By Zach Walker
How’d it go for the Mustangs?
Now that’s more like it, that’s the Mustangs team I think everyone was looking for when they started the season. Even though the Mustangs didn’t look great in the first half, almost surrendering plays at will against a constant force of East Carolina offense and a damn good quarterback in Shane Carden.
After getting down 21 points, the Mustangs woke up on their fourth drive, converting three fourth down attempts, all of which were various passes from Garrett Krstich to Darius Joseph, who is the ideal player to look for in those situations because of the way that he catches the ball and stays low and makes people miss. The drive ended with only the second touchdown of the Mustangs season, a two yard touchdown draw by Prescott Line to make it a 7-21 game. After a pooch kick, the Pirates scored to make it a 21 point game. Before the half, the Mustangs missed a 44-yard field goal attempt.
The Mustangs would take the opening possession of the half and make it a two-score game with an efficient seven play drive ending with a quick out to Darius Joseph for a seven yard touchdown. The Pirates would score to keep SMU needing to press, and unfortunately, they pressed too much and Krstich threw an interception. The Mustangs forced an ECU three and out, and the Mustangs would continue to shock. After a second down sack, pinning the Mustangs back with a third and 17, Krstich would find Deion Sanders Jr. for a 21 yard gain, and three plays later, another quick out to Darius Joseph for a 9 yard gain, of which he had to contort his body to score and make it a 14 point game.
The Pirates on a third and 12, Shane Carden took off and ran and picked up nearly all 12 yards, but was spotted short, and on a quick attempt to pick up the first down, the Pirates snapped and Carden tried to get over the line, but Jonathan Yenga knew exactly what Carden was going to try and do, and was on him in an instant. With John Bordano and Stephon Sanders joining in, the Mustangs forced the ball over on downs. The Mustangs would get only a field goal, but on the kickoff, KC Nlemchi stripped the ball and the Mustangs would recover, but wouldn’t get any points out of it. And in fact, the Mustangs wouldn’t score again, despite continuing to move the ball in the fourth.
To say that this was the best game so far this season, is SO far from the reality of what was achieved. They moved the ball, they put up points, they put some pressure on ECU, they got some great quarterback play, and the Mustangs looked like the entire team broke out of their collective funk, and started to really play. Coach Mason in his first post game press conference talked about getting little wins and small victories during a game, and I don’t think he was disappointed with the effort by his players on Saturday.
Best and Worst plays of the Game
BEST: It’s a tie. The pass on third and 17, following a sack, Krstich dropped back and found Deion Sanders Jr. for a 21-yard gain, and the pass and catch were absolutely perfect, and Sanders had room in the play to get the one required foot in bounds for the leaping catch, and he absolutely made the best play of his collegiate career. The second was the fourth down stop of Carden by Jonathan Yenga, which I mentioned earlier. KC Nlemchi’s forced fumble also very noteworthy.
WORST: After an illegal man downfield penalty negated a 19-yard reception by Jeremiah Gaines, the Mustangs had the ball at the ECU 37 yard line. With a clean pocket, Krstich just put a little too much air under the pass intended for Der’rick Thompson and was intercepted by the safety Simmons at the 5 yard line. Given the context of the game, and the way that the Mustangs were playing at that point in the third quarter, it could have been a 21-35 game early in the second half with the Mustangs really pressing.