BY: Richard W. Humphrey
UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas – SMU’s football season reaches the halfway point this Friday night as the Mustangs travel to Tulsa for a game that will be a national telecast. (ESPN2 at 7:00 PM Central). The Mustangs lost last Saturday to Temple 45-20 falling to 2-3 on the season. The game started well for the Ponies. Temple accepted the opening kickoff. Jordan Wyatt intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown on the third play from scrimmage.
The 7-0 lead was the high point of the game for SMU. Temple came back to lead 21-7 at the end of the first quarter, and the outcome was essentially decided by halftime when the Owls led 35-14.
Candidly, this is where SMU was expected to be. Their two previous losses are to Big XII opponents Baylor and TCU, both of which were ranked in the Top 25 when the game was played. The University of North Texas and Liberty were games the Mustangs should have won and they did.
This week, Tulsa is surprisingly a 17 favorite on the betting line. Seems a shade high, but for sure the Ponies are a beat up team after five games. Starting quarterback Matt Davis was lost in the first game. SMU is seeking a medical red shirt for Davis that will allow him to play next year, which would be his sixth. Last week, the starting left guard and left center were both out to injury. The offensive line does not have the depth to sustain such losses. Running back Xavier Jones returned last Saturday after missing two games, but he rushed just four times. The other co-starter at running back Braedon West also was forced out of Saturday’s game after just four rushes.
The team has equaled last year’s win total. Hopefully there are one or two more wins somewhere on the schedule to improve this season. It’s a slow process, but the truth of the matter is, the talent cupboard was extremely bare when June Jones departed. It simply will take time to rebuild the program. There is confidence that Chad Morris is the right man to bring the program back. His 2016 recruiting class is already having an impact on the field. The verbal commitments for the 2017 recruiting class look even better. The only question is whether Morris will stay. He is already linked to other more prominent jobs.
MEN’S BASKETBALL: The Men’s basketball program isn’t showing signs of missing a beat even with Larry Brown’s departure as head coach. There are already three highly regarded high school recruits that have verbally committed to the Mustangs. They are point guard Elijah Landrum (6′-0″) from Tulsa; Ethan Chargois. a 6′-8″ post player that is also from Tulsa, and Everett Ray, a 6′-7″ forward from Trinity Christian Academy in Addison, Texas. All are ranked as at least three star prospects.
The schedule has been announced. The first game is November 11 at Moody Coliseum against Gardner-Webb. Eastern Michigan rolls into town two days later, and then the Mustangs are off to New York to play in the 2K Sports Classic in Madison Square Garden. They face Pittsburgh on Thursday, November 17, and either Marquette or Michigan on Friday, November 18. Other notable non-conference games are Southern Cal in Los Angeles on November 25, TCU at Moody Coliseum on December 2, and Stanford at Moody Coliseum on December 19.
As for conference play, there are 11 teams in the league for basketball and an 18 game conference schedule. SMU plays South Florida at home, Central Florida on the road, and home and home series against the other eight teams. Conference play starts on December 27 at Memphis. The first home conference game is on January 4 against Temple. Connecticut and Cincinnati are expected to be top teams in the conference, and they are scheduled to face the Mustangs in Dallas on January 19 (Connecticut) and on February 12 (Cincinnati). The conference regular season wraps up on Saturday, March 4 against Memphis. The conference tournament is again in Hartford Connecticut at the XL Center, formerly known as the Hartford Civic Center, beginning on March 9.
A number of SMU players participated in a European trip this past summer. Five Mustangs made such a trip last year, and the competition helped their play tremendously. This year, Shake Milton, Harry Froling, Semi Ojeleye, Jarray Foster and DeShawn McDowell played for travelling teams in Europe.
Last summer, three former Mustangs played in the NBA summer league. Nic Moore played for Miami’s team. Jordan Tolbert played for Atlanta’s, and Yanick Moreira played for Toronto. Moore and Tolbert have caught on the play professionally in Italy. Markus Kennedy is playing in Turkey.
WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: New Women’s head basketball coach Travis Mays was inducted into the Southwest Conference Hall of Fame on September 26. He was a guard at the University of Texas from 1986 through 1990 and won the award as the Conference Player of the Year in his final two seasons. He also earned All-American honors in 1990. He remains the second leading career scorer in University of Texas history.
The non-conference schedule features games at Kansas and Kansas State on November 16 and 19, and at home against Texas A&M (December 5). They will participate in the Omni Hotel Classic in Boulder, Colorado on November 25 and 26. In December, they also will be in the field at the Women of Troy Classic in Los Angeles.
The women’s team plays only 16 conference games. SMU will play home and home matchups with Cincinnati, Connecticut, Houston, Memphis, Tulsa and Central Florida for a total of 12 games. The other four will be home games against South Florida and Tulane, while the road games will be against East Carolina and Temple.
The Women’s post-season tournament will also be hosted by the University of Connecticut.
Coach Mays got a boost when two graduate transfers elected to join the Mustangs. Devri Owens and Kirhan Lakhian transferred from Utah and Stanford respectively. Both at guards.
RIO OLYMPICS: Nine Mustangs participated in the Rio Olympics including six swimmers, one track athlete, one martial artist and one coach. They represented six countries – the United States, Bermuda, Bulgaria, Canada, Columbia, Croatia and Sweden.