Late in overtime against Cincinnati Saturday night, SMU’s chances didn’t look good. A sack and a fumble had moved the team backward, and the Mustangs faced a fourth-and-26 outside field goal range. Coming away with no points seemed inevitable.
Neither Ben Hicks nor Trey Quinn got the message. On fourth down, Hicks sprinted right and heaved the ball downfield as he reached the line of scrimmage. Down the field, Quinn went up over a Cincinnati defender and came down with the football just past the first down marker. The Mustangs had new life.
Four plays later, kicker Josh Williams made a 27-yard field goal to put SMU up 31-28 in overtime.
On the ensuing possession, linebacker Kyran Mitchell picked off a wild shovel pass from Cincinnati quarterback Hayden Moore to secure a 31-28 Mustang victory over the Bearcats at Nippert Stadium.
The Mustangs won despite another subpar defensive performance. Cincinnati came into the game No. 121 in the FBS in rushing offense, averaging only 101 yards per game.
By the end of the first quarter, the Bearcats had 93 rushing yards. They finished with 249. Poor tackling was the culprit, as the Bearcat backs were able to slip out of arm tackles to gain extra yards.
Cincinnati led 20-14 with 6:17 remaining in the first half after kicker Ryan Jones converted a 20-yard field goal on a drive kept alive by SMU penalties.
On the ensuing possession, SMU embarked on a nine-play, 75-yard drive that was capped off by Sutton’s 5-yard touchdown grab to put the Mustangs up 21-20 going into the half.
A scoreless third quarter saw SMU mount two long drives that ended in a missed field goal and a punt. Still, the Mustangs turned the tide of the game by possessing the ball for 11:44 in the third quarter, giving its defense a much-needed rest.
Sutton hauled in the second touchdown grab of the day on a 25-yard pass from Hicks that put the Mustangs up 28-20 with 6:26 left in the game. But the SMU defense couldn’t retain the lead.
Facing a fourth-and-four at the SMU 21-yard line, Moore found receiver Devin Gray in the end zone to pull Cincinnati within two points. The Bearcats converted the two-point conversion, tying the game at 28 with just 2:22 remaining in the game. SMU’s offense had to settle for overtime.
After Williams’ field goal in SMU’s overtime possession, the Mustang defense redeemed itself. On third-and-four, Hayden Moore’s pocket collapsed around him and he panicked. As Mason Gentry held the Cincinnati quarterback in a bear hug, Moore tried to lob the ball to his running back. SMU linebacker Anthony Rhone deflected the football and Mitchell secured it, giving SMU its fifth victory of the season.
One week after throwing for a career-high 397 yards, Hicks played another efficient game. The sophomore quarterback completed 26-of-37 passes for 295 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. It was the sixth-straight game where Hicks threw for more than 250 yards.
Trey Quinn hauled in 17 catches for 186 yards. It was his third-straight game with more than 15 receptions — something no other FBS player has done this century, according to ESPN.
The Mustangs move to 5-2 (2-1) with the victory and are now just one win away from bowl eligibility. They face conference foe Tulsa next week. The Golden Hurricanes, considered by some experts to be the favorite in the AAC West division before the season, are just 2-6 on the season. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 27 at Ford Stadium.