SMU takes on former coach Sonny Dukes, rival TCU

Ticket sales for SMU’s home game Saturday against TCU reflect the anticipated return of former coach Sonny Dykes, who left the Mustangs last November after five seasons at the helm of the Dallas-Fort Worth-area rival.

No tickets remained as of Monday on SMU’s official website for the Battle for the Iron Skillet. According to the Dallas Morning News, the cheapest tickets on secondary markets have been sold for at least $150.

The turnout could threaten the Ford Stadium attendance record of 36,742 fans who watched SMU play Army in the 2010 Armed Forces Bowl.

SMU (2-1) is coming off a 34-27 loss at Maryland while TCU (2-0) was idle.

“I’m not worried about our guys one bit,” said SMU coach Rhett Lashlee, who was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach under Dykes with the Mustangs in 2018 and ‘19.

“They’re going to have a good week. They’re going to be ready to play. We’ve got a really good opponent coming in.”

Dykes reportedly upset SMU players and fans when he left for TCU at the end of last season without informing the Mustangs.

When told by a reporter during a recent press conference, “We all know people at SMU aren’t happy that you left,” Dykes said, “I don’t take any of this stuff personal.”

“It’s not healthy,” he said. “It’s hard to stay in this profession very long if you take everything personal. It’s hard to keep your sanity. I choose to try to keep mine.”

Dykes is not the only person who left SMU for TCU. The Horned Frogs’ starting center, Alan Ali, played the previous five seasons at SMU and started 39 games across all five offensive line positions.

Dykes is the first TCU first-year coach to start 2-0 since Dutch Meyer in 1934. A first-year coach at the school has not started 3-0 since Francis Schmidt in 1929.

SMU quarterback Tanner Mordecai, formerly of Oklahoma, is third in the nation with 1,013 passing yards. He has completed 70 of 117 pass attempts with 10 touchdowns and three interceptions.

–Field Level Media

Sep 17, 2022; College Park, Maryland, USA;  Southern Methodist Mustangs quarterback Tanner Mordecai (8) throws during the first quarter against the Maryland Terrapins at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Fourth-quarter surge leads Maryland to win over SMU

Taulia Tagovailoa threw for 214 yards and two touchdowns as Maryland staged a fourth-quarter rally to edge SMU 34-27 on Saturday night in College Park, Md.

Roman Hemby carried 16 times for 151 yards and a touchdown and caught four passes for 62 yards as the Terps (3-0) overcame two lost fumbles and 15 penalties which covered 141 yards.

Tanner Mordecai led SMU (2-1) with 369 yards passing and three touchdowns, but his two interceptions were costly. Rashee Rice was Mordecai’s favorite target with 11 receptions for 193 yards.

Maryland entered the fourth quarter down 27-20. After Hemby scored on a 1-yard touchdown carry on the second play of the period, Dante Trader Jr. regained possession for the Terps with an interception.

Ten plays later, Tagovailoa scrambled away from pressure and threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Corey Dyches with 7:30 left to give Maryland a 34-27 lead.

In the final three minutes, the Maryland defense stopped SMU twice on downs, including one drive that reached the Terps 9.

Maryland got off to a good start, turning SMU over on downs in the red zone. Hemby then ran for 50 yards on the Terps first snap to set up a 36-yard field goal by Chad Ryland.

It was the first of two field goals on the night for Ryland, who extended his string of successful 3-point tries to 20. He opened the night with the nation’s longest streak.

SMU answered with the next 13 points. Two field goals by Collin Rogers were sandwiched around a Maryland fumble on a kickoff return. JaQwondis Burns knocked the ball loose and Chace Cromartie recovered for the Mustangs.

On the opening play of the second quarter, Mordecai threw a deep strike across the middle to RJ Maryland for 51 yards and the first touchdown of the freshman’s college career.

But Maryland regained the lead, scoring two touchdowns in a span of 1:13. After Antwain Littleton II capped a 65-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown carry, Beau Brade picked off a Mordecai pass to give possession right back to the Terps.

On the next snap, Tagovailoa found Rakim Jarrett on a 48-yard touchdown play that put Maryland up 17-13.

SMU answered right back with a 75-yard drive culminated by a 13-yard misdirection shuffle pass from Mordecai to Austin Upshaw which put the Mustangs up 20-17.

–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

Quarterback Paul Tyson (17) hands off to running back Camar Wheaton (25) during practice for the Crimson Tide Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021.[Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

Alabama Practice August 12

Ex-Alabama RB Camar Wheaton transfers to SMU

Former Alabama running back Camar Wheaton is transferring to SMU, he announced on social media.

Wheaton was a five-star recruit in the Class of 2021, ranked by the 247Sports composite as the No. 3 running back and No. 34 overall player in the class.

The 5-foot-11 Wheaton didn’t record any stats as a true freshman with the Crimson Tide as he coped with a knee injury.

In his high school career at Lakeview Centennial High School in Garland, Texas, he ran for ran for 3,731 yards and 48 touchdowns.

