Jones returns kickoff 100 yards to lift Houston past SMU

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
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HOUSTON- Marcus Jones returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown with 17 seconds remaining to give Houston a 44-37 victory over No. 19 SMU on Saturday night, extending the Cougars’ winning streak to seven games.

After the Mustangs (7-1, 3-1 American Athletic) tied it at 37 on Blake Mazza‘s 45-yard field goal with 30 seconds left, Jones took the kickoff at the goal line and broke several tackles before breaking loose for the Cougars (7-1, 5-0).

“I didn’t think he was going to kick it to me at first,” Jones said. “Whenever I saw him kick it, I was going to return it. . I saw the seam and I was like, `I got to hit it.”‘

Jones, who also had an interception, has four special teams’ touchdowns this season, which leads the nation.

“I keep saying he’s the best returner in the country, which he is,” Houston coach Dana Holgorsen said. “I think he’s getting to the point where I might say he’s the best returner ever. . The things he does are unbelievable, and for him to do it in both punt and kick, it’s unbelievable.”

SMU coach Sonny Dykes said the Mustangs’ uncertainty on the preceding fourth-and-2 play from the Houston 28 before deciding to kick the field goal played a large role in the kickoff return because they called timeout earlier then they would have wanted.

“Had I known we were going to kick the field goal, for sure, I would have let it run down, and we would have just squibbed it,” Dykes said.

With 30 seconds remaining, Dykes said he didn’t want to give Houston good field position.

“We were trying to kick the ball in corner and force him to go into the corner, and he just mishit it a little bit,” Dykes said. “The guy did a good job returning it.”

Tanner Mordecai had one last chance to tie it in the final seconds, but his pass into the end zone was knocked down.

Houston’s Clayton Tune threw for a career-high 412 yards and four touchdowns, Nathaniel Dell caught nine passes for 165 yards and three scores and Jeremy Singleton had five catches for 93 yards.

Tune threw touchdown passes of 7, 48 and 17 yards to Dell and had a 4-yard touchdown pass to KeSean Carter.

The Cougars finished with 489 yards and were 9 of 16 on third downs.

Mordecai was 24 of 37 for 305 yards and three touchdowns. Danny Gray caught five passes for 73 yards, and Rashee Rice had six catches for 51 yards and a score for the Mustangs, which finished with 355 yards.

Bryan Massey gave the Mustangs their first lead with a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to open the second half, but the Cougars answered with another touchdown from Tune to Dell.

Tre Siggers scored on a 2-yard run to give SMU a 34-30 lead with 5:46 left in the third.

THE TAKEAWAY

SMU: The Mustangs’ saw their seven-game winning streak snapped and possibly their chances of reaching the American Championship game. . The Mustangs struggled in the running game, finishing with 50 rushing yards led by Siggers, who had 44.

“We have to make sure that one loss doesn’t become two,” Dykes said. “Who knows what’s going to happen in conference. There’s a lot of things that can happen.”

Houston: The Cougars are in control in the American with four games remaining. . The Cougars’ defense did well in limiting SMU’s high-powered offense and sacked Mordecai three times, which is one more than the quarterback had been sacked in the first seven games of the season.

“I still think our best football is still ahead of us, which is an awesome place to be when you’re sitting undefeated in conference and 7-1,” Holgorsen said.

JUMPING HURDLES

On a Houston third-and-9 from the SMU 48, Isaac Slade-Matautia hurdled Houston running back Ta'Zhawn Henry and batted down Tune’s pass to end the Cougar drive.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

SMU will fall at least a few spots following the loss and could drop out. Houston, who was receiving votes, could enter the poll.

UP NEXT

SMU: At Memphis on Saturday.

Houston: At South Florida on Saturday.

Clemson gives raises, contract extensions to staff

Ken Ruinard/USA TODAY NETWORK
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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson’s board of trustees approved raises for special teams coordinator and cornerbacks coach Mike Reed and defensive tackles coach Nick Eason.

Reed and Eason also received one-year extensions keeping them tied to the Tigers through Jan. 31, 2026.

Reed, who’s been with the Tigers since 2013, had his yearly salary increased $50,000 to $800,000. Eason, the former Clemson standout defensive lineman, joined the staff this past season. He also had his compensation upped by $50,000 to $800,000.

Seven other assistants were given one-year extensions by the trustees’ compensation committee, but without a raise in salary.

Co-defensive coordinators Wes Goodwin and Mickey Conn had their contracts extended through Jan. 31, 2026.

Defensive ends coach Lemanski Hall, tight ends coach Kyle Richardson, offensive line coach Thomas Austin, running backs coach C.J. Spiller and wide receivers coach Tyler Grisham all got one-year extensions through Jan. 31, 2025.

New offensive coordinator Garrett Riley last month received a three-year contract at $1.75 million per season.

Clemson will pay its 10 on-field assistants $7.475 million this season, an increase of $925,000 from the total for 2022.

The Tigers went 11-3 last season, winning the Atlantic Coast Conference title for the seventh time in the past eight seasons.

South Carolina’s Beamer suspends three freshmen from program

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Corey Perrine/USA TODAY NETWORK
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COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina coach Shane Beamer said freshmen Monteque Rhames II, Anthony Rose and Cameron Upshaw were suspended from the football program.

There was no reason given for the suspensions in the school’s statement Friday. Online records showed Rhames, 18, was booked last night and was being held at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center on charges of carrying weapons on school property and obstructing justice.

“Our student-athletes know what is expected of them,” Beamer said. “They know that both the university and the football program will hold them accountable for their actions and decisions.”

None of the three have played for the Gamecocks.

Rose is a 6-foot-1, 190-pound defensive back from Miami who enrolled in January 2022 and redshirted this season. Rhames and Upshaw were part of South Carolina’s latest recruiting class and enrolled last month.

Rhames is a 6-5, 235-pound defensive lineman from Sumter and Upshaw is a 6-2, 193-pound safety from Perry, Florida.