HEARTBREAK IN ANNAPOLIS

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

The Navy Midshipmen kicked a field goal as time ran out Saturday to beat SMU 43-40.  SMU played their worst half of football in the first half to fall behind 34-11; but they stormed back into the game with three third quarter touchdowns to get within eight points at 40-32.  They finally tied the game with 3:32 left in regulation and appeared headed for overtime, before Navy drove 78 yards to the SMU one yard line to set up the game winning kick.

Both teams are 3-3 in conference play.  The third conference loss eliminates the Mustangs’ chances of winning the West Division and advancing the the Conference Championship game.  SMU fell to 6-4 for the season, while Navy gained bowl eligibility with their sixth win overall against three losses.

The Ponies simply could not stop Navy’s running game.  The Midshipmen tallied 559 yards of total offense, all of which was rushing yardage.  They threw just one pass which was intercepted.  Navy averaged 7.8 yards per carry.  With all the running plays, Navy dominated the time of possession 38:23 to 21:37.

Navy quarterback Malcolm Perry did the lion’s share of the damage.  He ran the ball 33 times for 286 net yards and scored four touchdownS.  Running back Anthony Gargiulo also set a career high of 145 rushing yards on 15 carries.

Navy scored two touchdowns in the first quarter and three more in the second.  SMU answered with one touchdown, after which the extra point was missed, one field goal, and a run back of a blocked extra point attempt by Navy that put two points on the board.  The Mustangs’ effort was lackluster at best, and Head Coach Chad Morris was reportedly furious with his team and let them know at halftime.

SMU took the second half kickoff and drove 77 yards in nine plays for a touchdown.  It took just six plays to drive 70 yards for a touchdown on their second possession of the quarter.  Navy answered with a 60 yard TD drive, but SMU finished off the quarter with another touchdown on their last possession of the quarter.  It was game on at 40-32 heading to the fourth quarter.

SMU finally tied the game with 3:32 left.  Courtland Sutton scored the touchdown on a 29 yard pass, and Trey Quinn caught the pass for the two-point conversion.

Offensively, the Mustangs rushed for 165 net yards with Xavier Jones leading the way with 106 yards.  Jones scored the Mustangs’ only rushing touchdown of the day.  Ben Hicks completed 16 of 29 passes (55%) for 361 yards.  Courtland Sutton led the receiving corps with seven catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns.  Trey Quinn and James Proche also caught touchdown passes.

The Mustangs’ schedule only gets tougher next week.  They travel to Memphis for an 11:00 AM (Central) kickoff against the Tigers, who are ranked 18th and 17th in the two major polls this week.  ESPN News will televise the game.

NOTABLE:

*     Sad to report the passing of Coach George McMillion last Tuesday from natural causes.  Coach Mac won seven individual championships and two Southwest Conference Swimming Championships (1953 & 1954) as a student-athlete at SMU.  He was Red Barr’s assistant swimmiing coach for 14 years and took over SMU’s program when Barr retired.  SMU swim teams finished in the top 10 in the nation in 14 of the 17 seasons he was head coach.  He was inducted into the Southwest Conference Hall of Fame in 2014.  SMU’s new natatorium is named in remembrance of him – the Barr-McMillion Natatorium.

*     Offensive Records:  Ben Hicks now ranks second in SMU history with 43 touchdown passes.  His 5,779 career pasing yards rank sixth, and 452 completions are fifth.  Courtland Sutton passed the 3,000 yard mark in receiving yardage with 3,010, which is third in SMU history.  He has at least one reception in 34 consecutive games.

*     The SMU Men’s basketball team opened the season 2-0 this weekend with wins over the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Louisiana – Monroe.  Junior Shake Milton scored 52 points and was named American Athletic Conference Player of the Week.  Freshman Ethan Chargois scored 38 points and grabbed 17 rebounds and was named AAC Rookie of the Week.

*.    The SMU Men’s soccer team beat Central Florida Sunday 2-1 in overtime to win the AAC post-season conference tournament and secure an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

*     The SMU Equestrian team is up to fourth in the nation with a perfect 5-0 record after winning the Crown Materson’s Farm Invitational Championship.

CLOSE; BUT NO CIGAR

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas – SMU had the opportunity to take a giant step forward with their football program Saturday night when they faced the ranked Central Florida Knights.  The Mustangs played a competitive game.  Both teams had opportunities and both teams made mistakes.  In the end though, UCF prevailed 31-24.

The Knights stay undefeated at 8-0 for the season and 5-0 in conference play.  They lead 4-1 South Florida in the East Division.  SMU dropped to 6-3 overall after suffering their first home loss of the year.  Their conference record is 3-2, and they trail first place Memphis in the West Division by 1-1/2 games (one in the loss column).

SMU struck first with a spectacular 86 yard touchdown pass to James Proche.  Proche is a very talented receiver that has been somewhat lost in the hype over Courtland Sutton and Trey Quinn.  On this night though, Proche had one of the best days in his career as he caught seven passes for 173 yards, his career high.  It was the second consecutive game in which he has gone over the 100 yard mark in receiving.

