SMU knocks off TCU on the road for the second consecutive time, taking next step in fight for ‘credibility’
FORT WORTH — The only thing left to do was plant the flag.
SMU had just knocked off TCU for its second-consecutive win in Fort Worth. It was the first time it had done that since the Death Penalty.
So, Brandon Crossley immediately set out in a dead sprint over to the cheerleading section to grab the “Dallas Flag.” He took it and waved it a couple of times near the TCU logo at midfield.
Eventually TCU safety De’Veawn Armstead came over and ripped it off the pole. A scuffle broke out. But the message had been sent. The damage, a 42-34 win over TCU, had been done.
“It’s big. Being the underdogs coming into this game. It just feels great,” wide receiver Danny Gray said. “To do it for the city. We wear our city across our chest. It just feels great to bring the skillet back home.”
The biggest question mark heading into the weekend was deciphering who this SMU team was. After the first three weeks of the season of up and down play, on both sides of the ball, a game against an established Big 12 opponent on the road would resolve some of the unknown.
And after Saturday, where SMU methodically ran the ball for 350 yards and slowly ground TCU down in the second half, there was little room to question the validity of this group.
Whereas the first three games of the season could have been chalked up to lesser opponents or once-in-a-lifetime plays, there was nothing lucky about this game as Ulysses Bentley IV ran for 153 yards and Tre Siggers added 103 more.
That’s why, in many ways, planting the flag was appropriate here. A lasting, more permanent, message of a team that is no longer just happy to win a game like this but plays like a team expecting to.
“Absolutely we were confident,” Tanner Mordecai said. “We just took it as it was about us. It wasn’t about them [this time]. About our play calls and our execution.”
It wasn’t as though all of SMU’s problems went away in this game. Mordecai threw three interceptions. The secondary, for at least the first half, looked lost as it allowed TCU to average over 28 yards a throw in the first four drives. The offense, in spurts, remained reliant on big plays, like Danny Gray’s 68-yard touchdown to open the game.
But the difference was it overcame the holes and corrected mistakes in this performance.
Coming out of the half, after SMU elected to go for it on fourth down and goal but didn’t come away with points, Turner Coxe created a turnover when he stripped Max Duggan inside the TCU 5-yard line.
It mitigated the SMU mistake to end the half. It also led to Bentley IV scoring two players later and SMU taking a 28-21 lead that would remain the rest of the way.
Later on in the third quarter SMU again overcame a mistake. Mordecai threw an interception that was returned deep inside SMU territory. However, the defense held TCU’s offense to a field goal. On SMU’s next offensive drive, Rashee Rice walked into the end zone for a 11-yard touchdown.
The sequence, which could have derailed SMU, ultimately allowed it to take a two-possession lead, 35-24, going into the fourth quarter.
Fittingly, to ice the game on the final possession with SMU up by a touchdown, it converted three first downs on the legs of Mordecai, Siggers and Tyler Levine. It was the first time in over a year SMU had more rushing yards than passing yards.
“We ran it when they knew we were going to run it, and that was a big deal,” SMU head coach Sonny Dykes said.
The next step will be national recognition. Presumably, in the immediate interim, that would mean getting ranked. It is something Dykes has thought about, but doesn’t know if it’s coming.
“We aren’t a blue blood. We are always fighting for credibility,” Dykes said. “I don’t blame anybody for not voting for us. I don’t really care. I can only control my team and try to do the best we can do.”
“But this game for us gives us some credibility. People aren’t just going to dismiss us because we are not in the power five.”