The stakes will be high in the American Athletic Conference when No. 25 SMU plays at Navy on Saturday in Annapolis, Md.
The winner remains in contention for the West division title, while a loss would end hope of appearing in the AAC championship game. SMU and Navy both lost to Memphis (9-1, 5-1 AAC), and a second conference defeat would make it impossible to win the West due to any potential tiebreaker.
The winner at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium must still hope Memphis loses. The Tigers still play at South Florida and at home against Cincinnati, which leads the East Division.
The Midshipmen (7-2, 5-1) are attempting to rebound after having their five-game winning streak snapped at Notre Dame last week with a 52-20 loss.
Navy lost four fumbles, all of which led to scores for the Fighting Irish. Navy’s starting offense amassed only 171 total yards in about the three quarters it was on the field.
“This one hurts. They kicked us in the teeth, kicked us in the gut. They got after us in all phases,” Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “We have to find a way to bounce back. We have a big game at home, and we’re back in conference. Lick our wounds right now and move on.
“We’ve got to come back in conference against SMU, a really good team. It’s our Senior Day and that’s a really special day for us. When you have kind of a nightmare game like this, you want to put it away as quickly as you can.”
Senior center Ford Higgins, one of four Navy captains, added: “The beautiful thing about this sport and the beautiful thing about life is there are always new opportunities. This one’s over with, and we’re blessed to have another one next week. Excited to move on and roll on.”
SMU (9-1, 5-1) was off last week after outlasting East Carolina 59-51 on Nov. 9. Shane Buechele threw five touchdown passes and Xavier Jones broke one of Eric Dickerson’s school records in the win, which came a week after the Mustangs lost their first game of the season, 54-48 at Memphis.
James Proche, who finished with 14 catches for 167 yards against East Carolina, broke Emmanuel Sanders’ school record with his 35th career touchdown catch on his first score of the day. Buechele threw for 414 yards as the Mustangs finished with 636 total yards.
Jones, who ran for 157 yards, had three rushing touchdowns for the third time this season, giving him 18. His total touchdowns reached 20, one more than Dickerson had in 1981, all on the ground.
SMU’s defense has allowed more than 50 points in consecutive weeks against Memphis and East Carolina, but the bye week might help.
“We certainly haven’t played as well as we played up to this point the last two weeks. I think we’re a little worn down,” SMU coach Sonny Dykes said last week.
“We’ve had a lot of guys that have taken a lot of snaps on the defensive side of the ball. We didn’t look as fast Saturday as we have up to this point. It’s Week 11 of the season. I think having a couple days to recover will make a big difference.”
–Field Level Media