UCF came back late in the first quarter with a six play, 95 yard drive to tie the game.  The tie didn’t last long as Gabriel Davis caught an 80 yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter to put the Knights ahead 14-7.  Jordan Wyatt cashed in an interception for a touchdown at the 7:19 mark to tie the game.  However, UCF took a 21-14 lead to the halftime locker room by completing an 85 yard drive.

In the second half, SMU cut the lead to four points with a 16 play drive that disappointingly ended with a field goal instead of a touchdown.  The Knights answered quickly with a two play, 75 yard touchdown drive that took just 1:11 off the clock.  UCF led at that point 28-17, their largest lead of the game.  The Mustangs closed out the third quarter with an 11 play 93 yard touchdown drive that again cut the lead to four points at 28-24.

The Knights shut out the Mustangs in the fourth quarter and added a field goal for the final 31-24 score.

The Mustangs played a very good game.  Considering the quality of the competition, it may be their best game of the year.  The team knew what was on the line, and Head Coach Chad Morris told Dallas Morning News beat writer Adam Grosbard after the game, ‘There’s a locker room full of hurt kids right now.”

SMU quarterback Ben Hicks completed 27 of 51 passes (52.9%) for 283 yards and one touchdown.  The Mustangs rushed for 206 yards led by Xavier Jones with 84.  Braedon West chipped in with 55 more, and the duo was joined by Hicks, who also rushed for 55 yards, his career high.

Trey Quinn caught 11 more passes, but they accounted for just 47 yards.  He’s now averaging 10 catches per game, which leads the nation.  Courtland Sutton caught five balls for 46 yards as the Mustangs racked up 283 net passing yards on the night.

As for the standings, SMU needs to win their final three games to win the West.  The opponents are 3-3 Navy, 5-1 Memphis, both of which are road games, and 1-4 Tulane at home.  If they manage to win all three, they will win the West either in a two way tie with Memphis or a three way tie with Memphis and Houston.

In the East Division, Central Florida and South Florida face each other on Novermber 24 with the likelihood that the winner goes to the championship game.  Central Florida is ranked 14th and South Florida is ranked 22nd in this week’s AP poll.

SMU travels to Annapolis, Maryland this Saturday to play Navy.  Game time is 3:30 PM (Eastern)/2:30 PM (Central), and the game will be televised on the CBS Sports Network.  Navy is reeling as they have lost three straight games to fall to 5-3 for the season and 3-3 in conference play.  The Midshipmen were ranked in the Top 25 prior to the losing streak.

Navy presents tremendous problems for the Mustangs.  They rely almost entirely on the run, and the Mustangs have not defended the running game well.  Central Florida ran for 203 yards Saturday, the third consecutive game that SMU’s opponent rushed for more than 200 yards.  Quite frankly, the tackling has been poor.  Navy has been installed as a 4.5 point favorite.  This is the last home game of the season for Navy, and it is their ”Senior Night”.

NOTABLE:

*     The Mustangs allowed Central Florida to gain an average of nine yards on first down, but the Knights converted just four of 15 third down plays (26.7%) into first downs.  SMU drew just four penalties in the game, down from seven and 11 in the previous two games.

*     Despite the loss, the Dallas Morning News moved SMU up to fifth in their tanking of the 12 Division I (FBS) Texas teams.

*     SMU ranks fifth in the nation in turnover margin with a plus 12.

*     The SMU basketball teams open play this Friday at Moody Coliseum.  The Women’s team plays Nichols State at 11:30 AM, while the men face the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) at 7:00 PM.  The Men’s team won both its closed scrimmages 71-68 over Texas and 80-65 at Colorado.

*     The SMU Men’s Soccer team clinched the conference championship over the weekend with a 1-0 win over Connecticut.  They are ranked 12th in the nation and will host the conference tournament next week.

WINNING UGLY

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas – The SMU Mustangs played a poor game Friday night, but managed to pull out a 38-34 win over the Tulsa Golden Hurricane.  The Hurricane seemingly ran at will against the Ponies’ defense, hit some long passes, and led for most of the game.  Despite too many penalties, many senseless, and poor tackling; SMU came back for the win that made them bowl eligible for the first time since 2012.  The Mustangs are 6-2 on the season, and 3-1 in conference play with two-thirds of the season in the books.  Tulsa fell to 2-7 and 1-4.

Tulsa needed just 38 seconds to drive 42 yards for a touchdown in three plays on their first possession that gave then a 7-0 lead.  SMU answered with nine play drive to tie the game on a Tres Quinn touchdown pass..  The Hurricane answered with a second touchdown drive, going 77 yards in nine plays to end the first quarter with a 14-7 lead.

The Oklahomans struck first in the second quarter with another nine play touchdown drive that covered 76 yards.  That pushed their lead to 21-7.  The Mustangs then answered quickly.  Braedon West broke for a 75 yard touchdown run on the first play after the kickoff to cut the lead to 21-14.  It was the longest run in the last 15 years.  (Kris Briggs ran for 96 yards against Tulsa in 2002.)

