Heading into Saturday’s rivalry game against TCU, the 100th Battle for the Iron Skillet, there was not much (if any) concern about the SMU offense. SMU’s Tanner Mordecai led the nation in touchdown passes, and the offense could move the ball almost at will. However, there was some concern about their defense.
But against the Horned Frogs, the defense won the day in SMU’s 42-34 victory.
Both teams were expected to move the ball well on offense. However, from a statistical perspective, it looked like TCU had a pretty decent defense while SMU’s was lacking (ranked over No. 100 in total offense allowed and passing yards allowed).
For the Mustangs to even have a chance at winning, their defense would have to find a way to play better—which they did and didn’t.
True to form, TCU had a reasonably balanced offense throwing for 276 yards and running for another 170 en route to 34 points. But while TCU could move the ball on the Mustangs, the SMU defense came through when the Mustangs needed it most.
About halfway through the first quarter, the game was shaping up to be a high-scoring shootout. Both teams had recorded quick touchdowns on their first two drives. But on SMU’s third drive of the game, Tanner Mordecai threw the first of what would be three interceptions on the day.
With the ball on the TCU 45-yard line, the Horned Frogs were in great shape to take an early touchdown lead. But the defense held firm and forced TCU to settle for a 38-yard field goal—which they missed. Both teams would score again before the end of the half to score at the break 23-21, SMU.
The defense came up late in the third quarter when Mordecai threw his third interception of the day. TCU got the ball just 16 yards from the endzone, but the SMU defense forced the Horned Frogs to settle for a field goal.
However, the most significant play by the defense came on the first play of the second half when Tuner Coxe sacked TCU quarterback Max Duggan, forcing a fumble. DeVere Levelston recovered the ball for the Mustangs at the TCU three-yard line.
Ulysses Bentley IV punched the ball into the endzone two plays later, giving SMU a nine-point lead, 30-21.
After giving up 21 points in the first half, the SMU defense held TCU’s offense to just two field goals and one touchdown (in garbage time) in the second. They also forced a very costly turnover and a turnover on downs.
With the win, SMU improved to 4-0 for the third year in a row under head coach Sonny Dykes. A win over South Florida next week will make it three years in a row with a 5-0 start.