Bringing an end to a brutal four-game stretch to start the 2018 season, the SMU Mustangs defeated the Navy Midshipmen 31-30 in overtime when quarterback Ben HIcks found Hunter Thedford for the two-point conversion to get its first victory of the season and end a three-game slide.
Beating Navy was a long time coming
It’s been twenty-three years since SMU last defeated Navy. Many of the players currently on the SMU roster were either infant or not even born when SMU defeated Navy 24-11 in 1998. The rivalry has been so one-sided in recent history that no one knew that there was a rivalry trophy associated with the game. Since its inception in 2009, the Ganz Trophy — named for former Navy and SMU coach Frank Ganz — resided comfortably in Annapolis, MD, but no more after the upset victory. The victory also marks the first win for the Mustangs over the Midshipmen in Dallas since 1966.
Ben Hicks is a true leader:
Not many players would respond well to losing their starting spot to a true freshman, but Ben Hicks has been in the SMU program long enough to know to stay ready. Because of this when he was called on to replace William Brown in overtime, Hicks responded by going 3-of-3 for 16 yards, one touchdown and the crucial two-point conversion to win the game. Head coach Sonny Dykes may be uncertain on who starts next week versus Houston Baptist, but at least he knows that Hicks will be ready to go whether it’s as a starter or as the back-up.
Braeden West is built to shoulder the load:
He may only be at 5’11 186 lbs but senior running back Braeden West plays a lot bigger, and against Navy, he was called on to carry the bulk of the carries with injuries to both Xavier Jones and Ke’Mon Freeman. West responded by rushing for 145 yards on 26 carries. This season for West has been up and down as he struggled to find any rhythm against UNT and Michigan, but on Saturday against the Midshipmen, West responded to, the challenge well with his first 100-yard game since 2016 against USF. It’s still unknown how long Jones and Freeman will be unavailable, so West better enjoy that ice-bath and get ready to be the lead back once again next week.
The Mustangs could have something to build upon:
Generally, it’s hard to take anything from a loss, but both Coach Dykes and the players echoed the sentiment that playing tough opponents in the first three weeks prepared them for the late-game moments that propelled them to victory. The 38-16 win over Houston in 2016 showed the team that this program was capable of beating anyone and maybe this upset victory over a perennial conference power will propel the 2018 Mustangs in the same direction.
The murderers’ row of a schedule is finally over, and the Mustangs host Houston Baptist University next week at Gerald J. Ford Stadium. You never want to look past an FCS school, but Houston Baptist should be a comfortable victory for a program looking to build more momentum for the year.