–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

Sep 18, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Hurricanes offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee walks on the sidelines prior to the game against the Michigan State Spartans at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Ex-assistant Rhett Lashlee named head coach at SMU

SMU named Rhett Lashlee its head football coach on Monday.

Most recently the offensive coordinator at Miami (Fla.), he previously spent two seasons as SMU’s offensive coordinator. With the Mustangs, he will replace Sonny Dykes, who accepted the head coaching job at TCU.

“As with previous transitions, our process was thorough and competitive. Ultimately, though, our conversations kept leading us back to one man — Rhett Lashlee,” athletic director Rick Hart said in a news release. “Rhett’s ability to connect with recruits, his passion and love for his players and his alignment with our vision and values are among the many reasons he has been selected to lead SMU Football. We will provide Rhett with the support and resources he needs to bring a championship to the Hilltop, and are thrilled to welcome Rhett back to SMU.”

Lashlee, 38, was the offensive coordinator at SMU during the 2018 and ’19 seasons, during which time the Mustangs reached new heights. They finished 10-3 in 2019 — the program’s most wins since 1984 — and set a school record with 35 rushing touchdowns. The school ranked No. 7 in the nation in scoring (41.8 points per game), No. 13 in passing offense (309 yards per game) and No. 9 in total offense (489.8 yards per game).

“I am humbled and excited to be returning to SMU to lead Dallas’ College Football Team,” Lashlee said. “My family and I look forward to engaging the community and continuing to strengthen the program’s ties to the city. On the field, we want to build on the foundation of success we’ve established and compete for — and win — championships.”

Lashlee, who played quarterback at Arkansas (2002-04), is a two-time finalist for the Broyles Award, given annually to the nation’s top assistant coach.

In addition to his two seasons at Miami, Lashlee served as offensive coordinator at UConn (2017), Auburn (2013-16), Arkansas State (2012) and Samford (2011).

SMU finished the regular season at 8-4 (4-4 American Athletic Conference) and is awaiting a bowl invitation.

–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

Reports: Sonny Dykes leaving SMU for TCU gig

SMU coach Sonny Dykes is leaving the program for a metro rival, accepting a deal to become the new coach at TCU, ESPN and Action Network reported Friday.

Dykes was offered $4 million to stay at SMU but TCU’s package was worth “significantly more,” according to ESPN.

Multiple media outlets reported that SMU is turning to former offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee to fill its impending head-coaching vacancy. Lashlee is currently the offensive coordinator at Miami.

Dykes, 52, served as the head coach at Louisiana Tech (2010-2012) and Cal (2013-16) before the Golden Bears’ program fired him after the 2016 season. Dykes spent a year as an offensive analyst for TCU before accepting the head job with SMU in December 2017.

His Mustangs are 8-3 this season entering Saturday’s regular-season finale against Tulsa. He has a 30-17 record in four seasons with SMU and a 71-62 overall record as a head coach.

TCU needed a replacement for Gary Patterson, the longtime Horned Frogs coach who left the job earlier this month.

The programs are separated by roughly 40 miles, with SMU in Dallas and TCU in Fort Worth. They were longtime rivals in the Southwest Conference and have maintained an annual rivalry game for the Iron Skillet.

–Field Level Media

Nov 20, 2021; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Southern Methodist Mustangs quarterback Tanner Mordecai (8) throws a pass against the Cincinnati Bearcats in the first half at Nippert Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

SMU looks to rebound in finale vs. Tulsa

Tanner Mordecai looks for a bounce-back performance on Saturday afternoon when SMU hosts Tulsa in the teams’ regular-season finale in Dallas.

Mordecai completed 15 of 26 passes for just 66 yards and a touchdown in the Mustangs’ 48-14 setback to No. 5 Cincinnati last Saturday. The four-time American Athletic Conference Player of the Week had averaged 326.4 yards passing and 3.7 scores over his previous 10 games for SMU (8-3, 4-3).

The Mustangs’ prolific offense was held under 200 yards after averaging nearly 500 yards entering the game. SMU was 2-for-11 on third downs and was on the wrong end of the time of possession battle by nearly 11 minutes.

“We’ll go look at the film, try to make improvements, do what we can to get better,” Mustangs coach Sonny Dykes said, “but the big thing we’ve got to do is get it behind us because this is one of those losses that will jolt you a little bit if you let it. We don’t want that to happen.”

SMU has followed a 7-0 start by losing three of its last four games. The lone win in the latter sequence was a 55-28 rout of UCF, a decision that improved the Mustangs to 5-0 at home this season.

The Golden Hurricane (5-6, 4-3) have answered a two-game losing skid with a 20-13 overtime victory over Tulane on Nov. 13 and a 44-10 romp over Temple last Saturday. The total points against the Owls were the most by Tulsa this season.

“So really proud of the way our team played, these seniors, and what they’ve done,” Golden Hurricane coach Philip Montgomery said. “That’s probably our most … complete game as a team.”

