The Southern Methodist University Mustangs ended the 2022 regular season on a high note with a 34-31 victory over visiting Memphis. The Mustangs saved the best for last with an interception of Cyclones quarterback Seth Henigan to earn the walk-off win. SMU battled back from a 17-14 halftime score to take the lead and earn the win to finish the season 7-5 and 5-3 in the American Athletic Conference.
SMU was already Bowl-eligible entering the game and knows who, when, and where after the win. The Mustangs have been selected to face Rashee Rice in the 2022 Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, played at Amon G. Carter Stadium on the Texas Christian University campus.
WHAT TO KNOW
Memphis held the lead three times in the first half but got buried early in the third quarter. SMU put up more than 400 total yards of offense and did not turn the ball, and prevented the Cyclones’ defense from recording a quarterback hurry during the game. After jumping out to a 34-23 lead, it took the fantastic interception by Brandon Crossley to fend off what looked like a drive that would, at the very least, result in an overtime period.
Memphis missed a field goal in the first half and an extra point in the game that required the late drive, which fell short. Despite the loss, Memphis will still be heading to the Fenway Bowl in Boston to face Syracuse.
BY THE NUMBERS
SMU quarterback Tanner Mordecai and receiver Rashee Rice made the most of the day, with Rice holding on to the national lead this season. Rice had 13 receptions for 137 yards and a touchdown in the game and finished the season with 83 catches, 1,208 yards, and nine touchdowns. Rice will be headed to the Senior Bowl in Memphis as the first step toward the NFL Draft.
Mordecai went 22-of-30 for 228 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. Mordecai, leveled by the Memphis defense on a second-quarter scramble, went to the ground in obvious pain. After a Cyclones drive stalled out after three plays, backup QB Kevin Jennings came into the game and engineered a 16-play touchdown drive. Mordecai returned after halftime to lead the Mustangs on two touchdown drives and a field goal.
SMU running back Tyler Lavine carried 25 times for 64 yards and scored two touchdowns. Roderick Daniels Jr. also had a 23-yard rush, the longest of the day for the Mustangs.
On defense, Crossley’s huge interception secured the victory that will get the most attention, but the defense also forced the Cyclones into two three-and-outs, a four-and-out, and a missed field goal. Henigan exposed weaknesses in the SMU secondary and completed 27 passes for 287 yards but came up short at the end of the game when it counted most.
SMU head coach Rhett Lashlee said, “Great win for us. We make everything very eventful. But couldn’t have ended it any better with our defense making a big play with all we’ve been through this year. Offensively, I thought we played pretty well. We didn’t turn the football over, we had good balance… It was just a good team win. Most importantly, and what I’m most proud of for our guys is we’ve said we’re not playing for a conference championship, which is what we wanted to do, it’s a goal we have for our program and we’ll get there, but we learned to finish this year.”
SMU will face Rice in the Lockheed Martin Armed Service Bowl in Fort Worth on December 22.