CINCINNATI — An improbable fourth-down conversion in overtime changed the fortunes for both SMU and Cincinnati.
Facing fourth-and-26, Ben Hicks connected with Trey Quinn for a 28-yard gain to keep SMU alive, setting up a Josh Williams 27-yard field goal to defeat Cincinnati 31-28 in overtime on Saturday.
Kryan Mitchell intercepted Hayden Moore to end the game.
“Fourth-and-26, there is no play on the play card for that situation,” SMU coach Chad Morris said. “I wish I could say I called that play. I’m so proud of those guys. These guys believed the whole time. You recruit great kids and great players and ask them to make plays.”
Hicks fumbled on the first play of overtime but recovered, then was sacked by Marquis Copeland at the 41. Then Hicks passed to Quinn for a 28-yard gain and the game-saving first down at the 13.
“I don’t even remember the play call,” Hicks said. “They were in prevent. I knew I would have to scramble. Trey was open. I didn’t just throw it up. He made an unbelievable catch.”
“There’s no doubt in my mind that fourth-and-26 will go down in the history of our program as we continue to change the culture,” Morris said.
Hicks found All-American wideout Courtland Sutton on a 25-yard scoring strike to give the Mustangs (5-2, 2-1 American) a 28-20 lead with 6:36 left in the game. Moore then led Cincinnati on a 10-play, 78-yard drive, finding Devin Gray for a 21-yard score and Gray again on the two-point conversion pass to tie the game with 2:22 remaining.
In the OT, Moore was wrapped up about to be sacked and attempted to flip the ball off to Mike Boone. The ball bounced high off Boone’s helmet into the scrum at the line of scrimmage where it was tipped forward and Mitchell made a one-handed grab for the interception to end the game.
The Mustangs won on the road for the first time this season. The Bearcats (2-6, 0-4) losing streak extended to five games.
“It was a tough situation right there,” Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell said. “I know he doesn’t want to give in but there are times and places when you just have to throw some things away and live to fight another down.”
The Bearcats scored on their first four possessions to keep up with the high-powered SMU offense. Cincinnati had a first-and-10 on the SMU 14-yard line with 26 seconds left in the first half, poised to score a go-ahead touchdown but Moore was sacked on back-to-back plays. Ryan Jones missed a 47-yard field goal attempt with four seconds remaining as SMU retained a 21-20 halftime advantage.
The teams played scoreless football in the second half until the 6:26 mark of the fourth quarter.
Cincinnati has given up at least 33 points in its previous four losses, held SMU well under its scoring average of 43.8 points per game.
“This one really, really hurts,” Fickell said. “I will lay awake from this one for quite awhile. Our guys gave it their all. They left everything out there.”
SMU: Sophomore quarterback Ben Hick’s five-yard and 25-yard touchdown passes to All American wideout Courtland Sutton placed Sutton into a tie with Bo Levi Mitchell and Garrett Gilbert for fourth place on the SMU all-time career list for touchdown passes with 36… Trey Quinn caught 17 passes for 186 yards. It was his third-straight game with 15 or more receptions…SMU is now 4-12 all-time in overtime games….
CINCINNATI: The Bearcats scored a touchdown on their opening drive of the game. It was Cincinnati’s first touchdown on an opening drive this season. They kicked a field goal in a game-opening drive at Miami on September 8. The Bearcats lost their fourth straight overtime game. Their last overtime win was at West Virginia on November 8, 2008.,,
SMU: The Mustangs will host Tulsa (2-6, 1-3) on Friday at 8:00 pm on ESPN. Tulsa is in last place in the AAC West Division.
CINCINNATI: Cincinnati will travel to Tulane after a bye week, for a inter-divisional contest on November 4. The game time will be announced later.