DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — Southern Methodist University (SMU) quarterback Shane Buechele and leading tackler Richard McBryde were on Top 25 teams before joining the Mustangs this season.
The former Texas starting quarterback and the linebacker who played for Auburn in the SEC championship game two seasons ago will now be part of SMU’s first game as a ranked team in 33 years. The No. 24 Mustangs (5-0, 1-0 American) are home against Tulsa on Saturday night.
“There’s been some rough seasons around here through the years. There’s also been some good ones,” second-year coach Sonny Dykes said. “Winning helps, but you’ve got to win consistently, and I think sometimes it may be a little slower process than people want it to be.”
The Mustangs moved into the AP poll this week for the first time since October 1986, which was just before crippling sanctions kept them from even fielding a team in 1987 and 1988. The NCAA’s so-called death penalty set the program back for decades.
In the 30 full seasons completed since resuming play, SMU had 23 losing records and finished .500 twice. Three of the five winning seasons came during a span of four consecutive bowl appearances (2009-12) in the middle of June Jones’ six-plus seasons as coach.
With a chance to get bowl eligible in Dykes’ first season, the Mustangs instead finished 5-7 after losing their finale 27-24 at Tulsa last November.
“It left a bad taste in everybody’s mouths,” Dykes said.
With a win over the Golden Hurricane (2-2, 0-0), SMU would be undefeated halfway through the regular season. The last time the Mustangs got to 6-0 was 1982, when they went on to an unbeaten season (11-0-1) with running backs Eric Dickerson and Craig James.
SMU’s roster has changed drastically since that last meeting with Tulsa. Dykes said there are 65 new players, including scholarship freshmen, walk-ons and transfers. Buechele and McBryde are among seven graduate transfers, four them starters, playing this season.
Buechele, who has another full season of eligibility in 2020, is the American Athletic Conference’s leading passer at 277 yards per game. His 10 touchdown passes include multiple TDs each of the last four games.
The Mustangs also have AAC rushing leader Xavier Jones (105 yards rushing per game) and two of the top receivers: James Proche (league-high 6.8 catches per game) and Reggie Roberson Jr. (league-high 102 yards receiving per game).
McBryde and safety Patrick Nelson, a second-year Mustang after transferring from Illinois, are tied for the team lead with 29 tackles. Nelson leads the Mustangs with 5½ sacks.
When the Mustangs last played at home as a ranked team on Oct. 18, 1986, they were No. 20 _ the AP poll then was only 20 teams _ in a 10-3 win over Houston. They moved up two spots the next week before a Southwest Conference loss at Texas knocked them out of the poll.
At that time, Dykes was a high school student in Lubbock, where his father Spike Dykes was still Texas Tech’s defensive coordinator only a few weeks before becoming the Red Raiders head coach for 13 seasons.
Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery, also a Texas native, understands the historical significance of SMU’s current success.
“When you think back to those early days at SMU, and the type of players they were having, the seasons they were having, it’s always been a very prominent school,” Montgomery said. “They’ve had some years that they’ve had to obviously try to work their way back after the death penalty, and I think they’ve obviously overcome that now.”
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)