Turnovers doom SMU in 40-13 loss at Baylor

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Photo Courtesy: SMU Athletics

WACO, Texas – Jordan Wyatt jumped a curl route, picked off Seth Russell’s pass and returned it to Baylor’s 12-yard line. SMU, leading 6-3, was primed to take a 10-point lead in Waco, where the Mustangs entered Saturday as 28.5-point underdogs.

Three plays later, Ben Hicks lofted a throw for Myron Gailliard on a corner route in the end zone. Underthrown, it landed in the hands of Baylor safety Orion Stewart. It was the first of three Hicks interceptions. Instead of taking advantage of Russell’s mistake, SMU gained 0 yards and gave the ball right back.

That was SMU’s 40-13 loss in one play: every time Baylor gave SMU a chance with a mistake, SMU responded with a mistake of its own. The Bears had three turnovers, and on each of SMU’s ensuing possessions, the Mustangs turned the ball over themselves.

“If we had just executed and made some plays in critical situations down here…We get to picks and we get deep down in the red zone with zero points, you can’t do that,” SMU head coach Chad Morris said. “If we come away with points there, I think there could have been an outcome that was different.”

Like its win at North Texas on Sept. 3, SMU started with a strong first quarter. Hicks, making his first career start in place of the injured Matt Davis, completed 9 of his first 15 passes to help SMU gain 184 yards and take a 6-0 lead.

After the first quarter, Hicks was 8-for-29 with 3 interceptions. On his second one, he threw too low for Sutton, who was open coming across the back of the end zone. Stewart returned his third one 33 yards for a touchdown, which gave Baylor a 26-6 lead with 4:55 left in the third quarter.

“Obviously I have to learn from it, go back in the meeting room tomorrow and learn from my mistakes and learn from the good stuff,” Hicks said. “I have to play better. That’s the bottom line.”

Neither team scored a touchdown in the first half. SMU reached Baylor’s 8-yard line on two of its first three offensive possessions, but had to settle for a field goal on both. In four trips inside Baylor’s 12-yard line, SMU scored six points.

“We had opportunities to make plays,” Morris said. “Against a team like Baylor, you can’t settle for field goals. You have to have touchdowns. We cost ourselves with a couple of picks and four turnovers. With four turnovers, it’s hard to win anything.”

SMU’s defense gave up 536 yards, but its play was better than the total suggests. The Mustangs surrendered 194 yards in the first half and intercepted Baylor quarterback Seth Russell twice. Baylor didn’t score a touchdown until the third quarter, on a 31-yard touchdown pass from Russell to Blake Lynch. The drive looked like it would end with Justin Lawler’s sack on 3rd-and-20, but a hands-to-the-face penalty on SMU negated it.

Hicks threw SMU’s only touchdown of the game to Courtland Sutton. The 20-yard score came in the third quarter on the possession after his third interception. Sutton and James Proche combined for 196 of SMU’s 229 receiving yards.

In the week leading up to the game, Morris said his team’s performance against Baylor would be a gauge of SMU’s improvement from its first year to its second year with him as head coach.

“I think we’re a better football team that we were at this point a year ago, playing the same opponents,” Morris said. “We have a lot of improvement to do and that’s gotta start tomorrow, but I feel like we’re moving in the right direction.”

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