Josh Johnson recorded a career-best 159 receiving yards and an 8-yard touchdown vs. the Owls. He had 20- and 35-yard touchdown receptions against SMU last season as Tulsa overcame an early 21-point deficit in a 28-24 victory.

Fellow senior Shamari Brooks sits 100 yards shy of tying Tarrion Adams (3,651, 2005-08) for second place on the school’s all-time rushing list.

Davis Brin, a redshirt junior, completed 18 of 30 passes for 297 yards and two touchdowns against Temple. He also rushed for another.

–Field Level Media

Cincinnati Bearcats wide receiver Tyler Scott (21) scores a touchdown off a Cincinnati Bearcats quarterback Desmond Ridder (9) pass in the first half of the NCAA football game between the Cincinnati Bearcats and the Southern Methodist Mustangs on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati.

Southern Methodist Mustangs At Cincinnati Bearcats 15

No. 5 Cincinnati manhandles SMU, 48-14

Quarterback Desmond Ridder accounted for five touchdowns – including one receiving — and No. 5 Cincinnati defeated visiting SMU 48-14 on Saturday.

The Bearcats (11-0, 7-0 American Athletic Conference) will play No. 24 Houston in the conference championship game on Dec. 4. Cincinnati, as the higher seed, is in line to host if it wins at East Carolina on Friday.

Ridder threw three TDs, ran for one and caught a 5-yard pass from wide receiver Jordan Jones on a flea-flicker early in the third quarter to make it 34-0.

SMU (8-3, 4-3) was supposed to present a challenge as the AAC’s leader in total offense (498.7 yards per game) and scoring offense (41.6), but the Mustangs were blanked until 8:32 remained in the game on a 2-yard run by Tre Siggers against the Bearcats’ reserves.

Ridder was 17 of 23 for 274 yards. He had three carries for 46 yards, including a 40-yard TD run at 13:37 of the second quarter to make 20-0.

He became the third FBS quarterback to win 42 games (42-5) and moved to 25-0 at Nippert Stadium for his career.

The Bearcats got a 4-yard TD run by Jerome Ford with five minutes left in the first quarter for a 14-0 lead after Ridder opened the scoring with a 53-yard strike three minutes into the game. Ford rushed for 82 yards.

Cincinnati is the only FBS team ranked in the top 10 in scoring offense (39.2, ninth) and scoring defense (16.2, eighth), and the Bearcats exploited the Mustangs on both sides of the ball.

SMU quarterback Tanner Mordecai was averaging 326.4 passing yards a game but finished 15 for 26 for 66 yards.

Cincinnati had 544 total yards (295 pass, 249 rush). SMU gained 199 yards (66, 133).

With the win, Cincinnati’s fourth-year seniors are 42-6 and the fifth-year seniors are 46-14.

SMU finishes the regular season hosting Tulsa on Nov. 27.

–Field Level Media

Oct 6, 2018; Orlando, FL, USA; UCF Knights defensive lineman Trysten Hill (top left) dives over the pile for a touchdown during the second half against the Southern Methodist Mustangs at Spectrum Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

SMU looking to rebound against red-hot UCF

Once seemingly headed for a showdown with undefeated Cincinnati for the top spot in the American Athletic Conference, SMU finds itself struggling to regain its mojo as it hosts UCF on Saturday in Dallas.

With losses to Houston and Memphis the past two weeks, the Mustangs (7-2, 3-2 AAC) remain mathematically in the race for the league’s championship game but will need breaks to get there, with Cincinnati and the Cougars undefeated in conference play.

The Bearcats would have to lose two of their last three league games remaining, including against SMU on Nov. 20, for the Mustangs to sneak into the title game. The Cougars need to win only one of their last two AAC games to clinch a spot.

The Mustangs’ late collapse comes amid reports and speculation about the future of coach Sonny Dykes, who has been tied to the recent openings at Texas Tech (since filled) and later TCU. Dykes emphatically rejects the notion that “stuff” has had any effect on the Mustangs’ play.

In a report in the Dallas Morning News, Dykes said he didn’t know where these rumors originated but discounted their impact.

“I don’t care about that stuff,” he said in the report. “I promise you there’s not one person in the locker room that’s thought one second about any of that, or it affected anybody’s performance, or my performance or anybody else’s. To insinuate that, I think that’s reflective of who insinuates that. You know what I’m saying? Not what we’re doing.”

UCF goes to Dallas sitting alone at third in the conference. The Knights (6-3, 4-2) have won their last three outings after losing three of four following the injury that sidelined starting quarterback Dillon Gabriel.

True freshman Mikey Keene has started the last six games. He is 34 of 46 for 558 yards and seven touchdowns against only one interception in his last two games, both wins (49-7 over Temple, 14-10 over Tulane).

Knights coach Gus Malzahn says Keene is playing with the knowledge that he is a starter, not just a replacement.

“You can see his leadership growing each week, his confidence growing each week,” Malzahn said. “I’d like to think the game is slowing down a little bit for him.”

–Field Level Media