Hicks’ heroics lead SMU to third win

One month ago, Ben Hicks was benched in favor of a freshman. Saturday night, he flipped the script, leading SMU to a last-minute 27-23 win over Tulane in New Orleans.

Hicks completed 21 of 40 passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns. One of those scores was a 67-yard strike to James Proche in the final minute that put SMU on top for good.

An errant snap led to Tulane’s first points of the game. The ball went through Ben Hicks’ hands and through the back of the end zone, giving the Green Wave a 2-0 lead early.

For the second time this season, SMU’s game was affected by weather. A nearby thunderstorm caused the game to be delayed in the last minutes of the first quarter. The game resumed an hour later, but SMU failed to get the memo. The Green Wave drove down inside Mustang territory and scored on a 10-yard run by Darius Bradwell that made the score 9-0.

On the ensuing possession, Sonny Dykes gambled. His team was facing a fourth down and one in its own territory, but Dykes kept his punting unit on the sidelines. Hicks, making his first start since Sept. 15, took the snap and looked over the middle before turning his vision to Xavier Jones, who was running a wheel route out of the backfield. Hicks’ pass hit Jones in stride and Jones took it 55 yards for a touchdown.

The final minutes of the first half turned into an offensive stalemate. Neither team could move the ball or sustain long drives. Eight of the final nine drives in the half resulted in punts. None of those drives lasted more than six plays.

For SMU, the offensive struggles were mostly a result of its inability to run the football. During the first half, the Mustangs ran the ball 15 times and gained just three yards. Because they weren’t able to pick up yardage on first and second down, the Mustangs got behind the sticks, making it hard to convert on third down.

Tulane defensive back Donnie Lewis Jr. intercepted Ben Hicks on the Mustangs’ first possession of the second half and returned it 49 yards for a touchdown. It was the fourth time this season that a Hicks’ turnover has resulted in a defensive touchdown. But Dykes stuck with Hicks and the junior quarterback rewarded him for doing so, leading a 58-yard drive that ended with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Roberson.

The Mustangs overcame a 23-14 deficit to win the game, though it didn’t come without drama. Tulane was driving down the field in the final minute, but quarterback Jonathan Banks was sacked by Richard Moore and the ball came loose. Turner Coxe jumped on it and secured the win for SMU.

With the victory, the Mustangs move to 3-4 (2-1) on the season. They’ll need two win three of their last five in order to become bowl-eligible.