By BRETT MARTEL
AP Sports Writer
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Michael Pratt passed for three touchdowns and ran for three scores, and No. 21 Tulane capitalized on a slew of SMU mistakes to beat the Mustangs 59-24 on Thursday night.
Tyjae Spears carried 13 times for 121 yards — his fifth straight game eclipsing 100 yards rushing. He scored two touchdowns rushing and another receiving for Tulane (9-2, 6-1 American Athletic Conference), which beat SMU for the first time in eight meetings and can clinch a berth in the conference title game by winning its regular-season finale at Cincinnati.
SMU (6-5, 4-3) came in as one of the top offenses in the AAC, averaging 486.4 yards and a league-high 40.3 points per game. But the Mustangs were plagued by dropped passes and five turnovers as they dropped out of contention for a conference title game berth.
Tanner Mordecai was intercepted twice and lost a fumble when he was sacked by Darius Hodges. SMU fumbled five times in all, losing three.
The Mustangs’ first turnover came on a muffed punt by Roderick Daniels that Tulane long snapper Ethan Hudak recovered on the SMU 7. That set up Spears’ TD reception to make it 21-0 late in the first quarter.
A muffed punt by Tulane returner Jha’Quan Jackson deep in Green Wave territory looked like a potential momentum changer when SMU immediately converted that break into a 19-yard TD pass from Mordecai to RJ Maryland. But the Green Wave responded quickly with Michael Pratt’s 26-yard, tackle-slipping scoring run.
Tulane opened the second half by widening its lead to 35-7 on Pratt’s floating, 26-yard timing pass to Shae Wyatt, who made an over-the-shoulder catch and narrowly got his feet in bounds before falling out of the left side of the end zone.
One play after Tulane safety Lummie Young intercepted Mordecai, Pratt found Wyatt well behind the SMU defense for a 46-yard score that made it 49-7.
Wyatt finished with three catches for 104 yards.
SMU: The Mustangs’ error-filled performance belied their recent form. SMU entered the game having won four of five — with its lone loss in that stretch by just 2 points to No. 22 Cincinnati on Oct. 22 — to get back in the AAC race.
Tulane: After struggling a week earlier to stop UCF running QB John Rhys Plumlee, Tulane’s conference-leading defense returned to form against SMU’s pass-heavy attack. The Green Wave handed SMU its most lopsided loss of the season. Pratt became the fourth QB this season to have at least three TDs passing and rushing in one game. The others are LSU’s Jayden Daniels, Oregon’s Bo Nix and Plumlee. Tulane rushed for 310 yards.
SMU: Hosts Navy on Nov. 19.
Tulane: Visits Cincinnati on Nov. 25.
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