SMU comeback falls short against Navy

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After suffering a humiliating, 44-point loss last year to Navy, SMU had a chance at revenge Saturday in Annapolis. With 3:32 remaining in the game, it appeared the Mustangs would get it. They had just dug themselves out of a 23-point hole to tie the game at 40, and the defense had forced turnovers on downs on each of last two Midshipmen drives.

But they couldn’t get it done.

Navy marched down to SMU’s 1-yard line and drilled the game-winning field goal as time expired to take the game 43-40.

With the loss, SMU fell to 6-4 on the season and 3-3 in conference play.

At halftime, it looked like the game would play out like last season’s.

Navy held a 34-11 lead, and SMU could not stop the Midshipmen’s triple option offense.

Quarterback Malcolm Perry was rushing through the Mustangs with close to 200 yards and three touchdowns. Perhaps even more frightening was the lack of output from SMU’s offense, which came into the game 12th-best scoring offense in the nation.

The Mustangs squandered their opportunities to keep the game close in the first half. After Navy’s second touchdown of the game, SMU’s Pono Davis blocked the extra point and Mikial Onu returned the loose ball for two points, miraculously keeping SMU within one possession of Navy.

However, on SMU’s next drive, kicker Josh Williams missed a field goal. SMU also forced two turnovers in the first half, but turned the ball right back over to Navy immediately after each one.

SMU started off the second half with a bang. Courtland Sutton and Xavier Jones scored touchdowns on the team’s first two drives of the half to cut Navy’s lead to nine.

A key play came on Navy’s next drive. Faced with a 4th-and-eight, Perry dropped back to pass, but took off with a 24-yard scramble that would eventually lead to a Navy touchdown.

However, SMU kept battling. James Proche made a critical catch in the end zone to cut the score to 40-32, and Perry was stuffed on a fourth down quarterback sneak on Navy’s ensuing drive.

After a three-and-out for SMU, the Mustangs stopped Navy again on fourth down. This time, the Mustangs got into the end zone as Sutton hauled in a Ben Hicks deep ball.

On the two-point conversion, Hicks found a wide-open Trey Quinn to knot the game at 40. Navy got the ball back and kicked the game-winning field goal, despite losing Perry on the drive.

Navy did all of its damage on the ground, gaining 559 yards on rushing plays while its only pass attempt of the game was intercepted.

Perry torched the Mustangs on the ground, rushing for 282 yards and four touchdowns. Fullback Anthony Gargiulo, who had just 80 yards coming into the game, rushed for 145 including two huge runs on Navy’s game-winning drive.

Hicks and the SMU offense picked up in the second half after floundering in the first. Hicks finished the game with 261 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. Sutton, who had two scores, accounted for 123 of those yards. On the ground, running back Xavier Jones gained 106 yards and had a touchdown.

SMU suffered a big injury in this game as well. Linebacker Kyran Mitchell, who has been an unsung hero this season, left the game with injuries twice, and did not come back the second time.

Kicker Josh Williams struggled. He missed a 38-yard field goal and an extra point. Kevin Robledo replaced him later in the game.

SMU has a big test in its next game, as it travels to Memphis to face the No. 22-ranked Tigers, who currently lead the AAC West.

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