Brought to you by: Big Shucks
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 Baylor game: The score does not tell the story of this trip down to Waco. The Mustangs’, despite the box score saying 40 points yielded, might have a serious defense on their hands. At halftime, it was a tie ball game. Entering the fourth quarter, the Mustangs were down only thirteen points. No, Saturday afternoon was about the SMU offense. Specifically, the passing game. Diving into my own memory banks, going as far back as Garrett Gilbert days, the Mustangs have had a problem with the redzone. Ben Hicks started a game for the first time, in his hometown of Waco, had two picks in the redzone. Hicks needs more time to brew. He completed thirty-nine percent of his passes, and that’s not winning football.
#1: 4th and 15 at the SMU 49 yard line: At this point in the game, SMU had a six point lead, accepting field goals though of course touchdowns were eventually necessary. The Baylor offense finally started to put a drive together, but their successes were coming in chunks because of SMU. The Mustangs forced three straight incompletions after Seth Russell guided the offense into SMU territory and brought out the punt team. Not a great punt, only nineteen yards, but there was a penalty. Roughing the punter. Fifteen free ones and an automatic first down. Though the Bears picked up a huge third and eighteen, they would only get three off of the extended drive.
#2: 1st and 10 at the SMU 16: After an exchange of interceptions, SMU’s thrown in the endzone, the Bears would become impatient on their sixth possession. The SMU defense forced the Bears to get bold. The Bears would convert three fourth and manageable yard attempts, but two of them on their own half of the field to keep the drive going. On this 19th play of the drive, Seth Russell completed a slant to Blake Lynch in soft coverage. After bumping a SMU defender, Lynch began to lose balance and the ball bounced off his knee as he struggled to maintain upright, and the ball bounced away from him as he drove towards it, but not before SMU’s Kevin Johnson landed on it first. It was called a touchdown, reviewed, and the ball was awarded to SMU. The Mustangs’ promptly gave it straight back to Baylor the next play by fumbling it. The SMU defense held, however, and only gave up the field goal. To hold Baylor to just three points in twenty-one plays, it felt like a revelation. It felt like a game was going on.
#3: 3rd and 20 at the Baylor 23 yard line: Bad penalties aren’t just given, they’re earned with context. This was the first drive of the second half. If this game was going to continue to be a close one, the Mustangs’ defense have to knock Baylor off of the field on THIS possession. On the second and ten before this play, the Bears were called for a hold, so on third and twenty the defense could dial it up. Justin Lawler would cash in, getting to Russell, sacking him for a four yard loss on third down and getting the Bears off the field. The referee would throw a yellow hand grenade, however. The penalty was illegal use of hands to face on Deon Green, a fifteen yard personal foul with a free first down chaser. As I have now rewound this play for the ninth time, no Baylor head rocked back, Green’s hands were on the collar, never reaching the face. Must have been the same ref who called that clear as day fumble a touchdown. Truly, an A-level bad call. The Bears would take that flag as a parole from their own inability and would score the game’s first touchdown five plays later. The game would break Baylor from then on. The Mustangs’ defense would go on to force another turnover and the ball over on downs after a sixteen play drive, but the inconsistencies of the SMU offense tanked the Mustangs in this game.