Memphis runs all over Mustangs in 66-45 win

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Ben Hicks' four touchdowns went to waste as SMU gave up 66 points to Memphis. Photo credit: Getty Images

The last time the SMU Mustangs traveled to Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium to face the Memphis Tigers, former Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch shredded them for seven passing touchdowns, tying an NCAA record.

In Saturday’s 66-45 loss to the Tigers, the Mustangs allowed the Tigers to score seven rushing touchdowns, tying a school record.

Memphis finished with 337 yards on the ground and had two 100-yard rushers. It was the second-straight game in which SMU allowed more than 300 rushing yards and the sixth-straight game in which they have more than 200.

The game started out well for the Mustangs. On SMU’s first drive, quarterback Ben Hicks threw to wide receiver Courtland Sutton, who fought through contact to come back to the ball, then broke a tackle to get into the end zone.

On the ensuing Memphis possession, Jordan Wyatt picked off Riley Ferguson and took it back to the Memphis 36-yard line. The Mustangs got down to the Tigers’ 10-yard line, but Hicks couldn’t find an open receiver on three straight pass plays. SMU was forced to settle for a field goal to take a 10-point lead.

That lead wouldn’t hold for long. The Tigers came roaring back, scoring 24 unanswered points for a 24-10 lead early in the second quarter.

SMU’s defense struggled to contain Memphis’ weapons, allowing the Tigers to mount several quick drives. Once again, tackling was the team’s Achilles heel. Memphis punted just once in the half.

Hicks was shaky to start the half, completing three of his first 12 passes. He regained his form later, completing six of his next eight passes. Hicks capped off the half off by hitting Trey Quinn for a touchdown with just three seconds remaining in the half, and the Mustangs went in to the locker room down 31-24.

In the second half, the Tigers continued to take advantage of a leaky SMU defense. They stayed ahead of the chains and scored at will. Memphis scored on its first four drives of the second half, forcing SMU into a dangerous game of catch-up. Each Memphis score meant SMU needed to answer with one of its own to stay within a touchdown of the Tigers.

SMU played well early in the second half. On the Mustangs’ first offensive possession, Hicks found Raymond Epps for a 17-yard touchdown. It was Epps’ first catch and touchdown as a Mustang.

Running back Xavier Jones carried the ball 20 times for 175 yards and two touchdowns. His one-yard run with 50 seconds left in the third quarter cut the Tigers’ lead to 45-38.

With Memphis up 52-38 early in the fourth quarter, SMU faced a 3rd-and-11, needing another score to keep pace. But a thunderstorm in the vicinity caused the game to enter a lightning delay, which lasted nearly an hour.

Following the delay, the Mustangs came out flat. They couldn’t convert on third down and had to punt.

On the next play, Memphis running back Darrell Henderson ran 52 yards for a score, putting Memphis up 59-38 and effectively ending the game.

Hicks threw four touchdowns, but only completed 15-of-34 passes. It was the first time since the TCU game that the sophomore signal-caller completed less than 50 percent of his passes. Quinn hauled in two of those touchdown passes, but was otherwise quiet. He tied a season-low four receptions, but reached the 100-catch milestone with a 27-yard touchdown catch late in the game.

The Mustangs drop to 6-5 (3-4) on the season. They’ll face Tulane at home next Saturday at 11 a.m. in the season finale.

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