BY: Richard W. Humphrey
The SMU Mustangs played a great first half in Waco against the Baylor Bears on Saturday, but in the end, the number 23 ranked Bears prevailed with a fine second half. The game was tied at six at halftime, but Baylor outscored SMU 34-7 in the second half for the 40-13 win.
Baylor took charge shortly after halftime. They received the kickoff and drove 79 yards in 10 plays for the go ahead touchdown, the Bears’ first lead of the game. They scored two more TDs in the third quarter, the second on a interception of a Ben Hicks pass. That ran the score to 26-6 and essentially sealed the outcome.
SMU answered with a touchdown drive capped by a Courtland Sutton pass reception. It was Sutton’s fourth TD in two games. The All-American candidate caught six passes and led all receivers with 112 receiving yards. Freshman James Proche showed his promise by leading the Mustangs with seven receptions for 84 yards.
SMU started Ben Hicks, a redshirt freshman from Waco at quarterback. It was just his second game and first start in college, but he handled the assignment well to keep the Ponies competitive. SMU head coach Chad Morris had said earlier in the week that the starting quarterback would be a game time decision, but the rumor is that week one starter Matt Davis has a torn ACL, is out for the season, and SMU is looking into getting a medical red shirt for him.
In the first half, SMU drove into the “Red Zone” on their second and third drives, but settled for field goals both times to take a 6-0 lead. The Mustangs defense forced punts on Baylor’s first two possessions, but the third time was the charm for the Bears. They cut the lead in half with a field goal early in the second quarter.
The Mustangs picked off a Baylor pass and returned it to the 12 as they looked poised to extend their lead. However, SMU failed to turn the interception into points as they handed the ball back to Bears with an interception in the end zone. At that point, Baylor put together the best drive of the half. They drove the ball for more than five minutes and almost cashed in with a go ahead touchdown. Baylor was initially awarded a touchdown as the receiver fell into the end zone and fumbled. The video review proved that the fumble occurred prior to crossing the goal line. SMU recovered the fumble, so the touchdown was negated and SMU was in business at their own 20 with a touchback.
There were slightly more than two minutes remaining until halftime, so the SMU plan was to run the ball, hopefully running out the clock and taking a 6-3 lead to intermission. Good plan. Bad execution. SMU running back Ke’Mon Freeman fumbled on the first play, and Baylor was handed another scoring opportunity at the Mustangs’ 25. To their credit, the Pony defense was tough enough to keep the Bears out of the end zone. Baylor settled for the field goal that tied the game at six at halftime.
SMU particularly dominated the first quarter outrushing the Beats 144-39. The total offense numbers were 184-68. By halftime, those numbers were much closer, but SMU still led in both categories.
Coach Morris was very complimentary of the Baylor team. “First of all I want to take my hat off to Baylor and Coach Grobe. Those guys fought hard in the second half and made some plays when they had to.”
“I felt like our guys deserved to be in this moment. I’m extremely excited about the direction of where our football program is going. We’re definitely trending upward. I’m proud of our players and proud of the effort they give. Our guys came out and played hard and fought hard. We had opportunities to make plays. With a team like Baylor you can’t settle for field goals. You’ve got to have touchdowns. We cost ourselves with some picks. Actually, we had four turnovers. Anytime you have four turnovers, it’s hard to win anything with a pick six.”
“When you look out on the field and you see that a majority of those kids are freshman and sophomores, our future is bright. We’ve got to clean up a lot of things, but we will.”
Morris was also very pleased with quarterback Ben Hicks. “He’s a competitor. I’m proud of him, and he’s got a great future.”
He did lament, “I wish we had a few more plays made. We’ve got to keep fighting. I felt like we played the first half well enough to win. If we could have come out and matched the intensity and energy, yes (they could have won the game).”
“I thought defensively they played too many plays. They were on the field entirely too much. They were very prepared and I was very excited about the way they played and performed. We’ve got to be able to help them out. Three and outs don’t do us any good.”
The bottom line for Morris about his team, “I think we’re a better football team than we were last year.”
The Mustangs will have the opportunity to prove him right and tie last year’s win total this weekend in the home opener against Liberty.