What We Learned from the SMU Mustangs’ 43-37 Win over the Tulsa Golden Hurricane

The true test of a man — and in this case a team — isn’t during good times, but when it faces his greatest adversity. On Saturday against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane, the Mustangs incurred its most significant test of the 2019 season — a 21-point deficit in the third quarter. Still, the team also showed its greatest triumph but erasing the deficit on the way to the 43-37 triple-overtime win.

SMU ALMOST let the pressure of success get to them

For most major college football programs, being ranked is nothing new, but for the Mustangs, this was a territory that hasn’t been experienced here in Dallas for over three decades. SMU came into the game ranked 24th in the nation, and while the program tried to downplay it, the higher expectations for the team led for them to play tight for three quarters. But it wasn’t just the players, head coach Sonny Dykes admitted that approach to the game was different than before, but in the second half the team just went out and played football and things turned around quickly

James Proche continues to come up big
Needing a spark offensively, the Mustangs turned to senior wide receiver James Proche, and as has made most of his career, he delivered. Proche not only finished the game with 11 catches for 153 yards, but his two highlight-reel touchdowns helped fuel the comeback. Despite the large deficit, Proche never thought the game was in doubt, and when given the opportunity, he stepped up big. His one-handed touchdown in the fourth quarter cut the deficit to seven points, and the improbably catch along the sidelines in the endzone was the game-winner. As the leader of the “Spooky Boys” (the new nickname for the wide receiver group, replacing the ‘Militia”), Proche continues the legacy of big-play Mustang receivers.

 

The SMU defense held firm until the offense got it together

It would have been easy for the SMU defensive players to get frustrated, they forced three first-half turnovers. However, the offense could only turn that into three points — the six other points came on cornerback Ar’Mani Johnson’s 64-yard interception return. But the defense continued to grind it out as Johnson secured another interception in the second quarter forced three empty scoring drives for Tulsa. Perhaps the most significant defensive stands of SMU season came in the second and third overtime as the unit forced the Golden Hurricane to settle for two field-goal attempts after allowing -2 yards on eight plays.

 

With a bye week upcoming, the Mustangs have a few extra days to relish in this victory and get as healthy as possible. The team knows the marathon continues as the preparation for the game against a tough Temple Owls team will soon begin. Everyone in the Dallas area knows that these are the type of wins that can catapult a program from the doldrums of mediocrity into the realm of higher expectations. Let’s just hope it doesn’t so long for the team to realize they are now one of the hunted teams in the American Athletic Conference.
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