Marcus Jones produced a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown with 17 seconds remaining and the Houston Cougars knocked the 19th-ranked SMU Mustangs from the ranks of the unbeaten with a 44-37 victory on Saturday at TDECU Stadium.
Jones recorded his ninth career special-teams touchdown, and fourth this season, to answer a 45-yard field goal from SMU kicker Blake Mazza that pulled the Mustangs (7-1, 3-1 American) even 13 seconds earlier.
Jones’ kickoff return was the second of the game, as Bryan Massey opened the second half with a 100-yard return that gave the Mustangs their first lead at 27-23.
Houston (7-1, 5-0) extended its winning streak to seven consecutive games despite blowing a 17-point lead, the largest deficit of the season for the Mustangs.
Cougars quarterback Clayton Tune passed for a career-high 412 yards and four touchdowns, with Houston receiver Nathaniel Dell producing career highs in receptions (nine), receiving yards (165) and touchdowns (three).
Tune and Dell connected for the third time with 9:22 left in the third quarter to answer the Massey kick return and push the Cougars back ahead 30-27. Tune answered another SMU touchdown with a 4-yard pass to KeSean Carter for a 37-34 lead that held until the Mazza kick.
Tanner Mordecai passed for 305 yards and three touchdowns for SMU, but the Cougars held off the Mustangs by controlling the time of possession (35:25) with three scoring drives of 10-plus plays from the end of the second quarter into the third.
Houston scored on each of its first four possessions yet, after the Cougars turned over the football on downs when SMU defensive end Elijah Chatman forced a fumble at midfield, the Mustangs closed to within 20-14 when Mordecai hit Tre Siggers on a wheel route for a 50-yard touchdown with 7:28 remaining in the first half. Less than five minutes later, SMU pulled even.
After SMU safety Chace Cromartie forced a fumble that linebacker Isaac Slade-Matautia recovered at the Houston 35, Mordecai found Rashee Rice for a 6-yard touchdown on fourth down.
But Gleson Sprewell blocked the ensuing PAT to prevent the Mustangs from grabbing their first lead and the Cougars followed by covering 62 yards in 12 plays before Dalton Witherspoon booted a 30-yard field goal as the first half expired to give Houston a 23-20 lead.
–Field Level Media