By Zach Walker
SMU Mustangs vs South Florida Bulls
Saturday – September 28 – 3:00 p.m.
Raymond James Stadium – Tampa FL
Records before the game
SMU Mustangs: 4-0; 0-0 in AAC (Last Week: W at TCU 41-38)
South Florida Bulls: 1-2; 0-0 in AAC (Last Week: W vs South Carolina State 55-16)
Who’s got the advantage?
When SMU has the ball: Well, how about THAT!?! That was a fantastic football game to watch. SMU did exactly what they needed to do, and came out swinging, scoring 18 points in the first quarter, and 31 in the first half. TCU came alive in the second half and never let the Mustangs get comfortable. And when that ball shot past Shane Buechele’s knees if the closing minutes of the game, I saw the old Mustangs’ flash on-screen, a team having played good enough for 57 minutes to win a game they “shouldn’t” win, then they cough it up. It spiced up in the end, but the Mustangs’ fortitude held and they beat TCU for the first time in eight years. Shane Buechele looked strong, he looked like the leader that this team needs him to be. His numbers reflect the fierce game they played, just above 65 completion percentage, a first down away from 300 yards passing, two passing scores and an interception. The ground game wasn’t able to run all over, but the coaching stuck to it and the running was really effective. Xavier Jones led the way, with the usual help coming in form of Ke’Mon Freeman, Shane Buechele, and the new addition of TJ McDaniel. The trio of receivers for SMU are just outstanding, Reggie Roberson with his lightning speed, James Proche and his Velcro hands, and Kylen Granson and his uncanny ability to find empty spaces in opposing defenses.
Things haven’t been going well for Charlie Strong in Tampa. They got absolutely blown out in the opener against Wisconsin, but came back and played a strong game at Georgia Tech, and if not for a fumble AT THE GOAL LINE, it’d be a totally different outlook for Charlie Strong. I’ve seen articles about coaches that’ll likely not be coaching at their schools after this season, and Strong was on there. I don’t agree with that (funny enough, Jim Harbaugh wasn’t on that list, so it’s an invalid list). Charlie Strong continues this season’s streak of having a unique tie to something about SMU, their coaches, or their players. Strong recruited Shane Buechele to Texas, and played him as a starter during his freshman. It’s going to be nice for Buechele to be able to showcase how far along he is from where he was back then. South Florida’s defense is a strong tackling defense, and only has eight sacks but four takeaways. Patrick Macon is the Bulls’ lead monster in the middle of the South Florida defense.
When South Florida has the ball: It’s all well and good to course-correct against an FCS team like South Carolina State, but in a tense game with Georgia Tech, the Alabama transfer Blake Barnett didn’t affect the game in a positive enough way to perhaps start when these teams open up in conference play. Jordan McCloud went into the Georgia Tech game and led a touchdown drive, and got the team to the doorstep of an upset. I’d bank on seeing McCloud, who accounted for five scores last week, three air/two ground. The Bulls can be trouble, with lightning bug Johnny Ford on the field and Kelley Joiner Jr. being versatile enough to put at multiple spots on the field.
The Mustangs were able to get after Max Duggan in the first half and get him off to a terrible start in the game. He was able to settle in and get rolling. The running back Darius Anderson was monster, he rocketed for a mammoth run after a Buechele interception in the endzone, that 77-yard run was the spark to the Horned Frogs’ heart to get in the game. If the Mustangs’ can limit the amount of chunk plays like that huge run, they should be able to keep the game in hand. The Mustangs’ front was fantastic in Fort Worth, Demerick Gary, Delontae Scott, Turner Coxe, and Pono Davis were tenacious, and the linebackers behind them Delano Robinson and Richard McBryde are going to need to keep McCloud contained to get out of Tampa with the first American conference win of the season.
What will it take for the Mustangs to win?
Keeping Jordan McCloud from getting loose, having Patrick Nelson do his thing, and a healthy dose of offensive “Keep-on-keepin’-on”.