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SMU Football Season Ended With Canceled Bowl Game

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SMU quarterback Tanner Mordecai (8) and tight end Grant Calcaterra (88). | Michael Ainsworth

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SMU has played its last game of the 2021 football season. The Mustangs had expected to play in the inaugural Fenway Bowl on December 29 at Fenway Park in Boston. However, the game has now been canceled due to multiple cases of COVID-19 within the football program of the Virginia Cavaliers, SMU’s scheduled opponent.

SMU learned the news Sunday, the day they were scheduled to leave for Boston. Neither the bowl game nor SMU will seek a replacement opponent, so the Mustangs officially finish the 2021 season with an 8-4 record.

This is the second consecutive season the Mustangs’ bowl game has been canceled due to COVID-19 issues. Last season, SMU was scheduled to play UTSA in the Frisco Bowl, but the game was called off following multiple positive COVID-19 tests from their own team.

“I’m disappointed for our fans, and even more disappointed for our players, that we will be unable to play in a bowl game for the second straight season,” SMU athletic director Rick Hart said in a statement Sunday. “We are, however, sympathetic to Virginia’s situation, having had to withdraw from our bowl last season due to COVID. We hope those impacted get well soon.”

The cancellation will extend SMU’s drought in bowl victories even further. The last time the Mustangs won a bowl game was in the 2012 Hawaii Bowl against Fresno State.

Fenway is the third bowl game canceled this season, with two other bowl games turning to replacement opponents. COVID-19 cases in Hawaii’s football program called off their game against Memphis in the Hawaii Bowl. Memphis was reportedly already in Hawaii awaiting the game.

COVID-19 cases also canceled the Military Bowl between Boston College and East Carolina on Sunday, and the Sun Bowl between Washington State and Miami will not take place as scheduled. Washington State has withdrawn from the game due to COVID-19 cases in the program, but a replacement opponent is being sought instead of cancellation.

Texas A&M was forced to withdraw from the Gator Bowl last week due to COVID issues in the program. Rutgers will replace the Aggies against Wake Forest in the bowl game.

Last season, nearly 20 bowl games were canceled due to the virus.

According to a statement by the University of Virginia, the multiple players on the team showed COVID-19 symptoms leading up to their scheduled departure date for Boston. When those players’ results came back positive, it led to the entire team being tested. After subsequent testing confirmed further positives, the program was forced to withdraw from the bowl game.

“We are extremely disappointed the team will not be able to participate in the inaugural Fenway Bowl,” Virginia athletics director Carla Williams said. “We appreciate all of the hard work by our team and coaching staff. They earned this bowl invitation, and it is unfortunate they will not be able to compete in the game to complete the season. We regret how this also impacts our fans who were planning on attending the game as well as the SMU program and its fans.”

Mustangs Defensive lineman Turner Coxe, who will return for one more season, took to social media to perhaps offer an insight into the entire team’s feelings about the announcement.

“Extremely disappointed. We were ready and excited to play. Past [two] bowl games have been taken away.” tweeted Coxe. “All this work, preparation, and sacrifice with nothing to show for it. Feel for the guys that will never play another football game in their lives.”

SMU now looks forward to the 2022 season when new coach Rhett Lashlee will take the reins. Lashlee is replacing Sonny Dykes, who left to become the head coach at TCU.

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