By Zach Walker
How’d it go for the Mustangs?
Well… They WON! They avoided the winless season. It wasn’t so dramatic that should be compared to the “Miracle on Mockingbird,” but is still a huge win and both happened against Connecticut.
The SMU Mustangs started their game off stronger than usual, with points on the opening possession. After a big return by Deion Sanders Jr to the 43 yard line, the Mustangs kept the ball in the positive direction and avoided a loss or negative play. Prescott Line with two straight rushes, picking up 7 yards, then on third down, it was a quick snap and pass to Darius Joseph running along the hashes and picked 16 yards and the first down. A couple of quick passes to Sanders and Joseph to bring up a very manageable third and 1, which Prescott Line would pick up with a 3 yard run. Sanders, on the first down pass, made a very good jump cut to make a defender miss and gain 5 yards on the play. But the drive would stall out at the 17 yard line, an incomplete pass towards Stephen Nelson, then a hold by Chauncey Briggs brought the ball back to the 27 and Matt Davis and Joseph couldn’t connect in the endzone, bringing out Cody Rademacher for a 44 yard attempt, and the ball hit the crossbar and rolled over for the field goal.
The Huskies ran the ball early and often, five straight rushes and on the fifth, Deshon Foxx would run the out of their “Wild-Foxx” formation for a 17 yard gain. The Huskies wouldn’t gain another yard, two incompletions towards Geremy Davis and a no gain rush by Arkeel Newsome being bottled up by Andrew McCleneghen and Kevin Pope. A solid punt downed at the SMU 6 yard line, would set up a bad series for SMU, and a Prescott Line rush for 8 yards gave Jackson Koonce some breathing room for a punt, but the returner Deshon Foxx tried to handle the bouncing punt and Jackson Mitchell would force the ball loose and Dylan Dickman would recover the ball at the UConn 46 yard line for the first forced turnover of the game for the Mustangs. A Prescott Line rush for five on first down, on second down, Davis found Joseph for 18 yards and the refs felt that Davis was roughed after his throw, and gave the Mustangs 15 free bonus yards. But at the 9 yard line, the Mustangs would simmer out and would be forced to kick a 28 yard field goal.
The Huskies wouldn’t do anything with their next possession, thanks in large part to solid team tackling, and on third down, Zach Wood and Darrion Richardson combining for a 2 yard tackle for loss. A fairly weak punt set the Mustangs up with the ball at the UConn 27 yard line, but following a pass to Ryheem Malone for 8 yards, on second down, Darius Durall fumbled the ball and UConn’s Andrew Adams recovered the ball for the scoop and score and taking the lead back from SMU, but after a timeout before the point after attempt, the PAT was pushed wide, to keep the game tied instead of a lead change. The following Mustangs’ possession was a throwback to what got SMU to the winless position that they rolled in with, a holding penalty on first down, setting the Mustangs back ten yards, and the offense couldn’t overcome the setback.
The Huskies had a huge gain with a Chandler Whitmer pass to Joshua Marriner for a 38 yards on a screen pass down to the SMU 27 yard line, but on the next play, Horace Richardson had a beautiful pick off of great coverage on Geremy Davis in the endzone for a touchback. But the offense couldn’t do anything with the stolen possession. But on the next time out, the Huskies would take little bites out of the Mustangs’ defense, then on fourth and 1 from near midfield, the Huskies’ Max DeLorenzo took the ball and scampered for 46 yards and a Huskies touchdown, and with the made PAT, a full touchdown lead.
The woes would continue for the Mustangs on offense, after Davis made his legs work unlike anyone could, and made basically the entire UConn defense miss at least once on an 8 yard gain, Line picked up the first down, then Davis ran again, and when Davis tried to go back to the air, he was intercepted looking for Stephen Nelson, by Jamar Summers.
The Huskies had a false start on first down, and the 15 yards to convert was a yard too long, and the Huskies were forced to punt because of Kevin Pope. But Matt Davis’ arm wasn’t calibrated for the second quarter, as he continued to overthrow or put passes a football length too far in front receivers, so the Mustangs were forced to punt again. But the Huskies would keep the pedal pressed to the floor, and led an eight play drive, with only a single pass for 8 yards, and a 13 yard rush by Ron Johnson on third and 3 for the touchdown and a two touchdown lead.
The SMU Mustangs would move the ball on the final drive of the first half. Matt Davis would run three straight times for 26 yards, and just beyond midfield. A quick crosser to Aaron Stafford for 6 yards, then a devastating 8 yard loss on a Mikal Myers sack of Matt Davis forced SMU to use their final timeout. Davis found Joseph for 21 yards along the sideline, and Joseph was able to just step out of bounds, setting up a 47 yard field goal, but this time, the crossbar wasn’t as kind this time to Rademacher, as the ball glanced off the bar and took a Connecticut bounce for the missed field goal, and the game would stay a 6 to 20 point Connecticut lead. And the Mustangs now had a 14 deficit in their final half of their season to get their only win.
