Tanner Mordecai threw three touchdown passes to push his nation-leading total to 29, ran for another score and No. 21 SMU dominated the first half in a 55-26 victory over Tulane on Thursday night.
The Mustangs (7-0, 3-0 American Athletic) are a victory away from their second 8-0 start in the past three seasons as they get ready to play three of the next four games on the road in a stretch that ends with a trip to No. 2 Cincinnati.
Mordecai had 300 of his career-high 427 yards at halftime, capped by a 22-yard toss to Reggie Roberson Jr. for a 31-7 lead 53 seconds before the break. The Oklahoma transfer's 3-yard scoring run on a bootleg off a fake pitch fooled the entire Tulane defense early.
"It's hard to keep winning, and I thought our guys played the best half of football that we've played all year the first half," SMU coach Sonny Dykes said. "I thought our guys played exceptionally well."
Second-year freshman Michael Pratt tied a career high with three touchdown passes to give him at least one in all 17 of his games, but the early deficit was too big in a fifth consecutive loss for the Green Wave (1-6, 0-3).
Pratt exited the game midway through the fourth quarter after getting hit while sliding at the end of a scramble. SMU linebacker Gary Wiley was penalized for a late hit after a targeting call was overturned. Freshman Kai Horton took over and later threw an interception.
"Second half, just didn't start out very well," Dykes said. "Sputtered a little bit on offense. Finally were able to kind of pull away. I know it's been a tough year for them."
Connecting you to your favorite North Texas sports teams as well as sports news around the globe.
With lead running back Ulysses Bentley IV limited again by an ankle injury, SMU's Tre Siggers had 81 yards rushing and two touchdowns, including a 1-yard score that was initially ruled short of the goal line but reversed on replay. Bentley had one early catch for 6 yards.
Danny Gray had eight catches for a career-high 140 yards, the biggest a 43-yarder on third-and-14 from the SMU 18-yard line with Tulane building momentum in the third quarter.
The Mustangs' seventh consecutive win over Tulane was the sixth under Green Wave coach Willie Fritz, but the previous five were by an average of just 4.2 points. Tulane wasn't that close after the 6:08 mark of the first quarter.
"Overall just poor execution on the defensive side of the ball," Tulane linebacker Nick Anderson said. "Many times we had them third-and-long and just didn't execute the right calls to get off the field."
Mordecai, who entered the game tied with Western Kentucky's Bailey Zappe for the national lead at 26 TD passes, was 30 of 42 without an interception as the Mustangs finished with a season-high 612 yards total offense, 400 before halftime.
Grant Calcaterra, another Oklahoma transfer who helped Mordecai decide to come to SMU, had seven receptions for 90 yards. Fellow tight end Tommy McIntyre had a 24-yard scoring catch.
Tulane: A spirited third quarter kept the game interesting. Kicker Ryan Wright came close to a touchdown pass on a fake field goal that could have pulled the Green Wave within 10 points. Tulane recovered an onside kick late in the third when trailing by 19, but Pratt was stopped short on a fourth-down scramble near midfield on the first play of the fourth quarter.
SMU: Don't sleep on the Mustangs' kickoff return game if this unbeaten run continues. Bryan Massey averaged 42 yards on three returns, including a 58-yarder. Murray's season average is at 52 yards on five returns, including a 95-yarder for a TD to help avoid an upset at Navy.
Tulane: Another game against a ranked opponent as No. 2 Cincinnati visits the Green Wave on Oct. 30.
SMU: The first of back-to-back road games in Houston on Oct. 30. The Mustangs have won three of the past four against their former Southwest Conference rival, including twice when Houston was ranked.