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SMU Claims AAC Championship with 26-14 win over #17 Tulane

After fumbling on the first snap of his first career start, SMU QB Kevin Jennings received a simple message.

"That was not your fault," said SMU Head Coach Rhett Lashlee.

On the next play from scrimmage, Tulane punched in a quick touchdown and SMU faced a very steep looking 7-0 deficit.

On par with the fight the Mustangs have shown all season, SMU fought back and they fought back as a team, backing Jennings for all 60 minutes.

"Kevin Jennings is a stud. He balled out. But if winning a conference championship with a backup quarterback doesn't scream TEAM, I don't know what does," said Lashlee.

"Shoutout to Kevin man, he balled. Coming in as a redshirt freshman man, He was HIM, he made plays all night and he played through his team, said Isaiah Nwokobia, sophomore safety speaking to TDT Media's Mackenzie Alexander.

SMU ran for 193 yards on Saturday, enough to sustain three turnovers from Jennings. Thankfully, the SMU defense held Tulane to only 31 yards rushing and 1.2 yards per attempt on the ground, which made the Green Wave much easier to stop.

While the offense had their moments, the story of the day was the defense and AAC Championship Game MVP Isaiah Nwokobia.

SMU sacked Tulane QB Michael Pratt seven times, and they held Tulane to a single touchdown in the final 59 minutes of regulation on Saturday.

After a pick six in the final week of the season against Navy, Nwokobia announced his presence to the nation once again on Saturday night. Nwokobia was the second highest leading tackler for the Mustangs, had one tackle for a loss and an interception that sealed the game for SMU.

With the game on the line, and a red-shirt freshman quarterback to support, SMU announced their defensive stature on the national stage.

"It's hard in this day and age to have a true team, and they did it for 12 straight weeks. I am very thankful to the American Conference, and I am so glad we went out winning it," said Lashlee.

Not only did Nwokobia dominate the AAC Championship Game, but he was so good he won the MVP of the Game on Saturday. Even though he was the top rated safety in college football according to PFF, and he was the first defensive player to ever win AAC championship game MVP, but he wasn't voted for All-Conference 1st, 2nd or 3rd defensive team.

With the entire city of Dallas watching and waiting, SMU delivered. Next season, they will make their way to the ACC. In 2024, SMU will play Boston College, Cal, Flordiate State, Pitt, Duke, Louisville, Stanford and Virginia.

The ACC will be getting rid of their divisions and all 17 teams will play each other at least twice in seven years, with 68 annual conference games and 16 annually protected matchups.

Not only did SMU win a conference championship, but they did so on the national stage, on the road, with a back up quarterback. Coach Lashlee received a much deserved contract extension before the AAC Championship Game, and the Mustangs will follow their fearless leader into the ACC with the hope to continue to make noise in 2024.

"I thought about the thousands of SMU fans watching tonight, who have been waiting 40 years for this, and that's what really makes me happy," said Lashlee.

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