Liberty Flames at SMU Mustangs: The Big Three

Justin Lawler (#99) does a little bit of everything for the SMU Mustangs. Photo Courtesy: Matthew Lynch
Justin Lawler (#99) does a little bit of everything for the SMU Mustangs.
Photo Courtesy: Matthew Lynch
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By Zach Walker

I like the style of recapping the game the way that I started last season, so once again, the three most pivotal plays from the SMU Mustangs’ game.

A summary of the Liberty game
Well, as expected, the Mustangs played the game across from the FCS Liberty Flames, on Saturday night. They allowed themselves to get drawn into the fight with the lower division opponent, just as they have in seasons past. Unlike the games in seasons past, however, they didn’t find a way to lose the game. They tested their own fortitude and dug in and forced the game to eventually break their way. Braeden West had a top-five school rushing performance, racking up 224 yards and a pair of touchdowns scored from distance. Quarterback Ben Hicks struggled again in the redzone, throwing two more interceptions in the endzone, though I’ll admit, one SHOULD have been a flag for playing through the receiver, but no matter, the struggle to slow Hicks’ down in the redzone needs to come to an end. This defense though… I mean, gush about it. They had ten interceptions all of last year, nine through three games this season. They’re getting stops, tackling, and really muzzling the opponent’s rushing attack. They allowed 50% success for Liberty on third downs, but trust me, that’s not the set in stone truth of it.

#1: 1st and 10 from the SMU 34 yard line. The game through the half seemed to plagiarize itself from the FCS meetings of season’s past. ‘SMU messing around, letting these guys run with them’. The first, truly life inspiring play from the offense since Jeremiah Gaines’ catch for a first down in the first quarter. Braeden West took the handoff, and ran straight into the mess in front of him. He managed to shed a tackle, and stay upright and get Courtland Sutton to pace him for an escort with a block flourish on the way to a sixty-six yard touchdown. The extra point was a farce, but the score put the air back in the lungs at Ford Stadium.

#2: 4th and 5 from the Liberty 38 yard line. The game was tight and tense. SMU with a light lead of 19 to 14, but the game was dwindling down. The defense forced a three and out, with something like four minutes and change left in the fourth quarter. The punt was good, from where I was standing, the opposite direction of the kick, I knew it was inside the twenty. I swear, I never saw James Proche wave for a ‘Fair Catch’. He got hit, he fumbled, and Liberty recovered the ball. I thought that was the signature moment in these FCS games for SMU, the brain fart moment at last rears itself. But, he signaled for the fair catch. Liberty was flagged for catch interference, a play I’ve watched and chewed my lip bloodied in the press box for seasons as the Mustangs commit that most boneheaded mishap. But, it went the other way. The first down play, West busted off a forty-eight yard run into the redzone. Though they’d get only a field goal, they drank the clock almost dry.

#3: 2nd and 16 from the Liberty 19 yard line. Justin Lawler notched another sack on his season, on first down, and with the time dripping away Liberty would try another play. The bullpen quarterback Stephen Calvert looked to the air, when Jordan Wyatt stepped right in front of the pass and walked it nineteen yards for the coffin nail. Not a bad finish.