DALLAS (AP)SMU never fell behind after building an early three-touchdown lead. Still, the Mustangs needed a big defensive play and a late field goal to put away No. 25 Memphis.
Chris Naggar kicked a 43-yard field goal with nine seconds left for a 30-27 victory Saturday over the long-idle Tigers. His winning kick was set up after the Mustangs forced a fumble by Brady White with 1:25 left, which ended a potential go-ahead drive after SMU had been forced to punt the ball away.
”I knew I was going to have to play a big part in the game,” said Naggar, who also had field goals of 27 and 25 yards. ”I was already in the right mindset, probably about six minutes left in the game. I knew it was going to come down to something like that.”
The graduate transfer kicker from Texas – like second-year SMU quarterback Shane Buechele – waited out two timeouts before easily making the kick for the Mustangs (4-0, 1-0 American Athletic Conference).
”It’s a great feeling for a coach to know he’s going to make it,” SMU coach Sonny Dykes said. ”Never had a doubt.”
Memphis (1-1, 0-1) hadn’t played since winning its opener Sept. 5 because of COVID-19 issues that forced the team to skip two scheduled games and go 11 days without practice.
”Obviously disappointed, or mad, sad with the loss. I was not pleased with the way the game started in any phases,” Memphis coach Ryan Silverfield said. ”No excuses. We’re not going to use rust or anything of that nature.”
White finished 29 of 42 for 380 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Damonte Coxie had eight catches for 169 yards.
Buechele was 32-of-45 passing for 474 yards and three touchdowns. That included catch-and-run scores of 70 and 85 yards by Reggie Roberson before the star receiver exited with an apparent left knee injury late in the third quarter.
Roberson, who had five catches for 243 yards, appeared on the way to another long touchdown, but fell to the ground after making a cut past a defender near midfield and immediately grabbed his knee at the end of what was a 43-yard play. He sustained a season-ending right foot injury in the eighth game last season.
”I hate to see that, the game that he was having and the season he was going to have,” Buechele said. ”It was terrible. I just hate to see him on the ground.”
SMU had a 24-3 lead after Roberson’s 85-yard score early in the second quarter. Buechele stepped up in the pocket and hit Roberson near the 25, where the receiver made a defender miss and then took off down the sideline.
The Mustangs were still celebrating Trevor Denbow’s interception against White in the final minute of the first half when Roberson fumbled at the end of an 18-yard catch on SMU’s next play. Memphis capitalized and pulled to 24-20 on Riley Patterson’s 56-yard field goal as time expired. The Tigers got even at 27 on White’s 5-yard TD pass to Tahj Washington late in the third quarter.
Memphis was barely ranked when the Top 25 came out last week, only one poll point ahead of the first team left out. The Tigers will fall out Sunday. SMU has been getting votes, but likely needs more than a win over Memphis to be ranked. The Mustangs’ other wins are against Texas State, North Texas and FCS team Stephen F. Austin.
Memphis: A tough loss for the defending AAC champion Tigers, who were obviously rusty coming back and likely affected by conditioning late. White and the offense can still pile up the yards, with 585 against SMU.
”The overall team response, not once was anybody down,” White said. ”Upset? Yeah, because we weren’t playing the brand of football we do. But you saw the way we fought back, the heart that we showed, the resilience.”
SMU: While the Mustangs are 4-0 in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1983-84, there are concerns because of the injuries to their top receiver and starting tailback. Roberson didn’t play again last year after a right foot injury in the eighth game of the season. Sophomore TJ McDaniel suffered a gruesome lower left leg injury on the first play of the game. He had to be taken off the field on a cart.
Memphis: After waiting so long to play, the Tigers now have a scheduled open date before hosting No. 11 UCF on Oct. 17.
SMU: A week off before playing at Tulane on Oct. 16.
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