FORT WORTH, Texas – SMU is halfway to another 8-0 start under coach Sonny Dykes after beating TCU in the 100th meeting of the Dallas-Fort Worth rivals.
It's probably time for the Mustangs to start getting Top 25 votes.
Tanner Mordecai added to his nation-leading total in touchdown passes with four more and SMU overcame his three interceptions in a 42-34 victory over the Horned Frogs on Saturday.
“It’s a battle for credibility for us," Dykes said. “It always is. Nobody wants to pay attention to us and say we’re any good. And our guys pick up on that. When they have a chance to prove themselves on a big stage, they want to do the best they can to do it.”
Ulysses Bentley IV ran for 153 yards and a touchdown and Danny Gray had 130 yards receiving, including a 68-yard catch-and-run for a score during a torrid start for both teams. Tre Siggers added 110 yards rushing as the Mustangs finished with 350 yards on the ground.
After last year's Iron Skillet game was called off because of COVID-19 issues in TCU's program, the Mustangs earned consecutive victories over the Horned Frogs for the first time since 1992-93.
“I thought SMU wanted it more,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “I told them, when somebody hates you, you have to change your frame of mind. They hate us. It’s simple.”
Mordecai was 17 of 28 for 245 yards and is up to 20 TD passes for the season. SMU (4-0), of the American Athletic Conference, limited TCU to a pair of field goals after interceptions that put the Horned Frogs (2-1) inside the Mustangs' 25-yard line twice.
The third pick by Mordecai was in the TCU end zone on a failed fourth-down try from the 3 on the final play of the first half, when Dykes went for the TD instead of a short field goal in a 21-21 game.
The Mustangs got the ball back in the exact same spot at the other end of the field on the first play of the second half when Turner Coxe forced a fumble on a sack of Max Duggan and DeVere Levelston recovered. Bentley scored the tiebreaking TD from the 1 two plays later.
“It was a hard decision,” Dykes said. “I thought about kicking it. I felt like if we could convert that, that would really spring us, and we didn’t. The great thing about our players is nobody blinked. We went back to the locker room and everybody was like, ‘So?’”
Duggan was 16 of 28 for 276 yards and three touchdowns, and Zach Evans had 113 yards rushing to surpass the century mark for the fourth time in five games. But it wasn't enough to extend a five-game TCU winning streak dating to last season.
The teams scored two touchdowns apiece within the first eight minutes, and Evans put the Horned Frogs up 21-14 with a career-long catch of 46 yards on a screen for a TD. Reggie Roberson was wide open for a 29-yard scoring catch less than three minutes later.
SMU: The Mustangs have three consecutive 4-0 starts under Dykes, and will try to make it three straight years of reaching 5-0 next week. The 8-0 start was in 2019, when the Mustangs peaked at No. 15 in The Associated Press poll. An impressive showing against a solid Power Five program gives Dykes more fodder for his belief that he's building a strong program.
“We just came into a Big 12 house, a good Big 12 team, they’re not a bottom-of-the-pack Big 12 team,” said Mordecai, an Oklahoma transfer who played high school football in Waco, about 100 miles south of Fort Worth. “And we played really well against them.”
TCU: The Horned Frogs have built their reputation on defense in 21 seasons under Patterson. It's rare that they allow more than 400 yards to multiple non-conference opponents, but it's happened twice this year. SMU had 595 after California rolled up 442 two weeks ago. Next up is rival Texas, which has scored 58 and 70 points the past two weeks.
TCU likely would have entered the Top 25 with a victory after being the first team out two of the past three weeks. It seems likely the Mustangs will get votes after surprisingly not getting any despite another quick start under Dykes. SMU probably will have to wait a few weeks to get into the poll.
SMU: American Athletic Conference opener at home against South Florida next Saturday.
TCU: Big 12 opener at home against Texas next Saturday.