The offensive game continued as both teams added a second touchdown in the quarter for 28-21 Tulsa lead at halftime.  Tulsa again put on a sustained 90 yard drive in eight plays, while SMU covered 94 yards in just three plays with Tres Quinn again scoring the touchdown on a 23 yard pass.

Mustang Head Football Coach Chad Morris told Dallas Morning News beat writer Adam Grosbard that the team was pushing too hard in the first half.  “They just wanted it so bad,” he said.

The second half was a more defensive game.  SMU stepped up to hold Tulsa to just a pair of third quarter field goals.  Ke’mon Freeman ran the last two yards to complete a 61 yard, seven play touchdown drive that brought the Mustangs to within six at 34-28 after three quarters.

With about 13-1/2 minutes left in the game, SMU scored a TD that coupled with the extra point gave the Mustangs their first lead of the game at 35-34.  Four minutes later, the Ponies added a field goal and held off the Hurricane over the rest of the game to finish with the win.

It was another big day for the SMU offense.  They racked up 581 total yards (366 passing and 228 rushing).  Ben Hicks completed 19 of 32 (59%) for 338 yards and two touchdowns.  Braedon West led the Mustangs’ rushing attack with 89 yards on just two carries.  Xavier Jones added 77.

James Proche joined Courtland Sutton and Tres Quinn on the receiving end of Hicks’ passes.  Sutton led with 136 receiving yards on six catches.  Quinn led with eight catches for 101 yards, and Proche was the third 100 yard receiver with 123 on four catches.

This game was extremely important to the Mustangs.  The schedule turns decidedly tougher from here.  All of the next three opponents have been ranked in the Top 25 at some point this season, and two are currently ranked.  Two of the next three games are also on the road.  While the schedule is difficult, the opportunity is great.

SMU is tied with Memphis in the loss columnin the race for the West Division title.  SMU is 3-1, while the Tigers are 4-1.  Navy and Houston are close behind at 3-2.  Ths week’s opponent – Central Florida – leads the East Division at 4-0 and is 7-0 overall.  They have the inside tract on the East Division title as they have beaten 4-1 South Florida, to hold the tie breaker.  (The East is strictly a two team race as the other four teams have losing records, both in conference and for the season.)

Saturday’s game time was set Monday at 6:15 PM (Central), and the game will be televised on ESPN2.  The Knights are ranked 14th and 15th this week in the two major polls, and are favored by 13.5 points on the early betting line.  They have the number one offense in college football.

“It’s going to be a great challenge for our team, and a gauge of our program,” Morris said on his weekly radio program on KAAM 570 AM Monday night.

The Ponies won’t be favored on the betting line in the next three games, but with their high powered offense, SMU could easily pull off an upset or two.  There’s for sure a lot of momentum with a 6-2 record.

NOTABLE:

*     SMU is 6-2 for the first time since 1984, and is 5-0 at home for the first time since 1982.

*     SMU is ninth in the nation in scoring and ninth in the nation in total offense.

*     The SMU Men’s basketball team played a “secret” scrimmage against the University of Texas at Austin.  ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla tweeted that the Mustangs won 71-68.  He noted that “underated Jarrey Foster” had 23 points, nine rebounds and four assists.

SURVIVAL IN CINCINNATI

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

SMU survived a huge threat from the Cincinnati Bearcats Saturday afternoon to pull off a 31-28 overtime win.  Cincinnati set new highs for rushing yardage and total offense this season to constantly keep the Mustangs on their heels.  In the end, two sparkling plays in overtime turned the tide for an SMU victory.

SMU goes to 5-2 for the season with the win, tying their win total for the 2016 season.  They are 2-1 in conference play and trail 3-1 Memphis by one-half game in the West Division, as Navy and Houston lost this weekend.  The loss dropped Cincinnati to 2-6 for the season and 0-4 in conference play.

“We knew that this was going to be an absolute battle,” Mustang Head Coach said on the KTCK (1310 AM and 96.7 FM) post-game interview.  “You knew this was a team that was much better than their record indicated.”

Both teams scored on their first two possessions with Cincinnati driving for 75 yards after receiving the opening kickoff.  SMU answered with a TD on their first possession and then held Cincinnati to a field goal on their second drive to trail by just three points at 10-7.  The Mustangs again drove for a touchdown on their second possession to take a 14-10 lead.

However, Cincinnati came back with another touchdown on their third possession to take the lead at 17-14.  From there, the Mustangs closed out the first half with a touchdown, while Cincinnati added a field goal to close the gap to 21-20 at intermission.

After halftime, scoring became more difficult.  Neither team scored in the third quarter.  The Mustangs seemingly dominated the period, as their time of possession was more than 11 minutes, which held Cincinnati to one possession.  On their first possession of the fourth quarter, SMU finally drove for a touchdown to put some breathing room in their lead.  Courtland Sutton caught his second touchdown pass of the game for the score, and  the Mustangs led 28-20 with about nine minutes left in the game.

