DALLAS -- Richard Crawford's punt return prowess jump-started SMU to its fifth straight win on a picture-perfect Saturday afternoon at Ford Stadium.
Crawford's two long returns in the first half accounted for the Mustangs' first two touchdowns in the dominating 38-17 victory over Central Florida. SMU was beaten by the Knights in the Conference USA championship game last season.
The game was played against a backdrop of more conference chatter, as both schools are expected to receive and accept invitations to the Big East in the next few days.
As for this season, the Mustangs (5-1, 3-0) sit alone in first place in the West Division of C-USA.
** The Mustangs got started early, scoring on their first possession. The 47-yard punt return by Crawford set up SMU on the UCF 19. Zach Line (82 yards rushing and two TDs) scampered around the right side from 11 yards out two plays later for a quick 7-0 lead.
** Crawford wasn't done. The senior topped his near-TD return with a 92-yard beauty he took to the house midway through the second quarter. Crawford caught the punt off a bounce, retreating inside the 10 before spinning towards the sideline. He broke a couple of arm tackles and followed a caravan of blockers into the end zone.
The return tied Val Joe Walker in 1951 for the longest in school history. It's also the second longest ever in C-USA.
** SMU's defense did a fantastic job for much of the first half getting the Knights off the field. UCF managed only four first downs on its first five possessions, punting three times and losing the ball once on downs.
** The Knights did get on the board with a 36-yard field goal with 4:05 left in the first half. SMU held on a third-and-2 at its 18 to force the kick.
** SMU took a 17-3 lead into the half despite have 40 fewer yards of total offense (184-144) and UCF having twice as much time of possession (20:01-9:59). Crawford's 141 yards in punt returns more than made up the difference.
** Mustangs quarterback J.J. McDermott improved to 5-0 as a starter with another strong showing. The senior transfer threw for career-high 358 yards and two touchdowns, completing 20-of-31 attempts.
** After the Knights scored their first touchdown early in the fourth quarter, SMU needed just one play to get it back. McDermott hit Der'rikk Thompson on the dead run with a perfectly-lofted pass that went for 78 yards.
** The announced 22,932 in attendance at Ford Field had to be a disappointment considering SMU's 4-1 record coming in, which had the Ponies receiving votes in both polls, and the fabulous weather. It was also SMU's first game since upsetting No. 20 TCU two weeks ago.