The 1950 season was one full of questions at its outset. Doak Walker, the greatest player in the history of the Southwest Conference, was gone. Coach Matty Bell had moved on to become full-time athletic director. But there were still high hopes for a team led by senior Kyle Rote. They were picked to finish second in the conference. Despite not being ranked at the end of 1949, the Associated Press ranked them No. 10 in their preseason poll. They proved that this ranking was justified with a come-from-behind victory at Ohio State in one of the 90 Greatest Moments in SMU Football History.
In their second game of the season, the Mustangs headed up to Columbus, Ohio to take on Ohio State. Ohio State had finished 1949 ranked 6th in the country and had most of their key players returning. The Buckeyes were picked by several sportswriters as the No. 1 team in the country, a ranking that they solidified by November. However, the AP poll ranked them No. 11 at the start of the 1950 season.
With 81,000 roaring Ohio State Buckeyes watching, SMU came out flat. First year head coach H.N. (Rusty) Russell had began the season using his son, Rusty Jr., at quarterback. But Rusty Jr. could not figure out the Ohio State defense. Eventually, the Mustangs fell behind 24-6. Coach Russell decided to make a change and sent in Fred Benners at quarterback hoping he could get the offense moving. Benners came in and did what he did best, he threw the football. His passing abilities were an inspiration. Before Benners had entered the game, the only Mustang points came off of a Ray Checkler 55-yard interception return for a touchdown. Benners drove the Mustangs 92 yards for their first offensive touchdown of the day by completing seven passes, capping it off with a strike to Jimmy Hawn in the end zone.
The Buckeyes responded by marching into field goal range on their next possession. Heisman Trophy winner Vic Janowicz's kick was true, and Ohio State led 27-13 with three minutes left in the third quarter. Because SMU had fallen so far behind, the Buckeye defense decided to take away Kyle Rote as an option, leaving Benners no choice but to continue to air it out.
Benners, like all great players, rose to the occasion. He went deep to Johnny Champion on SMU's next possession for a 65-yard scoring strike. Unfortunately, the extra point went wide and the Mustangs trailed 27-19. However, the Mustang defense finally came to life. Val Joe Walker forced and recovered a Buckeye fumble, giving SMU great field position. Benners did not waste any time going for the score. He found Rusty Russell, Jr. breaking free in the end zone, bringing SMU to within two at 27-25. Ohio State's defense thwarted SMU's point after attempt, thus holding on to the two point lead with only a couple of minutes remaining in the game.
The Mustang defense needed to make a stand if SMU was to have any chance of pulling out the victory. They were more than up to the challenge. They held the Buckeye's to negative yardage on the next three downs, forcing them to punt it back to the Mustangs for a shot at the win. Benners proceeded to move the team 66 yards to the winning score. Evading a fierce Buckeye pass rush, Benners hooked up with Ben White for the touchdown. SMU added the extra point and left Columbus victorious, 32-27.
The Mustangs racked up 410 passing on the day. Benners went 19 for 34 en route to 306 yards and four touchdowns. This was the first 300-yard passing day in school history. The headline in a Columbus newspaper proclaimed, "Bucks Become Has-Benners." SMU used the momentum from this come-from-behind win over the next couple of weeks. SMU eventually made it to 5-0 and were ranked No. 1 in the country. And when the star of the team, Kyle Rote, was not a factor, other players like Fred Benners picked up the slack. This game helped propel the Mustangs towards the No. 1 ranking in the land making it one of the 90 Greatest Moments in SMU Football History.