It wasn’t enough though.  Cincinnati put together the game tying drive as quarterback Hayden Moore hit Devin Gray for a touchdown and did so again for the two-point conversion.  Neither team threatened in the remaining 2:22 sending the game to overtime tied at 28 apiece.

Cincy won the toss and elected to play defense.  The start of overtime could not have gone worse for SMU as a fumble and sack moved them out of field goal range to the 41.  The Mustangs had no choice with fourth and 26 but to make a Hail Mary type pass for a first down.

Quarterback Ben Hicks was chased from the pocket and barely got a pass in the air as he neared the sideline.  Somehow, a well covered Trey Quinn made a miraculous catch at the 13 to make the first down by two yards.  It is the most remarkable play of the year, and ultimately may prove to be one of the all time great plays in SMU football history.

The Mustangs again stalled, but hit the field goal for the 31-28 lead.

Big play number two in overtime came from the defense.  The Bearcats faced third and four after starting on their own 25.  SMU loaded the defensive line and put pressure on quarterback Hayden Moore, who tried to flip a short pass before falling to the ground.  SMU defensive back Kyran Mitchell snatched it out of the air for an interception that ended the game.

It was another big day for reciver Trey Quinn.  He caught 17 more passes for 186 yards.  It was Quinn’s third straight game with at least 15 catches.  No one in the FBS has done that this century.  Quinn now leads the nation with 71 catches.  On Monday, he was named Offensive Player of the Week for the American Athletic Conference.

Courtland Sutton hauled in six passes for 81 yards and two touchdowns.

Ben Hicks had another sterling performance completing 26  of 37 passes (70.3%). for 295 yards two touchdowns.

The three pronged running attack also enjoyed a big day.  Xavier Jones led the way with 80 yards on 15 carries.  Braedon West chipped in with 47 yards on 11 carries, and Ke’mon Freeman also ran for 47 yards on 15 carries.

It was a sloppy game for the Mustangs.  The defense didn’t look good in the first half, and there were too many penalties.  In the end though, a win is a win is a win.  This win is a sign of the progress the program is making.  The Mustangs likely would not have won this game last year.

SMU is now just one win away from bowl eligibility.  It could happen this Friday night when the Mustangs return to Ford Stadium for an 8:00 PM (Central) kickoff against Tulane.  Eric Dickerson will be the honorary SMU captain for the game, which will be televised on ESPN2.  Tulsa comes into the game with a 2-6 record for the season, which includes 1-3 in conference play.  SMU is favored by 10 points on the early betting line.  SMU holds a 13-10 edge all time against Tulsa.  The Golden Hurricane beat SMU last year in Tulsa 43-40 in overtime.

NOTABLE:

*     SMU’s scoring average is 42 points per game, which ranks seventh in the nation,

*     Courtland Sutton is tied for second nationally with nine touchdown receptions.

*     The SMU Equestrian team beat Oklahoma State this past weekend.  The Cowboys were ranked fourth in the nation.

POLLS AND PONIES

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas - Last week was an unusual week in the polls in that no teams in the AP Top 25 faced each other.  That seems highly improbable at this time of the season with most teams enmeshed in conference play, and with the polls dominated by power five conference members.  Despite no head-to-head matchups among the top teams, seven of the Top 25 lost this weekend, including four in the Top 10.

The results in the American Athletic Conference, especially in the West Division, were highly improbable.  The AAC had three teams ranked last week.  The two Florida teams – Central and South, are the top two teams in the East Division.  Both won and are ranked 20th & 20th and 16th & 13th this week in the AP and Coaches’ Polls respectively.  They will fight it out for the East Division championship.

In the West Division, number 22 Navy lost to Memphis and dropped out of the Top 25.  Memphis at 5-1 overall and 2-1 in conference play is ranked 25th in the AP and received the second most votes among teams not ranked in the Coaches’ Poll.

Houston was thought to be a front runner in the West, but they also lost this weekend to Tulsa, 45-17.  The result, as well as the margin of Tulsa’s victory are equally shocking as the Golden Hurricane came in with a 1-5 record including 0-2 in conference play.

The bottom line for the Mustangs is that with both Navy and Houston getting tagged with losses this week, SMU is tied with Navy, Memphis and Houston with one conference loss.  If the Mustangs run the table over the second half of the season, they can do no worse than finish in a tie with Houston for the top spot in the West.

Certainly the Mustangs were disappointed last week when they lost to Houston.  Houston probably has more talent, but the Ponies had opportunities and didn’t capitalize.  A win over the Cougars would have thrust the Mustangs into the conversation as being one of the top teams in the West.  However, with this week’s results, the Mustangs again have the opportunity to get into the race for the conference championship game.

The Mustangs’ schedule is decidedly tougher over the second half of the season.  They face Memphis and Navy on the road.  Central Florida should still be ranked when they come to Dallas on November 4 for the SMU’s Homecoming.  The Ponies will likely be the underdog on the betting line on those three games.  However, they are favored by 8.5 points this weekend over Cincinnati on the road, and will likely be favored in the Tulsa and Tulane games scheduled for Ford Stadium.

Winning just the three games in which the Mustangs will be favored will produce a 7-5 season, two games better than last year and good enough to qualify for a bowl game.

