which would mark back-to-back eight-win seasons for the first time since 1983-84. “When you play as a ranked team you’ve got to do a good job of getting up and playing at a high level every week. Our guys are starting to figure that out and starting to learn it.”

SMU (7-2, 4-2 AAC) will host Houston (3-3, 3-2) at Ford Field looking to rebound and keep its slim conference title hopes alive. The Mustangs’ conference losses came against No. 7 Cincinnati and No. 25 Tulsa, both of whom are undefeated in conference play.

The Mustangs can’t afford another setback, and that reality comes with a certain amount of pressure that is becoming familiar for an ascendant program seeking to reclaim a measure of respect. The manner in which SMU prepares for Houston will reflect how the players are embracing the challenge.

“Bouncing back, our guys are fine,” Dykes said. “We’re used to playing big games. Every single game is a big game for us.

“I think that’s where we’re starting to be as a program where we expect to play at a high level. That’s a good thing and that’s where we want to be as a program.”

The Cougars snapped a two-game skid with their 56-21 win over South Florida, racing to a 28-0 halftime lead and extending that advantage by two more touchdowns before the Bulls finally scored.

On the heels of their run defense surrendering 300-plus yards to UCF and Cincinnati, the Cougars needed a result that boosted their collective self-esteem. Houston got exactly that.

“That was a game that we kind of needed because we just needed to be able to have a little bit of fun with it,” Cougars coach Dana Holgorsen said. “We obviously did that, and it should give us some confidence to be able to have a little bit more fun here this Saturday.”

Central to the Cougars’ bounceback was the performance of junior quarterback Clayton Tune, who rushed for a career-high 120 yards in the victory. With their depth at receiver sapped by injuries, including that of standout senior Marquez Stevenson, the Cougars turned to the running game.

Tune delivered, and despite six dropped passes, managed to throw for 165 yards and three touchdowns.

“Him in the running game was outstanding,” Holgorsen said. “We schemed some things up and looked really good. He was very patient. His position where he needed to be was really good. His decision-making was really good. His patience running and protecting himself was really good as well.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 31, 2020; Dallas, Texas, USA; Southern Methodist Mustangs quarterback Shane Buechele (7) looks down field against Navy Midshipmen during the first half at Gerald J. Ford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Flores-USA TODAY Sports

Tulsa rallies from 21 points down to stun No. 19 SMU

Zach Smith passed for 325 yards and three touchdowns and Zaven Collins sealed the victory with a late interception as the host Tulsa Golden Hurricane rallied from a three-touchdown deficit to stun the No. 19 SMU Mustangs, 28-24, on Saturday.

Smith found tight end James Palmer for a 4-yard scoring pass with 2:11 remaining to complete the comeback. Collins, a standout linebacker, picked off SMU quarterback Shane Buechele at the 1:28 mark as Tulsa (4-1, 4-0 American) turned in a stifling second-half defensive performance to snatch the win.

SMU amassed just 148 yards following the intermission and had two drives end via punts, two on downs, another on a missed field goal plus the late interception. Buechele, the leading passer in FBS, completed just half of his 36 passes for 200 yards and a touchdown.

Josh Johnson had eight catches for 101 yards and two touchdowns for Tulsa while Keylon Stokes had eight catches for 122 yards, including two key catches on the final scoring drive.

Tulsa essentially handed SMU (7-2, 4-2) a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.

Smith had his pass attempt on the third snap of the initial Tulsa possession picked off by SMU cornerback Brandon Crossley, who returned the interception 18 yards for a touchdown at the 10:47 mark of the first.

On the ensuing drive, Smith fumbled a high snap that Mustangs nose tackle Elijah Chatman recovered at the Hurricane 19. Buechele capitalized with a 22-yard scoring strike to Kylen Granson with 8:19 remaining in the period.

Tulsa finally moved from the shadow of its own goal posts, but a 14-play drive stalled inside the SMU 10 and ended with an errant field goal attempt.

SMU followed with its most impressive drive of the game, covering 80 yards in nine plays. Ulysses Bentley capped that march with a 1-yard scoring run, his 11th on the season, setting a school record for a freshman. The Mustangs led 21-0, and while the Hurricane closed to within 24-7 at the break, the missed opportunities buoyed SMU.

The second half was a different story.

–Field Level Media

Oct 31, 2020; Dallas, Texas, USA; Southern Methodist Mustangs quarterback Shane Buechele (7) looks down field against Navy Midshipmen during the first half at Gerald J. Ford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Flores-USA TODAY Sports

No. 18 SMU dominates second half, beats Temple 47-23

Shane Buechele passed for 355 yards and four touchdowns and paced a second-half offensive explosion from No. 18 SMU in its 47-23 victory over Temple on Saturday in Philadelphia.

The Mustangs (7-1, 4-1 American Athletic Conference) scored on their first six possessions of the second half and outscored Temple (1-4, 1-4 AAC) 37-10 following the intermission.

SMU amassed 357 of its 549 yards after the break, with Buechele completing scoring strikes of 44 yards to Tyler Page, 24 yards to Kylen Granson and 33 yards to Rashee Rice. Tyler Lavine added a 2-yard touchdown run that pushed the Mustangs to a 33-16 lead before TaMerick Williams capped the scoring for SMU with his 49-yard touchdown dash with 7:32 remaining in the contest.

Granson and Page both recorded 100-yard receiving games, with Granson posting six receptions for 149 yards while Page had nine catches for 131 yards and two touchdowns.

The first quarter offered promise for Temple, with quarterback Trad Beatty completing a 75-yard touchdown pass to Randle Jones on the first play from scrimmage for a 6-0 lead just 13 seconds into the game. After the point-after attempt failed, the Mustangs responded with a 10-play, 85-yard drive culminating in a Buechele scoring strike to Page, but Temple fashioned a response and quickly erased the 7-6 deficit.

Following a turnover on downs by the Mustangs, Temple covered 61 yards in 11 plays with 5:45 elapsed from the clock. Tayvon Ruley pushed the Owls to a 13-7 lead via his 3-yard touchdown run with 1:32 left in the first period. The quarterback tandem of Re-al Mitchell and Beatty were a combined 6-of-7 for 106 yards and a touchdown in the first, offering a better start than in the Owls’ loss at Tulane last week when both labored in the stead of injured senior Anthony Russo.

By the close of the half, Temple held a 13-10 lead and played the Mustangs to a standstill in total yards (196 to 192) and time of possession (15:02 to 14:58). But the Owls had five consecutive possessions end with punts bridging the second and third periods, a span that opened the door for the Mustangs to seize momentum once the second half commenced.

–Field Level Media