The SMU football team continued to roll through the American Athletic Conference with a 45-21 home win over North Texas at Gerald J. Ford Stadium on Friday night.
After going into halftime with a three-point lead, SMU took complete control of the game in the third quarter, holding the Mean Green to 107 yards and keeping them off the scoreboard until late in the fourth quarter.
“I think it’s really just big because of how we responded [and] how we finished,” SMU head coach Rhett Lashlee told the media postgame. “We did what a really good team is supposed to do in that second half, and it was pretty dominant.”
UNT took the game’s first drive to the SMU 32-yard line, but back-to-back incompletions from Chandler Rogers gave the ball to SMU on downs. The Mustangs struck quickly, as Preston Stone’s first pass was a 30-yard completion to Jake Bailey to move into North Texas territory, and Stone found Moochie Dixon for a touchdown a couple plays later.
Safety Phil Hill’s interception gave North Texas a chance to tie, and Rogers came through with a 19-yard pass to Trey Cleveland to knot the game at seven. SMU answered with another touchdown pass from Stone to tight end RJ Maryland and added three more on a Collin Rogers field goal after a missed UNT kick to go up 17-7 in the second quarter.
Oscar Adaway III’s seven-yard touchdown kept UNT in the game, and the teams went to the break with SMU leading 17-14.
Everything went SMU’s way in the second half as the Mustangs scored touchdowns on four of their six possessions.
Two plays after UNT quarterback Chandler Rogers caught a break when the replay booth overturned his fumble, the Mustangs forced him to cough up the ball again and took possession at the North Texas 17-yard line before adding to their lead with a short touchdown run.
An interception from defensive back Jahari Rogers gave SMU another chance to add points, but the drive stalled at the four-yard line. Still, SMU had taken complete control, and running backs Jaylan Knighton, LJ Johnson, and Camar Wheaton helped close the game on the ground.
The trio combined for 286 of SMU’s 318 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
Rogers led UNT with 240 passing yards, two touchdowns, and an interception.
WHAT TO KNOW
— SMU earns a 45-21 win over North Texas to improve to 8-2 on the season and remain in first place in the American Athletic Conference with a 6-0 record in conference play.
— It was the 43rd all-time meeting between the schools in a rivalry known as “The Safeway Bowl.” SMU leads the series 36-6-1 and has won 12 consecutive meetings against the Mean Green at home.
— The two schools met as conference opponents for the first and only time before SMU leaves for the ACC.
— North Texas falls to 3-7 on the season and will likely not reach a bowl game.
BY THE NUMBERS
— SMU held UNT to 21 points after it entered the game averaging 32.3 points in road games.
— SMU had not had a 100-yard rusher since its September 30 game against Charlotte, and Jaylan Knighton and LJ Johnson both eclipsed the mark against the nation’s 130th run defense. The Mustangs ended the game with 318 rushing yards on 58 carries.
— North Texas’ Noah Rauschenberg missed his only field goal attempt and is 13-for-16 on the season. One more make would put him among the top 10 in program history in a single season.
— Jahari Rogers on his interception: “Coach always preaches, ‘don’t miss your layups.’ I’m missing none of mine. I’m just blessed that I was able to be in that position and be able to make a play for this team.”
— UNT head coach Eric Morris on the second-half momentum swing: “We knew we had to play four quarters against a quality opponent. We did the opposite of what we’ve been doing. We played well in the first half and came out with juice. That is as bad as we have played all season offensively in the third quarter.”
— SMU (8-2, 6-0 in the American Athletic Conference) plays Memphis (7-2, 4-1) at 11 a.m. CT on the road next Saturday. North Texas (3-7, 1-5) also has a road game, facing Tulsa (3-6, 1-4) at 2 p.m. CT next Saturday.