By Zach Walker
A win, is a win, is a win. It looked like a serious beat-down early. And when I say early, I mean 45 seconds into the game. Garrett Gilbert dropped back, made great use of a pump fake to create separation for Keenan Holman, and then connected for a 79-yard touchdown. It was a truly great play by Garrett Gilbert, and I just wished that he would show that kind of play of every play, because it showed his poise and his understanding of the game around him. Of course, the Mustangs had amazing receiving numbers, having Keenan Holman biting off most of his 126 yards on the previously mentioned 79-yard touchdown catch, Jeremy Johnson with another 100 yard game and had a 31-yard catch and run to set up a 1-yard Traylon Shead touchdown run.
Speaking of the running game, it looked very impressive, especially by this season’s standards. Traylon Shead, despite being straight stripped by Ryan Coleman, was extremely efficient, with 22 carries for 83 yards and a couple of 1-yard scores. Gilbert also showcased his wheels, with 9 carries for 49 yards including a sweet 24-yard scramble on 3rd and 6 to prolong an eventual scoring drive. And when Memphis’ defensive end Martin Ifedi wasn’t breathing down his shoulder pads, Gilbert was very mobile in the pocket. In the red zone, Gilbert got picked cleanly. It was an interesting play call, I think at least. A play-action in the red zone, is bold, and then was the choice of where to go with the ball, a half sort-of flare route by Darius Joseph. Then there was the throw itself, it was badly thrown behind Joseph, and it kind of just hung around in the air, ripe for the taking, and it was. I’d like to see Gilbert make use of that pump fake we all saw earlier in the game and then loft it into the back corner of the end zone.
Memphis’ linebackers Reggis Ball and Ryan Coleman were determined to get the Tigers back into the game by themselves. Ball had the red zone interception return for a touchdown, only to be called back 15 yards for unsportsman-like conduct, then later stripped JaBryce Taylor during a punt return and Ryan Coleman would scoop and score from 19 yards out. And Ryan Coleman ripped the ball from Traylon Shead, who had a good run going, and would return it 15 yards for the score. But despite these deeply impressive individual defensive efforts, the game, by that point was just that much further out of reach for the Tigers. And on a late fourth quarter drive, the game would effectively be ended. On a drive that was actually beginning to pick up steam, Paxton Lynch would drop back and Beau Barnes would play off of the cut-block and pick the ball off and with 2:19 left in the game and with Memphis down 34-23, it was over. I mean yes, the Tigers would get the ball back, and yes, they would score, but they failed to pull off the 11-point scoring play. The clock was against them, and to get the full 11, it takes impressive choreography by the whole team. I, of course, am being sarcastic, but the Tigers scored as time expired.
So how quality is this win? It’s curious that I should ask this question, because I absolutely hate this question. A win, is a win. This was SMU’s first conference win, and that’s huge. It was SMU’s first road win, which is huge. And one more thing that was quietly impressive about the win was that the penalties were massively decreased, only 3 for 30 yards, that’s great compared to where they are usually at.
Players of the Game: Offense: Keenan Holman; Defense: Beau Barnes; Special Teams: Chase Hover and Mike Loftus (because he got back to form)