Buechele, No. 22 SMU bounce back in 51-37 victory over Navy

DALLAS (AP) — In one week, Shane Buechele went from his worst passer efficiency rating in two seasons at SMU to his best.

The Mustangs enjoyed a pretty good bounce-back as well.

Buechele threw three touchdown passes, Ulysses Bentley IV and Tyler Lavine ran for two scores apiece and No. 22 SMU rebounded from its first loss with a 51-37 victory over Navy on Saturday night.

The Mustangs (6-1, 3-1 American Athletic) scored 30 consecutive points from late in the second quarter to early in the fourth, a run that started with 10 points in the final 7 seconds of the first half.

“I didn’t see any one-handed catches or any miraculous tackles or any of that,” SMU coach Sonny Dykes said. “I just saw 11 guys doing their job and playing hard and doing what they’re supposed to do. When we do that, this is a good football team.”

After the first of Buechele’s two scoring tosses to Rashee Rice with 7 seconds to go before halftime, Nelson Smith fumbled a handoff and SMU’s Gary Wiley won the scramble for the loose ball at the Navy 18 with a second remaining. Chris Naggar’s 34-yard field goal made it 31-17.

“Bad decision on my part,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “I shouldn’t have put them in that situation, just hand them the ball. (We should have) just taken a knee.”

The Mustangs should have been pinned inside their 5 for their first possession of the second half, but Navy’s Devin Mathews stepped on the goal line while batting a bouncing punt back toward the field. SMU took over at the 20, and Buechele later connected with Austin Upshaw for a 42-yard TD.

A week after finishing with a passer efficiency rating below 100 for the first time in two seasons at SMU, Buechele was at 207.5 after the graduate transfer from Texas completed 23 of 28 passes for 300 yards with no interceptions.

“This is one of those games that really helps when you have an experienced quarterback because Navy’s going to show you so many different looks defensively,” Dykes said. “We gave him a lot when it came to checking to runs and checking in and out of certain things versus certain looks. I thought he executed pretty flawlessly.”

Smith had 55 yards rushing and a touchdown by early in the second quarter but finished with 54 for the Midshipmen (3-4, 3-2) as SMU controlled the triple-option attack in the second half a week after giving up 313 yards rushing in a 42-13 loss to No. 7 Cincinnati.

“You’re disappointed because you work really hard to have a chance to play a big game like that and didn’t play your best,” Dykes said. “It’s always good to see your guys respond like you hope they will, and they did.”

Bentley finished with 149 yards on 25 carries and set up Rice’s second TD with a 61-yard catch when he came out of the backfield as Buechele was faking a run up the middle and the quarterback hit his lead back in stride over the middle.

Lavine put SMU in front for the first time at 21-14 on a 10-yard run midway through the second quarter. He had another TD on a 48-yard run when his knee never touched the ground as he rolled over a pile. Lavine popped up and ran the final 40 yards untouched for a 51-17 lead. He finished with 74 yards, and Rice had 46 yards receiving.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

It was a mild surprise that SMU stayed in the poll after getting blown out by Cincinnati. But the Mustangs are on the rise now. They should be back in the top 20 after dropping six spots last weekend.

THE TAKEAWAY

Navy: Even before falling way behind in the second half, the Midshipmen were throwing more than usual. Morris had three first-down completions on the opening drive, which ended with Smith’s 3-yard TD run.

Morris and Tyger Goslin combined for 30 attempts, the most for Navy since 2016 and just the second time in 19 years the Midshipmen have reached 30 passes in a game. The 239 yards passing — also the most since 2016 — got a big boost on Goslin’s 62-yard screen pass for a touchdown to Jamale Carothers. Navy has thrown for at least 200 yards in consecutive games for the first time in at least 20 years.

“Just trying to play who we have, play to our strengths a little bit, play to the guys we have,” Niumatalolo said. “We have good wideouts, good fullbacks. Still a little inconsistent that way.”

SMU: The Mustangs slowed Navy’s vaunted running game with several big plays in the backfield against the option. SMU finished with 12 tackles for loss.

Perhaps the biggest came from Trevor Denbow on the first drive of the second half. Navy had a first down at the SMU 36 when the linebacker dropped Carlinos Acie for a 6-yard loss. Navy ended up punting, and SMU soon had a three-touchdown lead. Denbow was one of four SMU players with two tackles for loss.

REVERSAL WITH THE RUN

SMU finished with 255 yards rushing to 191 for Navy, the first time the Mustangs have had more yards on the ground than the Midshipmen since 1998.

UP NEXT

Navy: Tulsa at home next Saturday.

SMU: At Temple next Saturday. It was moved from Thursday for what the conference was the game’s “best chance of its being played in its scheduled week.” The AAC provided no other details about the decision.

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