EditorsNote: Shortens lede, small tweak 2nd graf; adds to 4th graf; corrects to Zack in 7th graf;
It took No. 24 SMU more than three decades to climb back into the Top 25, and it took a circus catch by James Proche II for a 25-yard touchdown in the third overtime to keep the Mustangs undefeated in a wild 43-37 win over Tulsa on Saturday in Dallas.
Shane Buechele passed for 310 yards and two touchdowns in the win, which came after the Mustangs (6-0, 2-0 American Athletic Conference) erased a 21-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
The Mustangs were quiet midway through the third quarter and had been thoroughly outplayed as Tulsa built a 30-9 lead after a 40-yard touchdown pass from Zach Smith to Keenen Johnson.
But SMU used Ke’Mon Freeman’s 1-yard run and Buechele’s 30-yard pass to Proche to get within seven with 8:24 to play. The Mustangs then forced overtime with 1:02 to play in regulation when Xavier Jones sprinted around left end for a 4-yard touchdown run on fourth down.
Tulsa had the ball first in overtime and scored on a 7-yard pass from Smith to Josh Johnson. SMU answered with a 3-yard TD run by Jones to push the game to a second overtime.
Jones then fumbled two snaps later, with the loose ball recovered by the Golden Hurricane’s Damon Cannon, setting the table for a potential winning field goal. But Jacob Rainey missed from 43 yards out, forcing a third extra period.
The Golden Hurricane settled for a field-goal attempt after three plays in their ensuing possession as well, and switched to Zack Long for a 42-yard attempt that was wide left. Buechele then passed to Proche for the game-winning touchdown to keep the Mustangs undefeated.
Smith passed for 346 yards and four touchdowns for Tulsa (2-3, 0-1 AAC) but also uncorked three interceptions that allowed SMU to stay within reach in the first half.
Ar’mani Johnson’s interception of Smith and subsequent 64-yard TD return gave SMU a 6-0 lead midway through the first quarter. The Golden Hurricane answered with 16 consecutive points, the final six of which came when Kendarin Ray picked up a bouncing Tulsa kickoff and carried it into the end zone for an unlikely 1-yard fumble return.
Kevin Robledo’s 32-yard field goal with 7:34 to play in the second quarter cut the deficit to 16-9. But Tulsa responded with a 5-yard scoring pass from Smith to Keylon Stokes and led 23-9 at the half.
—Field Level Media