DALLAS (AP) — Tanner Mordecai isn't satisfied after half a season as SMU's starting quarterback, but he is having a lot of fun and throwing a lot of touchdowns for the undefeated, 21st-ranked Mustangs.
“We have a long way to go and a lot of things that we want to accomplish. ... We've got a lot of games ahead of us, really good teams we’ve got to play in this final stretch, and it’s going to show what kind of team we are,” Mordecai said. “I enjoy what I’m doing, I enjoy the guys around me. I’m having a blast with this coaching staff.”
Mordecai's 26 passing TDs are tied for the national lead as the Mustangs (6-0, 2-0 American Athletic) have completed the first half of their schedule without losing a game for the third year in a row. The former Oklahoma transfer threw a school-record seven TDs in his first SMU start, and has at least two in every game while completing 71% of his passes (157 of 221) for 315 yards per game.
SMU is home Thursday night to play Tulane (1-5, 0-2). The Green Wave have have lost four games in a row by an average margin of 22 points.
The Mustangs were 5-0 on way to a 7-3 record in last year's pandemic-altered season, after a 6-0 start in 2019 that turned into a 10-3 season capped by a bowl loss.
“Every time you have this kind of start, it’s different,” fourth-year SMU coach Sonny Dykes said. “Really, 2019, I think caught all of us by surprise. I think last year we had a little bit higher expectations for the program, but I think both years, we just didn’t have enough depth, and we just started running out of players as we got further into the schedule."
After Tulane, the Mustangs play three of their next four games on the road. That stretch starts at Houston (5-1, 3-0) and wraps up at second-ranked Cincinnati.
SMU has won six in a row against Tulane. Four of those have been by four points or less, including last year's overtime win in New Orleans.
“We’re playing a great SMU team," Tulane coach Willie Fritz said. “They’ve played great offense over the last few years and they’re playing even better this season.”
AFTER THE STORM
Tulane was displaced at the start of the season by Hurricane Ida's landfall in Louisiana, and spent most of September in Birmingham, Alabama.
“I’m sure that’s had a huge impact on their season thus far,” Dykes said. “And the thing is now to me, they’re settled, they’re there, they’re back. They’ve had some time to get rested up and get readjusted. And I would expect a different team to show up here.”
The Wave had to play their much-anticipated opener against third-ranked Oklahoma in Norman instead of on their New Orleans campus as scheduled, and fell 40-35. Their only win is over lower-division Morgan State, but they are coming off their open date.
“We did get a little bit of time off and got the guys to recharge their batteries," Fritz said.
PROTECTING THE QB
SMU has allowed only one sack all season. The Mustangs returned all five starting linemen from last season, and that group has combined for 158 career starts.
The Mustangs are in the top 10 nationally with their 40.7 points and 511 total yards per game. Tulane is near the bottom defensively in those categories, ranking 127th out of 130 Division I teams in scoring defense (40.2 per game) and 121st in total defense (477.7 per game)
THROWING TO THE END ZONE
Second-year freshman quarterback Michael Pratt has thrown a TD in all 16 college games he has played for Tulane since his debut last year. His 33 TDs are already ninth on Tulane's career list.
Tulane tight end Tyrick James is the team's leading receiver with 22 catches for 343 yards and three TDs. Mustangs tight end Grant Calcaterra, like Mordecai a transfer from Oklahoma, has 19 catches for 234 yard and three touchdowns. SMU has two 30-catch receivers in Danny Gray and Rashee Rice, while Reggie Roberson Jr. has 27 catches.
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