Shane Buechele threw five touchdown passes, Xavier Jones broke one of Eric Dickerson’s school records and No. 23 SMU bounced back from a first loss that dramatically changed the course of its season, outscoring East Carolina 59-51 on Saturday.
The Mustangs (9-1, 5-1 American Athletic) played from ahead and kept it that way in a second straight game with more than 1,000 combined yards. SMU had fallen behind and failed to close the gap last week in a 54-48 loss to No. 19 Memphis.
Kylen Granson caught three touchdowns, including a 31-yarder on fourth-and-20 with SMU leading 45-44 midway through the fourth quarter. Granson had 138 yards on seven receptions, while James Proche finished with 14 catches for 167 yards.
On the ensuing kickoff, East Carolina’s Jsi Hatfield couldn’t pick up the loose ball around his 15-yard line and SMU recovered. That led to Proche’s second touchdown catch.
Proche, a senior, had broken 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 to 644 for the Pirates (3-7, 0-6).
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 the Pro Football Hall of Famer Dickerson had in 1981 — all on the ground.
SMU started 8-0 for the first time since Dickerson was leading the Pony Express in his final season in 1982. But the loss to Memphis left the Mustangs needing help to reach the AAC championship game even if they win their final two regular-season games.
East Carolina’s Tyler Snead caught 19 passes for 240 yards, both career highs. Snead’s previous best was six catches, and at one point he caught seven straight passes from Holton Ahlers. The Football Bowl Subdivision high for receptions in a game this season coming in was 16.
Ahlers threw for 498 yards a week after setting a school record with 535 yards when the Pirates lost to No. 17 Cincinnati 46-43 on a field goal on the final play.
East Carolina: When his first season is over, coach Mike Houston could easily point to this two-week stretch as the most significant progress for a program with a 4-26 conference record going back to 2016.
SMU: Defense is suddenly an issue for the Mustangs, who have allowed at least 500 yards four times in five games after posting mostly respectable numbers early in the season.
Both teams are off next weekend before playing their final road games Nov. 23. East Carolina goes to UConn, and SMU will be at No. 25 Navy.