No. 24 SMU rallies, stays unbeaten with 31-24 win over Navy

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ANNAPOLIS, Md.- The last thing No. 24 SMU needed was to fall too far behind against a methodical Navy team.

The moment the Mustangs seemed like they might be in trouble, Bryan Massey turned the game around with a long kickoff return.

“I thought that gave us a little bit of momentum back,” SMU coach Sonny Dykes said. “The thing I was most proud of our guys about doing, they just kept their head down, never looked at the scoreboard. We talk to them all the time about doing that.”

Tanner Mordecai threw for 324 yards and two touchdowns, and the unbeaten Mustangs rallied from a 14-point second-quarter deficit to beat Navy 31-24 on Saturday. Massey’s 95-yard kickoff return began the comeback, and SMU’s defense held firm for most of the second half.

SMU (6-0, 2-0 American Athletic Conference) had the game tied by halftime and went up 31-24 on a 22-yard TD pass from Mordecai to Jordan Kerley with 8:19 remaining in the final quarter.

“That was heartbreaking for our young men and the program to play the 24th-ranked team here and be up 21-7,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “We were feeling pretty good about where we were at.”

Mordecai now has 26 touchdown passes on the season. He also threw a 66-yarder to Reggie Roberson on fourth-and-1 to open the scoring, but Navy (1-4, 1-2) answered with the next 21 points.

Chance Warren tied the game with a 23-yard scoring run, then Tai Lavatai threw the first touchdown pass of the season for the Midshipmen, 37 yards to Kai Puailoa-Rojas on a flea-flicker.

Then a couple big turnovers went Navy’s way. Mordecai was intercepted in the end zone, and later in the second quarter, he fumbled – and Diego Fagot returned that turnover 20 yards for a touchdown and a 21-7 lead.

Navy never had a chance to get comfortable, though. Massey took the ensuing kickoff all the way back for a touchdown, and then Tre Siggers scored on a 2-yard run to tie it with 1:54 left in the half.

After Kerley’s catch in the end zone put the Mustangs ahead in the fourth, Navy turned the ball over on downs twice, the second time inside its own 20.

THE TAKEAWAY

SMU: The Mustangs struggled on third down, going 2 of 11, but they did enough to win. After giving up the long touchdown pass, the SMU defense kept Navy’s offense pretty much under control. The Midshipmen ran for 177 yards but needed 53 carries to do it.

“They hit us on the flea-flicker. Obviously that was a big play, got some momentum, and then the scoop for a touchdown,” Dykes said. “Other than that, they put one drive together and then kicked a field goal, so defensively, I thought we played incredible.”

Navy: The Midshipmen have made strides since losing their first two games of the season by a combined score of 72-10. Navy’s defense mostly hung tough against a dangerous offensive team, but after going up 21-7, the Midshipmen couldn’t move the ball consistently.

“For the most part, their strategy was to not let us get the edge,” Lavatai said. “I missed a couple of reads. I think I adjusted pretty well, but overall we have to execute better.”

PASS PROTECTION

Navy didn’t mount much of a pass rush against SMU, but the Midshipmen did became the first team with a sack against the Mustangs this season. That was on the play when Mordecai lost the ball and Navy ran it back for a touchdown.

“We kind of shot ourselves in the foot, specifically me,” Mordecai said. “That fumble and the interception could have easily been avoided.”

EJECTION

Navy cornerback Jamal Glenn was ejected for targeting in the second quarter, which didn’t help matters against Mordecai and the SMU offense.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

It wasn’t easy, but SMU came away with the win on the road, and now the Mustangs have a chance to keep moving up in the poll.

UP NEXT

SMU: The Mustangs are off next weekend before an Oct. 21 home game against Tulane.

Navy: The Midshipmen have a short week. They play at Memphis on Thursday night.

No. 2 Michigan beats Purdue 43-22 for Big Ten crown

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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INDIANAPOLIS – Donovan Edwards ran for 185 yards and a score, J.J. McCarthy threw three touchdown passes and No. 2 Michigan beat Purdue 43-22 on Saturday night for its second straight Big Ten title and a likely No. 2 playoff seed.

College football’s winningest program has the first 13-win season in school history. Two more victories would give the Wolverines (13-0, No. 2 CFP) their first national championship since 1997.

And with injured star Blake Corum sidelined by a season-ending left knee injury, Edwards stole the show for the second straight week.

After shredding rival Ohio State for 216 yards and two scores last week, Edwards broke open this game with a 60-yard on the first play of the second half to set up one score. He added a 27-yard TD sprint on Michigan’s next series to make it 28-13.

Purdue (8-5) never recovered from Michigan’s quick, seven-play onslaught after it trailed 14-13 at halftime.

But quarterback Aidan O'Connell and receiver Charlie Jones helped the Boilermakers make it interesting for a while.

O’Connell was 32 of 47 with 366 yards and two interceptions after missing some practice time early this week to mourn the death of his oldest brother. Jones, who lost to Michigan in last year’s game while playing for Iowa, had 13 receptions for 162 yards.

It just wasn’t enough.

Michigan showed no signs of a hangover after last week’s rout over the Buckeyes, taking a 7-0 lead on its opening possession with a 25-yard TD pass from J.J. McCarthy to Colston Loveland.

