HOUSTON - While SMU's offense had a banner night moving the football in Saturday's 42-31 win over Rice, it was the defense that answered the bell first for the Mustangs. Defensive back Sterling Moore, who also had an outstanding effort in last week's loss to TCU, put SMU ahead with an early interception return for a TD and the Mustangs never looked back.
Kyle Padron was on fire vs. the Owls, completing 24-of-32 passes for 371 yards and three touchdowns (with no interceptions). The bulk of Padron's throws went to WRs Aldrick Robinson (6-148, two TDs) and Cole Beasley (8-158).
The Mustangs, 3-2 overall and 2-0 in Conference-USA, sprinted to a 42-17 advantage before Rice tacked on two late TDs to make the score respectable.
Moore's pick-six came early in the first quarter when he leaped to grab an overthrown pass tossed by Rice QB Nick Fanuzzi (27-of-43, 276 yards, two INT) and brought it back up the left sideline 32 yards.
Richard Crawford added the other interception for SMU. Crawford and Moore combined for 15 tackles, while LBs Taylor Reed (15) and Youri Yenga (9) totaled 24 stops. The Mustangs enjoyed sparkling play from their entire linebacking corps, as Pete Fleps and Ja'Gared Davis each notched five tackles. Davis added a sack and a touchdown (blocked FG return).
After a Rice field goal in the first half cut the margin to 7-3, SMU answered with a Padron-to-Robinson 23-yard scoring strike that gave the Mustangs a 14-3 cushion at the half.
Early in the third quarter, the Owls temporarily seized momentum after Phillip Gaines recovered a muffed punt in the SMU end zone.
Padron quickly answered, however, leading a methodical scoring march that culminated in a five-yard TD pass (to Robinson) and gave SMU a 21-10 lead.
On the Owls' next drive, Davis scooped up a blocked field goal attempt and rumbled 77 yards for a touchdown. Zach Line, who ran for 45 yards on 11 carries, added a TD run and Patrick Fleming caught a seven-yard pass from Padron for SMU's last points.
Rice (1-4, 0-1) RB Sam McGuffie made several good plays for the Owls. The Michigan transfer rushed for 96 yards on 20 carries and caught five passes for 45 yards. Nevertheless, McGuffie took a pounding from the relentless SMU defense, which has played inspired football this season.