There isn’t much margin for error for winning the West, but with the parity in the conference, a conference record of 6-2 might even be good enough to make the championship game.

This Saturday’s game against Cincinnati is scheduled for 4:00 Eastern/3:00 Central and will be televised on ESPNU.

MEN’S BASKETBALL:  The American Athletic Conference basketball media day was held Monday in Philadelphia.  The pre-season Player of the Year was announced - Shake Milton.  If he fulfills the prophecy and is the actual Player of the Year at season’s end, it will mark the fourth consecutive year that a Mustang has garnered the award.  Semi Ojeleye was the conference Player of the Year in 2015-16, while Nic Moore won the award in both 2013-14 and 2014-15.

Milton was in Philadelphia and said about the experience of playing for SMU at Moody Coliseum, “It’s phenomenal really.  The fans, they get so hyped for us.  And we just appreciate it.  The whole city of Dallas surrounds us and gives us support.  We’re thankful every time we step on the court.  We know we’re playing in front of a packed house.”

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced the Cousy Award watch list on Monday.   The award is given to the outstanding point guard in Division I.  Shake Milton is one of 20 players on the initial watch list.  Two other guards from the American Athletic Conference are included - Connecitcut’s Jalen Adams and Wichita State’s Landry Shamet.  The list gets pared down to 10 in February.  In March, five finalists will be presented to the selection committee, and the award will be presented at ESPN’s College Basketball Awards Show in Los Angeles on Friday, April 6.

Cincinnati was selected in a close vote over new comer Wichita State to win the conference.  The Bearcats garnered seven votes to five for Wichita State.  Central Florida was picked third and SMU was picked fourth.  They were followed by Connecticut, Houston, Temple, Tulsa, Memphis, Tulane, East Carolina and South Florida.

NOTABLE:

*     Receiver Trey Quinn has joined Courtland Sutton on the watch list for the Biletnikoff Award, given to the outstanding receiver in college football.  Quinn has caught a team leading 54 passes for 587 yards and five touchdowns in the first six games.

*     Quarterback Ben Hicks has been added to the watch list for the Manning Award, given to the nation’s top quarterback.  Hicks has completed 130 passes out of 222 attempts, good for 1,672 yards and 15 touchdowns.

*     The SMU Equestrian team has risen to number five in the nation.  They beat Baylor last Saturday to stay undefeated, and they play Oklahoma State this Saturday at the Dallas Equestrian Center.

DISAPPOINTMENT IN HOUSTON

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

Last Saturday, the Mustang football team had a wonderful opportunity to show the football world that the program has taken a giant step forward.  They faced the Houston Cougars on the road, a team that has been knocking on the Top 25 door.  A win would put the Ponies squarely in the race for AAC West Division championship.  It didn’t happen.

The gold plated SMU offense showed up and put up gaudy numbers in almost every category.  The one exception was the one that counts the most – points on the board.

The offense gained 544 total yards (147 rushing and 397 passing), the most UH has allowed in a game this year.  Xavier Jones led the Mustangs with 100 rushing yards.  The total yardage was good enough for 30 first downs.  Ben Hicks was 41-58 (70.7%).  The attempts and completions are both career highs.

Once again, two SMU receivers gained more than 100 yards.  Trey Quinn fell one reception shy of the SMU record with 17 for 156 yards.  Courtland Sutton caught 11 for 160 yards.

All the gaudy numbers didn’t translate into points.  Twice, SMU drove the ball inside the Houston 10 yard line only to see both drives end on an interception.  A relative chip shot field goal attempt was missed to end another drive, and an extra point was missed.  It added up to 22 points for SMU, the fewest scored in a game this season.  Houston torched the SMU defense for 35 points for the win.

The Cougars’ offense was almost as prolific as SMU’s.  They gained 463 yards including a whopping 265 on the ground.  They rushed 40 times for 6.6 yards per carry average.  Duke Catalon ran for a career best 177 yards on 22 carries. He scored a pair of touchdowns, including one that came on a 52 yard run.

The Mustangs led at the end of the first quarter 9-7 on a touchdown and field goal.  They extended the lead to 12-6 with another field goal in the second quarter, but the tide turned at that point.  Houston closed out the half with a pair of TDs to take the lead for good at 21-12.  SMU scored a TD in the first four plus minutes after halftime to close the gap to two points at 21-19.  However, that was as close as the Mustangs got.  Houston tallied a TD in both the third and fourth quarters, while SMU added just a field goal.

SMU fell to 4-2 for the season with a 1-1 record in conference play.  Houston improved to 4-1 and 2-0.

The Mustangs are off this week.  It’s a week the team needs off as injuries have piled up.  SMU is on the road again on October 21.  They play Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium wih a 4:00 PM Eastern/3:00 PM Central kickoff.  The game will be televised on ESPNU.  The Bearcats have a 2-4 record (0-2 in conference play) and will face the South Florida Bulls this weekend in Tampa.