Purdue answered with Devin Mockobee’s 1-yard scoring run to tie the score then took the lead on Mitchell Fineran’s 33-yard field goal.

Michigan answered by taking advantage of an offside call on fourth-and-6 by going for the first down, picking it up and eventually converting the drive into a 7-yard TD pass from McCarthy to Luke Schoonmaker. They never trailed again.

Edwards big run set up Kalel Mullings‘ 1-yard TD plunge before Edwards celebrated his own scoring run.

All Purdue could muster was three more field goals.

McCarthy was 11 of 17 with 161 yards and one interception.

Corum posted a message on Twitter on Saturday morning to say his knee surgery went well.

THE TAKEAWAY

Purdue: The Boilermakers’ magical season ended with a solid showing in the championship game where they played better than most expected. Still, they won the Big Ten’s wild, wild West, both trophy games and should be bound for a warm-weather bowl game.

Michigan: Yes, the Wolverines may have already locked up a top-two seed thanks to losses by Southern Cal and TCU. Michigan now has back-to-back conference crowns for the first time since 2003-04 though the hard part remains – ending its national title drought.

DIALING UP TRICKERY

Brohm played one season in the now defunct XFL and has acknowledged that experience helped him understand how to inject personality and creativity into play calling. It was on full display Saturday.

A surprise end around set up Purdue’s first score, a fake punt helped keep its second scoring drive alive and then Mockobee sprinted 25 yards on a fake flea-flicker in the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Will find out its bowl game, destination and opponent Sunday.

Michigan: Waiting to see where its headed and who it will face in the national semifinals.

Klubnik, No. 10 Clemson rout No. 24 UNC 39-10 for ACC title

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Backup quarterback Cade Klubnik completed 20 of 24 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score and No. 10 Clemson reclaimed the Atlantic Coast Conference championship with a 39-10 victory over No. 24 North Carolina on Saturday night.

Cornerback Nate Wiggins broke up two passes in the end zone, blocked a field goal and returned an interception 98 yards for a touchdown to help the Tigers win their seventh ACC title in eight seasons.

Clemson (11-2, No. 9 CFP) won six straight ACC championships from 2015 to 2020 before failing to reach the title game last season. But coach Dabo Swinney‘s Tigers rebounded in a big way, going 9-0 against ACC foes this season to reach the Orange Bowl.

They have Klubnik to thank for that.

With Clemson down 7-0, Swinney benched two-year starter D.J. Uiagalelei after the Tigers failed to pick up a first down on their first two possessions, Swinney turned to Klubnik, a 5-star recruit from Austin, Texas. He responded by leading the Tigers to four straight scores and a 24-10 lead at halftime.

Clemson stretched it to 39-10 heading into the fourth quarter.

It wasn’t the first time Swinney has turned to Klubnik.

He benched Uiagalelei in the second half against Syracuse and Klubnik responded by leading the Tigers to a come-from-behind 27-21 victory. Swinney also turned to Klubnik against Notre Dame, although the results were the opposite with the freshman throwing a Pick 6 in a 35-14 loss.

Swinney has never been shy about replacing veteran QBs with less experienced players. He did it in 2014, sitting Cole Stoudt for Deshaun Watson, and again in 2018 replacing Kelly Bryant with Trevor Lawrence.

ACC player of the year Drake Maye was limited to 268 yards passing and turned the ball over three times for North Carolina (9-4, No. 23 CFP), which was seeking its first ACC championship since 1980 when Lawrence Taylor was wreaking havoc on quarterbacks.

Maye got things started on the right foot for the Tar Heels, capping an 11-play, 78-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead on UNC’s first possession.

But the Tar Heels repeatedly sputtered on offense inside the red zone after that, the biggest blow coming when Maye misfired near the goal line and Wiggins – who had struggled in Clemson’s 51-45 win over Wake Forest – returned his pass for a touchdown to give Clemson a 32-10 lead with 5:05 left in the third quarter.

Klubnik provided an immediate spark for Clemson.

He led the Tigers on a nine-play, 71-yard drive, culminating in a 1-yard TD pass to Davis Allen. After Maye’s fumble, Klubnik caught a 19-yard pass from Phil Mafah to set up Mafah’s 4-yard touchdown run – Clemson’s second TD in a span of 40 seconds.

Klubnik then showed off his arm strength with a 68-yard pass to fellow freshman Cole Turner to set up his own 1-yard TD run for a 21-7 lead.

END OF AN ERA

This is the final year the ACC will feature its two division winners playing for a championship. In future years, all ACC teams will be lumped together and the two teams with the best records will advance to the title game.

THE TAKEAWAY

North Carolina: Maye garnered plenty of Heisman Trophy talk during the season, but the Tar Heels offense has stalled resulting in a three-game losing streak. But as long as Maye doesn’t transfer – and there are no indications he will given his family history at North Carolina – the Tar Heels have a good chance to get back to the ACC title game next season.

Clemson: The Tigers have set a high bar by winning national championships, so as much as they will enjoy getting back atop the ACC mountain there will be plenty of talk over whether Swinney cost his team a chance at a spot in the College Football Playoff by not turning to Klubnik at quarterback earlier in the season. It seems Uiagalelei might be a logical transfer portal candidate.

UP NEXT

Clemson will play in the Orange Bowl, while North Carolina awaits a bowl bid.