By Phil Mayer
As Jordan Wyatt sprinted into the end zone with 18 seconds left, the Mustang faithful could finally let out a sigh of relief. After a game full of squandered opportunities, SMU had locked up a win.
The 29-14 Mustang victory was strange and sloppy throughout. The two teams combined for 12 penalties for 148 yards. The yellow flag hit Liberty harder, as their seven penalties went for 88 yards. The game also featured six interceptions; Mustang quarterback Ben Hicks threw two and Liberty quarterbacks Stephon Masha and Stephen “Buckshot” Calvert combined for four.
The sloppiness of the game could be epitomized in one play. On an SMU extra point attempt, the snap went through the hands of holder Sean Tuohy and came screaming towards midfield. A Liberty player kicked the ball out in front of him, towards the SMU end zone. Liberty picked the ball up and ran it for what would have been two points, but the play was called back for an illegal kick of a loose ball.
The Mustangs got off to a hot start in the first quarter, as running back Braeden West scorched the Liberty defense consecutive 26 and 23-yard runs to get SMU into the end zone. The Flames marched right back down the field on the next possession to score a touchdown to tie the score 7-7. SMU later picked up a pair of short field goals to take a 13-7 lead at halftime.
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In the first half, quarterback Ben Hicks continued to struggle in the red zone, throwing two interceptions. He played a turnover-free second half and completed 19 of his 32 pass attempts for 209 yards, with no touchdowns and 2 interceptions. He would have had even more yards Cortland Sutton had he not dropped a deep ball that Hicks threw to him.
In the third quarter, SMU got a quick score on just their second offensive snap of the half as West shed a couple of tackles and broke out a nasty spin move en route to a 66 yard touchdown. West was productive and efficient throughout the game, totaling 220 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries.
After starting Liberty quarterback Stephon Masha threw his third interception of the game, Liberty coach Turner Gill put in Calvert. Calvert took the Flames down the field for a touchdown on his first drive of the second half.
Liberty had one last chance to tie it up with 47 seconds left and no timeouts remaining. Jordan Wyatt intercepted Calvert and returned it for a touchdown.
SMU’s corners Wyatt and Horace Richardson combined for three picks. Wyatt let another interception slip through his hands as he jumped a slant route on fourth-and-two.
Cortland Sutton had a big first half, catching 3 balls for a 62 yards, including a 47 yard catch-and-run in that featured a filthy stiff arm.