Resilient SMU erases late 10-point deficit to beat Tulane

As Tulane running back Sherman Badie took a pitch nine yards into the end zone, the Green Wave took a 31-21 lead with 10:37 to go. With SMU’s offensive line getting dominated and defense giving up big plays, it seemed like an insurmountable deficit.

But Braeden West’s go-ahead 1-yard touchdown with 1:16 to go and a defensive stop after led SMU to a 35-31 comeback win in New Orleans.

SMU started the game strong, as Ben Hicks marched the Mustangs down the field on their opening drive, eventually finding James Proche in the end zone. The two connected again for a 35-yard score and SMU’s defense allowed 80 first-half yards to help build a 21-10 halftime lead.

Tulane took control of the game in the third quarter when quarterback Glen Cuiellette got comfortable in the pocket and picked apart SMU’s secondary. SMU was unable to cover wide receiver Terren Encalade, who caught two long touchdowns, giving Tulane a 24-21 lead going into the fourth quarter.

In the fourth, Tulane sacked Ben Hicks on third down and made quick work of a long field, gaining 92 yards on six plays to extend their lead to 31-21. They had scored 21 unanswered points.

SMU was not done. When faced with 3rd and 17, Ben Hicks scrambled away from pressure and threw a bomb to James Proche for 50 yards. Braeden West punched in a one-yard touchdown to make the game 31-28.

Tulane started its next drive with an answer – Josh Rounds took a handoff 44 yards down to the SMU 30. But the Mustang defense did not break; Tulane’s head coach Willie Fritz elected to go for it on 4th and 2, rather than kicking a field goal, and the Mustangs made him pay by stuffing running back Dontrell Hilliard.

Hicks led another spectacular drive after that. After being backed up to 3rd and 25 by a tripping penalty, he rolled to his left again and found Xavier Castille down the field for a 27-yard gain. Hicks brought the Mustangs down to the 1-yard line, where West scored the go-ahead touchdown.

Hicks bounced back from two early interceptions, finishing with 302 yards and two touchdowns. His offensive line struggled to protect him for most of the game, and he took a couple of big hits, but he stepped up when SMU needed him most.

On a day where Courtland Sutton was quiet, James Proche was Hicks’ primary target, catching six balls for 164 yards and two touchdowns. Braeden West also had a big game, gaining 119 yards on 22 carries with two scores.

SMU’s now has to finish 2-2 to become bowl-eligible. The four remaining games are against Memphis, East Carolina, USF and Navy.

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