SMU Beats Navy In Overtime

By Andy Lohman, SMU

Junior tight end Hunter Thedford had one career reception through two seasons and three games of the 2018 campaign. But the Comanche, Texas native played the hero as he reeled in the game-winning two-point conversion in SMU’s 31-30 overtime win over Navy on Saturday, Sept. 22.



Lined up next to the linemen, Thedford released and ran a delayed route to the left corner of the end zone, using his size to grab the pass from junior quarterback Ben Hicks just over the outreached arm of a Navy linebacker. As soon as the referee signaled that the attempt was good, Thedford sprinted up the field, running past teammates congratulating him with his arms extended in celebration.

DALLAS, TX - SEPTEMBER 22: Southern Methodist Mustangs wide receiver Reggie Roberson Jr. (21) scores a touchdown during the game between SMU and Navy on September 22, 2018 at Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas, TX. (Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire)

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DALLAS, TX - SEPTEMBER 22: Southern Methodist Mustangs wide receiver Reggie Roberson Jr. (21) scores a touchdown during the game between SMU and Navy on September 22, 2018 at Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas, TX. (Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire)

Hicks himself played the unlikely hero as well. After an impressive second half against Michigan, true freshman quarterback William Brown earned the starting job against Navy. Brown had a productive day, completing 21 of 29 pass attempts for 150 yards and two touchdowns without throwing an interception.

Despite not playing a snap in regulation, Head Coach Sonny Dykes knew he could count on Hicks in overtime.

“Will got a little banged up during the game. In that situation, Ben just had more experience,” Dykes said. “So we felt like given that set of circumstances, that was the right decision to make.”

The decision paid off as Hicks completed all three of his pass attempts for 16 yards, including a touchdown throw to junior wide receiver James Proche in the corner of the end zone to set up the game-winning two-point conversion.

Hicks knew exactly what the play call was going to be when the Mustangs decided to go for two.

“Right after they scored I was going to ask Coach [Offensive Coordinator Rhett] Lashlee if we were going for two, but I didn’t,” Hicks said. “Then right after we scored I looked at him and said ‘two’ and he was telling me ‘left middle hash,’ so I knew we were going for two and I knew what play was coming. We’ve been working on that.”

The play, which featured tackle Chad Pursley lined up as a decoy receiver calling for the ball, had actually been in Dykes’ arsenal well before his time on the Hilltop.

“I’ll tell you the science of football coaching if you guys want to know the whole truth,” Dykes said to reporters at his postgame press conference. “About two years ago when I was at Cal we needed a two-point play so we got on Google and googled ‘good two-point plays’ believe it or not. And the tape showed up of this play, I believe it was Alabama and Auburn about 10 years ago. So we put it in at Cal, ran it against Oregon, and it helped us win a ball game.”

The Mustangs had practiced the play, which the now call ‘Oregon’, so many times that despite a lengthy officials’ review, they knew that the play was executed legally.

“We’ve practiced it a thousand times, so we were confident they weren’t going to overturn it,” Dykes said.

Beyond starting American Athletic Conference play at 1-0, the win was significant for SMU because it was the Mustangs’ first win over Navy since 1998, before starting quarterback William Brown was even born.

The Mustangs did plenty of positive things before the overtime period. Senior running back Braeden West carried the ball 26 times for 145 yards. Sophomore receiver Reggie Roberson, Jr. totaled a career-high 167 all-purpose yards and found the end zone twice. He used a sharp cut in the second quarter for a 20-yard TD catch, then returned a kickoff for 98 yards and a score in the third quarter. The defense recorded 10 tackles for loss against Navy’s triple option, including two sacks from junior linebacker Richard Moore.

But the lasting memory from the game will be Thedford’s pure joy after the game-winning catch. The moment captured how the Mustangs, despite a challenging schedule, have been steadily improving each week and were finally rewarded.

“I’m just happy for them,” Dykes said about his team. “They’ve worked really, really hard, they’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do. They’re learning to play with great effort and focus and discipline.”