SMU Mustangs at East Carolina Pirates: The Big Three

Mustangs QB Ben Hicks had an impressive game going 18-30 with 235 yards and three TDs. Photo Courtesy: Mike Carnes
Mustangs QB Ben Hicks had an impressive game going 18-30 with 235 yards and three TDs.
Photo Courtesy: Mike Carnes
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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 East Carolina game: (Music playing: Back in the Saddle – Aerosmith)
Now, that’s what I’m talking about. That’s the SMU team that I recall from weeks ago. They got past that blowout loss to Memphis at home during homecoming, by channeling that frustration into a heavy handed handling of the East Carolina Pirates, who had only a single loss at home this season. The Mustangs started slow, apparently a trait of this team, but once the oil was warm and coursing through the veins, it became more and more one sided by the series. Oh man, the defense found its stride again. Early in the game, the gambles weren’t working, but they kept at it, and within about a four minute period in the second quarter they were removing East Carolina from the equation. Ben Hicks decided to just feature his top option for all to attempt to stop. Courtland Sutton was a monster in this game, twelve catches for one-hundred and sixty-six yards and a pair of tasty touchdown scores. The ground game was strong too. Both Braeden West and Ke’Mon Freeman had one-hundred yard rushing games. Horace Richardson was a huge problem for the Pirates. Darrion Millines, Kyran Mitchell, and Jackson Mitchell also all had their say of the game’s goings on. Heading into the final two games, both at the Hilltop, needing one to become bowl-bound, this win was required ad thoroughly taken by the Mustangs.

#1: 2nd and 10 from the SMU 26 yard line. SMU just scored touchdown off of a huge twelve play, eighty-six yard drive to grow ahead by a full score, so getting the ball back having not given up points would be excellent. The drive started at midfield, because of a good return off of a short kick. A few ECU plays brought them to the SMU 26 yard line. First down was an incompletion looking for Zay Jones. This second down, the Pirates tried to set up the tunnel screen. This is obviously something that Horace Richardson recognized, because he completely ignored all three would-be blockers and simply stepped right in the path of the ball and was completely alone for seventy yards on the way for a pick-six and putting his team ahead two touchdowns. It was just funny to watch this playback because it played out like the other guys on the field could be edited out of the picture and it look the same. He read the play like he wrote it.

#2: 3rd and 10 from the ECU 22 yard line. Darrion Millines set his team up well with an interception of his own, to keep pace with teammates Horace Richardson and Jordan Wyatt. This drive was aided by a pass interference call that advanced the ball twelve yards to this spot at the 22 yard line. On first and second down, no gain on either play. Third down, this play, I’ll just nit-pick, this was a bold throw. Ben Hicks put the ball along the backend of the endzone for Courtland Sutton, who had an ECU defender stitched to his jersey. Courtland completely snagged the ball in the air, and a collapsing Pirate defender peeled his own guy off of Sutton as he completed the great hands catch of the game. And a twenty-one point lead.

#3: 4th and 9 from the SMU 33 yard line. The Pirates scored as the first half closed out, and if they scored on this first drive of the second half, it’d be only a seven point game, and the momentum been completely wiped away. The Pirates were moving, though they were moving a lot but not gaining yards at a huge pace, they were getting work done. The Mustangs defense were allowing the underneath stuff, not much going on deep. East Carolina was forced into a must go-for-it situation on this fourth and nine. The only way to top a seventy yard return pick-six, an eighty yard return pick-six. The pass from bullpen quarterback Gardner Minshew was too far outside for Zay Jones, who tipped the ball just enough to allow Horace Richardson to catch the lay-up and start tearing up the SMU sideline. This time, needing some help from his teammates to get to the endzone, of which he would not be denied. Two pick-sixes by Horace Richardson. And back to a twenty-one point lead. What a great game!