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SMU Falls to UCF in First Conference Game 41-19

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UCF WR Javon Baker makes a catch versus SMU | Image by Andrew Bershaw/Getty Images

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Hurricane Ian first delayed the game between Southern Methodist University and the University of Central Florida from Saturday to Sunday, but due to flood waters affecting student housing on campus at UCF, the game was moved to October 5.

After 11 days without taking the field, the SMU Mustangs started off hot, but the UCF defense turned the tide in the game and set the Knight’s offense up with numerous scoring opportunities.

On the opening drive, quarterback Tanner Mordecai hit Rashee Rice, but Rice fumbled the ball, which UCF’s Jason Johnson recovered. The turnover resulted in a 41-yard field goal that got UCF on the board first.

SMU countered the turnover and field goal with an eight-play, 75-yard romp that was capped off by a 39-yard touchdown run by Velton Gardner. It was his first touchdown run since 2020. The Mustangs’ defense then forced UCF into back-to-back three-and-outs. SMU added a field goal to go up 10-3 before the Knights’ offense caught fire.

Quarterback John Rhys Plumlee connected with receiver Kobe Hudson for 29 yards, then hit Javon Baker for another 25 yards as the UCF offense marched downfield. The drive was finished with a one-yard touchdown run by Isaiah Bowser, the first of three touchdowns he would score for the Knights.

SMU added a field goal before the half and nearly had a Hail Mary touchdown from Mordecai to Rice, but the deep ball was picked off to send the teams to the locker room. It would be the only interception for Mordecai in the game. The score at halftime was 13-10, with SMU leading.

Coming out of halftime, UCF simply exploded, scoring 31 straight points before SMU added a touchdown as time expired in the fourth quarter. As the offense began to click, the UCF defense also came alive and stifled drives by the Mustangs, who were 4 of 16 on third downs in the game and 2 of 5 on fourth down.

Mordecai finished with 295 yards passing but completed only 28 of 45 attempts. Gardner led all running backs for SMU with a total of 69 yards rushing. Tre Siggers added 29 yards on 10 carries to the team’s 113 yards on the ground. SMU totaled 476 yards of offense.

In contrast, Plumlee was 20 of 29, 316 yards, two touchdowns, and no picks, while the Knights’ running backs piled up 160 yards. The Knights finished the game with 484 yards on offense, very similar numbers to SMU despite the massive difference in the final score.

Both head coaches have a penchant for taking chances, an unsurprising fact considering that SMU’s Rhett Lashlee has known UCF’s Gus Malzahn since Lashlee was seven years old. Malzahn was Lashlee’s football coach in high school, and the two worked together while on the staff at Auburn. Against UCF on Wednesday, it was Malzahn who got the better of Lashlee, forcing three turnovers on downs in the second half that led to scores for the Knights.

SMU will have a bye this week before facing Navy on October 15. SMU is now 2-3 on the season and 0-1 in the American Athletic Conference.

This loss comes shortly after several SMU players announced their intention to sit out of future games so that they could be eligible for transfer, as reported by The Dallas Express.

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