NOTABLE:

*     Senior defensive end, Justin Lawler is one of 30 honorees selected as finalists for the 2017 Senior Class Award.  The thirty honorees are all seniors and they were selected on the basis of four areas of excellence:  community, classroom, character and competition.  Prior to Saturday’s game against Houston, Lawler had played in 41 games for SMU.  He has been involved in 182 tackles, 32 of which resulted in a loss for SMU’s opponent.  He was first team All-Conference in 2016.

*     SMU failed to score in the fourth quarter, the first quarter this year that the Mustangs have been shutout.

*     The SMU Equestrian team cracked the top 25 last week.  They were ranked sixth in the nation after beating TCU.

ON TO OCTOBER

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas – The high flying SMU offense came into Saturday’s game averaging 48 points per game and again plastered the scoreboard near their average.  They dispensed with the Connecticut Huskies 49-28 Saturday afternoon to win their first conference game and run their season record to 4-1.

On paper, this game looked like a walk in the park for SMU.  They were 17 point favorites and beat the spread, but in no way was this game a walk in the park.  The Mustangs came out lacking energy.  They somewhat methodically took a 21-10 lead to the halftime locker room.  Each team put together three scoring type drives.  The Huskies scored just one touchdown as the Mustangs’ defense held Connecticut to a field goal on one possession and blocked a field goal attempt on another.   The Ponies offense scored TDs on all three of theirs to account for the 11 point halftime differential.

SMU received the second half kickoff and the next 15:09 could not have gone much worse for the Mustangs.  D. J. Gillens opened at quarterback and took an eight yard sack as SMU went three and out on their first possession while losing yardage.  A short punt set the Huskies up in business in SMU territory.  UCONN promptly moved in for a touchdown on a nine play, 48 yard drive to close the gap to 21-17.  Connecticut then closed the gap further to a single point with a 33 yard field goal.  The Mustangs looked to take charge of the game again, when they drove 73 yards for a touchdown to finish the quarter.

However, the Huskies came right back with a 59 yard touchdown pass on the opening play of the fourth quarter.  The two point conversion was successful, tying the game at 28 with 14:51 remaining.

It was one of those moments that distinguish good teams from bad.  The Mustangs suddenly came alive on both sides of the ball.  The offense clicked for an 87 yard touchdown drive after they received the kickoff.  Mason Gentry was a force on defense and his eight yard sack on the Connecticut’s next possession forced a punt which Ryan Becker blocked.

The Mustangs took advantage of the short field for another score with Ke’Mon Freeman carrying the load and powering in for the three yard touchdown on a drive that took just 1:03.  Braedon West ran for a 25 yard touchdown with 4:24 left in the game to seal the deal.

SMU fell just short of the 500 yard mark in total offense.  They garnered 498.  The three pronged rushing attack of West, Freeman and Xavier Jones combined for 212 yards on 29 carries.  Each recorded a rushing touchdown.  SMU ran for 249 yards total.

Trey Quinn and Courtland Sutton had big receiving days.  Quinn caught 15 balls for 116 yards.  11 of the catches came in the first half to set a new SMU record for catches in a half.  Sutton also cracked the 100 yard mark, rolling up 113 yards on seven catches.  It was the first SMU game in four years in which two receivers garnered 100 yards.  Quinn and Sutton each scored two touchdowns.

Ben Hicks took the lion’s share of quarterback snaps and completed 27 of 37 passes, four of which went for touchdowns.  He has a streak of eight consecutive games of throwing multiple touchdown passes, the second longest current streak in FBS trailing Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield.

Defensively, Justin Lawler recorded four sacks, which tied the SMU record.  On Monday, he was named the American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Week.  Gentry had two sacks as the Mustangs came up with eight sacks total for losses of 42 yards.

The schedule gets decidedly tougher for the Mustangs at this point.  There are four road games remaining beginning next Saturday against the University of Houston.  Three early Las Vegas betting lines have the Cougars favored by 5.5 points.  Game time is 7:00 Eastern (6:00 Central) and the game will be televised on the CBS Sports Network.

NOTABLE:

*     SMU is the only FBS team to score at least 36 points in every game so far this season.

*     Peruna was ill and was not able to run the field after touchdowns Saturday.  The pony was in the stadium early, but left prior to halftime.  “I had a belly ache today and I had to go home early,” Peruna tweeted.  “Tried to stay as long as I could but I knew @SMUFootball would be ok w/o me.”

*     The Mustangs moved up from sixth to fifth place in the Dallas Morning News’ poll of the top FBS teams in Texas.  TCU, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, and Texas are the four teams in front of SMU.

*     Senior center Evan Brown was named a semifinalist for the 2017 William V. Campbell Trophy.  The award is presented annually to the best football scholar-athlete in the nation.  Brown, who played in high school at Southlake Carroll, is also on the Rimington Trophy watch list.  The Rimington Trophy is awarded annually to the nations top center.  Brown, who is majoring in finance, has started 39 games on the Hilltop.  He is also on the Outland Trophy pre-season watch list.

