BY: Richard W. Humphrey
Make no mistake about it, Saturday’s 58-6 shellacking of SMU’s football team was bad. Texas A&M is ranked sixth in the nation for a reason – they’re good! That’s the biggest reason for Saturday’s score, which isn’t indicative of how much better the Aggies are. After taking a 38-3 lead to the halftime dressing room, few A&M starters saw action for the balance of the day, and the Aggies won the second half handily by the score of 20-3 largely playing backups.
On the other hand, there were some good signs for the Ponies compared to the 43-6 embarrassment in Denton two weeks earlier. This Mustang team did not turn the ball over. The Mustang defense intercepted Heisman Trophy candidate Kenny Hill for the first time this season. Certainly, the players played hard and didn’t give up as the Aggie lead mounted.
Interim head coach Tom Mason said afterward, “I’m not sitting in this chair because we were a good football team the first two weeks. We weren’t good enough to beat that team (Texas A&M). I don’t know if I’ve been around an SMU team that could have beaten that team. But we played till the end, and that’s all I can ask of those kids.”
Garrett Krstich relieved starting quarterback Kolney Cassel early and contributed 170 yards of total offense. He rushed for 33 yards and threw for 137 as he completed 13 of 24 passes in just the second game he’s played in college. One of those passes was a 53 yard completion to Der’rkk Thompson, the longest play of the year for SMU’s offense. Krstich also led the Mustangs inside the opponents’ 20 yard line in the second quarter, as the Mustangs ran plays in the red zone for the first time this season. He was however, sacked five times.
Neal Burcham, the starter in game one is out for the season with injury. Second string quarterback Matt Davis, the transfer from Texas A&M, is nursing a sore shoulder, so Krstich is the fourth quarterback utilized this season by the Ponies.
“We’ve been lacking energy,” Krstich said after the game. “We need to bring the spark back to SMU, and my goal is to just bring energy to my teammates.”
Mason was non-committal about his quarterback situation for next week’s game against TCU. The Ponies host the Frogs this Saturday in an 11:00 AM start. The game will be televised on the CBS Sports Network. Monday afternoon, the point spreads at eight Las Vegas betting sites favored the Horned Frogs by 31-1/2 to 32-1/2 points.
In short, this has been a killer non-conference schedule for this young team. Mason did say though, “I still think we have some talent on this team, and that this football team can come around when we get into conference play.” Two of the first three Mustang opponents are undefeated and ranked in the top 10 in both major polls this week. There aren’t any more top 10 teams on this year’s schedule.
As for the coaching search for a permanent replacement for June Jones, names of potential candidates are beginning to surface. Houston Nutt, formerly the head coach at Arkansas and Ole Miss, is definitely interested. Offensive coordinators Chad Morris (Clemson) and Josh Huepel (Oklahoma) have been mentioned. Morris was born in Texas and still has Texas ties in the high school coaching ranks. Also, David Beaty, the wide receivers coach at Texas A&M, has been mentioned. Beaty is also the Aggies’ recruiting coordinator and is known as a very good recruiter.
The team on the field this fall won’t be very good, no matter what Mason does as interim head coach. This team is the residue of years of ;lackluster recruiting. With 11 players on the field at a time and three units – offense, defense and special teams, it takes a lot of player upgrades to get materially better. Mustang fans may be excited over the basketball fortunes turning around so quickly under Larry Brown, but it’s going to take some time to get football back competing to play in bowl games.
The main criteria for the next Mustang head coach is someone that can recruit better players. The administration also needs to look at the entrance criteria. The Mustangs have been losing good players to other private institutions like Baylor and TCU. The football fortunes are not going to change until the recruiting improves dramatically.
The really good news is that there are just seven more weeks from this Friday until the home basketball opener.