NEW ORLEANS - You've heard the well-worn adage; it's not how you start, but how you finish, and in SMU's case, it was all about seizing the momentum late in the game for a comeback win at Tulane this afternoon.
The Green Wave (3-5, 1-3 C-USA) appeared to be in control for the bulk of the game -- holding a 17-3 lead in the 3rd -- but the Mustangs (5-4, 4-1) caught fire and reeled off 28 unanswered points to win going away, 31-17.
Although Tulane's running attack was ranked No. 100 in the nation entering the contest, the Green Wave was able to pound the ball on the ground - especially between the tackles - on the Superdome turf.
Orleans Darkwa, with 193 yards on 29 carries, led the Wave and Payten Jason spelled him effectively, chipping in 60 yards on 14 attempts. Tulane totaled 270 yards rushing and averaged over 5 yards per carry.
After a scoreless first stanza, the Green Wave struck first on a short pass from QB Ryan Griffin (11-24, 121 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) to Cody Sparks. Darkwa carried seven straight times to set up the touchdown.
SMU answered with a 25-yard field goal from Matt Szymanski that narrowed the margin to 7-3, and the score remained unchanged until Tulane got a 25-yard field goal of its own from Cairo Santos midway through the 3rd quarter.
Late in the same quarter, the Green Wave was on the cusp of taking over the game after a 23-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Austen Jacks.
Kyle Padron completed a pass on the play to Beasley ,and the ball popped loose as Beasley was tackled by Dezman Moses. Jacks then scooped up the pigskin and waltzed up the right sideline to give Tulane a 17-3 lead with 2:24 left in the quarter.
That's when SMU woke from its slumber.
Zach Line, who rushed for a career-high 177 yards on 23 carries with 2 TDs, ripped off a 33-yard run to get SMU's ensuing drive started. An 11-yard pass to Beasley helped set up Line for a five-yard TD run as the third quarter drew to a conclusion.
Beasley (9-135) and Aldrick Robinson (5-182, 1 TD) combined for 317 of SMU's 372 yards receiving.
In the fourth quarter, SMU flexed its muscles on each side of the football.
After forcing Tulane to a three-and-out, the Mustangs tied the game at 17-17 on a seven-yard scoring run by Line. A 22-yard Beasley reception and a 34-yard run by Line preceded the touchdown.
SMU's defense continued to hold firm, limiting Tulane to one first down on the Green Wave's ensuing possession.
Following a Tulane punt, Padron hooked up with Robinson on an 82-yard touchdown pass that gave the Mustangs their first lead (24-17) of the game. Robinson hauled in the catch on the left sideline, shook off a would-be tackler, then sprinted to paydirt.
Tulane's attempt to knot the score was foiled by back-to-back spectacular plays by the SMU secondary, including an interception in the end zone by Chris Banjo on 4th-and-goal. On the previous play, Ryan Smith broke up a pass intended for the Wave's No. 1 WR, Casey Robottom.
Padron closed out the scoring with a three-yard scamper late in the 4th. The sophomore QB finished strong, throwing for 354 yards and a TD on 18-of-32 passing. He split reps at times with J.J. McDermott, who completed a pivotal pass to Darius Johnson on one of the second-half scoring drives.
SMU's 542 total yards was the team's best output under head coach June Jones. The 177 yards from Line was the highest rushing total since 2003 for the Mustangs.
Robinson, with 25 career TD catches, is ranked second all-time in that category at SMU. Ja'Gared Davis recorded a sack today; giving him 9.5 on the season. Taylor Thompson also added a sack and Youri Yenga notched a career-high 14 tackles.