BACK IN THE WIN COLUMN

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas – The SMU football team completed non-conference play Saturday evening with a 44-21 win over the Arkansas State Red Wolves, formerly known as the Redskins.  The Mustangs now have a 3-1 record for the season and open conference play next Saturday against Connecticut, which has a 1-2 record for the season and an 0-1 record in conference play.

Arkansas State scored first Saturday, and again led 14-10 before the Mustangs scored 27 unanswered points to take charge of the game.  It was the best rushing performance of the year for SMU.  They gained 314 rushing yards on 54 attempts, an average of 5.8 yards per carry.  Largely because of the strong running game, the Mustangs averaged 7.8 yards on first down in the game.

Xavier Jones became the first Mustang to gain 100 yards this season as he ran for 146 yards on 19 carries.  Ke’Mon Freeman just missed being the second Mustang to reach 100 in a game.  He had 92 net yards on 15 carries.  Braedon West gained 70 yards on 13 carries.

On the receiving end, Arkansas State put their defensive focus on Courtland Sutton.  He caught just two passes for 32 yards.  However, the focus on Sutton left others open.  James Proche had his best game of the season catching three balls for 131 yards.  Included were touchdown catches of 55 and 49 yards.  Trey Quinn led the Ponies with five receptions for 50 yards.

Quarterback Ben Hicks completed 16 of 32 passes for 266 yards.  The Mustangs tallied a season high of 580 yards of total offense.

Sutton however had his first two rushing attempts in his college career.  He twice lined up to receive the snap in the shotgun formation, and on the first, he scampered for a two yard touchdown.

Head Coach Chad Morris told the Dallas Morning News’ Adam Grosbard, “I thought this was the most critical week since I’ve been here.”  Morris noted that last year the loss to TCU threw the Mustangs into a tailspin they couldn’t get out of.  Putting that loss behind them and playing well against Arkansas State was critical for this season.

A big play of the game was Jordan Wyatt making a diving tackle that forced a fumble as a Red Wolf was about to score.  The Ponies recovered the fumble in the end zone to end the threat when a touchdown would have given Arkansas State a 21-17 lead.

Morris said bout that play, “Defensively we got two turnovers, none bigger than the play of year, if not the play of the 33 months that I’ve been here.”

The Mustangs’ lone loss to TCU looks even better this week after the Horned Frogs dominated Oklahoma State in Stillwater.  TCU climbed to ninth and 11th in the AP and Coaches’ polls this week.  The most points they have allowed in a game is the 36 that the Mustangs put on the scoreboard.

SMU’s game against Connecticut this Saturday will start at 3:00 PM (Central).  It will be televised on ESPN News. A survey of four Las Vegas betting lines have the Mustangs favored by 18-1/2, 19 and 19-1/2 points.

NOTABLE:

*     SMU is 3-0 at home for the first time since 2011, when they won their first four home games.  They are also 3-1 for the season for the first time since 2011, when they opened at 5-1.

*     James Proche’s game was the third for a receiver to tally 100 yards this year.  Courtland Sutton and Trey Quinn are the other two.

*     The Dallas Morning News ranks the Texas division I college teams each week, and SMU is up to fifth this week.  TCU is first, followed by Texas Tech, Texas A&M and Texas.  Houston is sixth,

*     In case you were wondering, the Mustangs came out from the locker room for the game’s start AFTER the National Anthem had been played.

UPSET BID FALLS SHORT

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

FT. WORTH, Texas – SMU’s bid to upset a ranked team fell short Saturday as TCU won the battle for the iron skillet 56-36.  The Mustangs struck first with a 58 yard touchdown pass, and led for most of the first half.  The game turned when the Frogs hit a 38 yard “Hail Mary” pass on the last play of the first half.  The Frogs took a 28-22 lead to the halftime locker room and never trailed again.

Both teams scored touchdowns on their opening possession of the second half to bring the score to 35-29, but that was as close as the Mustangs would get after intermission.  The Horned Frogs dominated for the balance of the game.

SMU Head Coach Chad Morris has said there are no moral victories.  However, this game was one of them.  SMU scored 36 points against one of the best defenses in the country, a defense that had given up just one touchdown on the season prior to Saturday’s game.  TCU has consistently ranked higher than SMU in the recruiting class rankings.  The Mustangs had their chances to win last Saturday, but TCU with better players and more of them prevailed at the end.

TCU’s game plan was to shut down SMU’s All-American wide receiver candidate – Courtland Sutton.  It worked as Sutton caught just one pass.  However, that left Trey Quinn open for a big day.  The LSU transfer caught seven passes for 116 yards and a touchdown.  He also completed a 34 yard pass.

SMU quarterback Ben Hicks had a big day completing 17 of 37 for 305 yards and two touchdowns.  He went the whole way, as backup signal caller D. J. Gillens was not available to play – out with a toe inury.  The Mustangs rolled up 463 yards of offense.  On the defensive side of the ball, the Mustangs grabbed three turnovers, but the offense was able to convert them into just six points.  With TCU’s big second half, the Frogs struck for 613 yards of total offense.

