EditorsNote: changes to “second” in second graf, adds to fourth graf, new final graf
Xavier Jones ran for 133 yards and two touchdowns, and the SMU defense created a pair of short-field opportunities by forcing key turnovers as the visiting 16th-ranked Mustangs held on to beat Houston 34-31 on Thursday.
The Mustangs (8-0, 4-0 American Athletic Conference) continued their best start to a season since 1982, when SMU went 11-0-1, won the Cotton Bowl and finished second in the final Associated Press poll.
Houston climbed within 34-31 with 4:47 to play on a 96-yard catch-and-run from Clayton Tune to Marquez Stevenson. After stopping SMU twice, the Cougars never moved past midfield in the closing minutes.
Shane Buechele passed for 203 yards and two TDs for SMU but never got his offense on track. He completed 20 of 38 passes and threw one interception. The Mustangs entered the game ranked seventh in the nation with an average of 521.1 yards of total offense per game but amassed just 385.
Tune finished with 407 yards and two touchdowns passing, with Stevenson hauling in five catches for 211 yards and both of the scores through the air for the Cougars (3-5, 1-3). Houston’s Mulbah Car ran for 136 yards on 18 carries.
SMU took a 7-0 lead near the end of the opening quarter when Buechele hit James Proche for a 15-yard TD pass. Houston tied the game at 7-7 via a 1-yard touchdown run by Bryson Smith on the second snap of the second quarter. The TD came one play after a 44-yard run by Car.
Jones got away for a 62-yard TD run at the 10:41 mark of the second quarter to push SMU back to the front. The Mustangs then expanded their lead to 21-7 when Buechele passed to Kylen Granson for an 11-yard score after a Houston fumble at the Houston 32.
A pair of field goals from Dalton Witherspoon from 25 and 34 yards, respectively, allowed the Cougars to pull to within 21-13 at halftime.
Another strip-sack by the Mustangs on Houston’s opening drive of the third quarter handed SMU the ball at the Cougars 2-yard line, from where Jones rammed home from the Wildcat formation for a touchdown and a 28-13 lead.
Houston immediately answered as Stevenson turned a short pass from Tune into a 75-yard catch-and-run touchdown that cut the SMU lead to 28-20.
The Mustangs got two field goals from Kevin Robledo sandwiching a Witherspoon field goal for the Cougars before Houston’s 96-yard TD capped the scoring.
—Field Level Media