The Mustangs had to kick off to the Huskies for a potential coffin nail possession against the Mustangs. But the ball bounced off of Akreel Newsome but bounced back to him, then Prescott Line forced Newsome to fumble and Darius Joseph recovered the ball for SMU. Matt Davis would continue to rock the ground game, picking up 23 yards. From the 4 yard line, Prescott Line bulled straight into endzone behind pulling left guard Daniel McCarty to cut the lead to a single touchdown game.
The Mustangs defense would stand the Huskies up, first Cameron Nwosu stood up Ron Johnson for no gain, then Darrion Richardson tripped him up, and on third down, Robert Seals nailed Johnson for a minimal gain, and the ball back for the offense. Daijuan Stewart would have a great return and on top of that, a 15 yard face-mask penalty. Davis would find Joseph for a 15 yard gain on third and 5, but as it has been all season long, after a positive a negative would happen, and so it did happen, a holding penalty by the center Evan Brown took the ball back 10 yards and if no more yards were gained, they were into questionable field goal range. The Mustangs would gain only 4 yards, back to the UConn 30, making it a 47 yard field goal try, where Rademacher had already missed, so they pulled the fake field goal punt and the ball was downed at the UConn 7 yard line.
On second down, and back in their “Wild-Foxx” formation, Deshon Foxx picked up a 48 yard gain along the left sideline. But the next play, would feature more Foxx, and Derek Longoria would strip the ball and Darrion Richardson would recover for the Mustangs. Matt Davis would have two very short gains, and on third down, he would connect with Joseph on a slant route for 11 yards. On second down, after the out-route, Darius Joseph hurdled Javon Hadley for a gain of 12 yards. Two plays later, Davis broke from the pocket and fired off for a 26 yard rushing touchdown and a tied ball game.
The Huskies would move the ball a little bit, but were forced to punt, but the Huskies forced a SMU three and out, and on the punt Jackson Koonce couldn’t handle the wet ball snapped to him, but still tried to punt it, but was majorly blocked and ended up as a no gain punt that bounced out of bounds. As the fourth quarter started, it was nervous, great field position for the Huskies, tied game, a play needed to be made. On second down, Cam Nwosu forced Johnson back for a loss on 1, with forward progress, and on third and long, it was a screen pass and Nwosu and Robert Seals made that play not happen for the Huskies and forced UConn to kick a 47 yard field goal, and weird things have happened for both teams from the 30 yard line in the kicking game. And this was no difference, as Mason Gentry got his huge self in the way of the ball and blocked it with a huge right handed block.
There’s the positive, then there’s negative, first down holding penalty by Evan Brown again set the Mustangs back 10 yards. On second down, the play of the game for SMU’s offense happened, Matt Davis rushed the ball right-side, and as Davis reached the 30 yard line, pulling left guard Daniel McCarty had a great block of the safety Floyd to spring Davis for an extra 40 yards. Three plays later, on a Prescott Line rush, he fumbled the ball but the ball took the most perfect SMU bounce for Line to catch it off of the bounce and gain 4 yards. If the Mustangs were going to lose this game, Line doesn’t come up with that ball. Three plays later, Davis running the classic option play, pitched to Line and he made a cut behind Kris Weeks for the first time SMU took the lead in the fourth quarter all season long.
The Huskies had to answer, but the Mustangs’ defense knew what they had to do, shut the game down. Solid ball movement by the Huskies, but on their first third down of their drive, it would be their only third down, on a gut run, Kevin Pope forced DeLorenzo to fumble and Cam Nwosu would recover for SMU. But that nervous potential might have lightened Davis’ grip on the football, because Andrew Adams forced the fumble, and Jhavon Williams would recover for UConn. The Huskies weren’t allowed much of anything, and were forced to punt back to SMU with just over 4 minutes, and wouldn’t get the ball back. The combination of Line and Davis on the ground moved the ball all the way down to the UConn 1 yard line. The Mustangs took two tries at getting the victory formation correct while picking up two penalties, and in the end, Davis just took the knee from normal formations to close the game out, and Cameron Nwosu and John Bordano prepped the ice bucket bath for Tom Mason.
Players of the game:
LG Daniel McCarty, two huge blocks game changing blocks; RB Prescott Line, two touchdown runs and a forced fumble to open the second half kickoff; QB Matt Davis, great legs and decision making down the stretch; WR Darius Joseph, the only wideout able to be consistently open and would have had more if Davis could have connected.
LB Kevin Pope, just got it done in his final game showed massive heart; LB Cameron Nwosu, couple of tackles for loss and a fumble recovery; CB Darrion Richardson, was in on a ton of run stopping plays and fumble recovery; CB Horace Richardson, great pick off of his best coverage; DE Mason Gentry, for being a beast and keeping the game a tie with a huge field goal block.