TCU improved to 3-0 on the season with the win.  They moved up to number 16 (AP) and 15 (Coaches’) in the two major polls this week.  They will be tested strongly next week as they travel to Stillwater to face number 6 (AP) and 7 (Coaches’) Oklahoma State.  Oklahoma State is an 11-1/2 point favorite.

The Mustangs’ record is 2-1, and they return home for a critical game against Arkansas State this Saturday night.  The Red Wolves are 1-1, having lost their opener to Nebraska, and they beat Arkansas-Pine Bluff.  They were also originally scheduled to play the Miami Hurricaes, but that game was cancelled due to Hurricane Irma.   Saturday’s game time is 6:00 PM (Central).  It will be streamed on ESPN3, and broadcast in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area on KTCK, the Ticket, 96.7 FM and AM 1310.  The Mustangs are favored by 4-1/2 to five points.

MEN’S BASKETBALL:  The Men’s basketball schedule was announced this week.  The home schedule includes non-conference games in November against UMBC (10th), Louisiana-Monroe (12th), Arkansas-Pine Bluff (18th) and UTRGV (28th).  The December non-conference home games are against Southern Cal (2nd), New Orleans (13th), Boise State (18th), and Cal Poly (19th).

Conference play begins at home with games against Central Florida on December 27 and South Florida on the 31st.  The three January home conference games are Temple (10th), Tulane (20th) and East Carolina (28th).  In February, Cincinnati comes to Moody Coliseum on the 11th, Memphis on the 14th, Wichita State on the 24th, and home schedule concludes on Februaty 28 against Houston.

MEN’S SOCCER:  THe Mustangs posted a pair of shutouts last week beating Loyola of Maryland 4-0 and Brown 1-0.  That puts the Mustangs at 6-1 for the season.  Jordan Cano was named as the Conference Defensive Player of the week, while Garrett McLaughlin and Michael Nelson were named to the weekly honor roll.

The Ponies next game is this Sunday at home against Tulsa, which is ranked 20th in the nation.  Sunday’s game marks the opening of conference play.

NOTABLE:

*     Justin Lawler was named as the American Athletic Conference defensive player of the week after the Stephen F. Austin game, and Courtland Sutton was named as the confernce offensive player of the week after the University of North Texas game, in which he set the conference record by catching four touchdown passes in a game.

*     After Sunday’s game between  Dallas and Denver, former SMU receivers Cole Beasley (Cowboys) and Emmanuel Sanders (Broncos) exchanged jerseys.

OFF AND RUNNING

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas – The 2017 Mustangs’ football team is off and running with a 58-14 win over FCS Stephen F. Austin.  The Mustangs took the opening kickoff and drove for a touchdown.  Appropriately enough, the touchdown came on a pass to pre-season All-American Courtland Sutton.  Linebacker Jordan Wyatt contributed two touchdowns on an interception and a fumble recovery.  Backup quarterback D. J. Gillens scored two touchdowns, while Rafe Peavy, the third quarterback contender also threw a TD pass.

Incumbent quarterback Ben Hicks was named the starter just before game time.  He completed nine of 19 passes for 112 yards.  The Lumberjacks defense played the pass, and the Mustangs responded by rushing the ball more often.  However, Hicks’s passes were not sharp.  Peavy played late in the game facing SFA’s non-starters on defense.  He was three for three for 110 yards.  Gillens did not complete the only pass he threw, but ran the ball six times for 34 yards and two touchdowns.  The offense looked more like a Wildcat offense with Gillens in the game.

The bottom line on the quarterback situation is that Hicks is still the starter for now, but all three are still in the running.  “Ben’s our starter,” Head Coach Chad Morris told the Dallas Morning News’ Adam Grossbard, but Morris cautioned ”He didn’t sign a lifetime contract.”

Fans may scoff at the competition, but the score is really an indication of the progress of the program.  Two seasons ago in Morris’s first year as head coach, the Mustangs lost to FCS James Madison.  Last year, they scrambled to beat an FCS opponent – Liberty.  This year, there was never any doubt as to the outcome of the game after 10 minutes of playing time had elapsed.  And before any fans scoff at the opponent, they need to look no farther than 100 miles south on I-35 to Waco, where Big XII Baylor did lose to an FCS team.

As for the running game, Braeden West was the Mustangs’ leading ball carrier, running six times for 86 yards.  Ke’mon Freeman was next with 14 rushes for 63 yards.  Xavier Jones went 10 for 39.

The Mustangs scored 21 in the first quarter, extended the lead to 38-7 at halftime, and cruised to the tune of 20-7 in the second half.

The Ponies tee it up again at home next Saturday, again at 6:00 PM (Central) against the University of North Texas.  The game will be televised on ESPN News.  The Mean Green won their opener 59-14 over Lamar.

NOTABLE:

*     SMU football recruit in the 2018 recruiting class Leonard Parks from Texarkana died in his sleep Saturday.  A cause of death was not immediately indicated.

*     SMU basketball transfer Akoy Agau, who is immediately eligible to play as a fifth year senior petitioned te NCAA for an additional year of eligibility and received it.  He thus will be with the Mustangs for two seasons, not one.