SMU Mustangs Still Winless

The Mustangs were glad to see the return of KC Nlemchi last Saturday. Photo Courtesy: Joseph Dowling
The Mustangs were glad to see the return of KC Nlemchi last Saturday. Photo Courtesy: Joseph Dowling

By Zach Walker

How’d it go for the Mustangs?
Start by saying, another game, yet another loss. But this game should bring a wave of enthusiasm back to Dallas and into the upcoming game against South Florida. The Mustangs ran the ball very well, in fact, every player for SMU, who had multiple carries, had a very healthy average per carry with 4.6 per, being the least, and that’s a winning ingredient. The time of possession between the two teams was separated by 8 seconds. The Mustangs converted 50 percent on third downs, that’s a winning ingredient. But the negative ingredients were what the Mustangs are tasting right now, 9 penalties for 58 yards, many of the penalties coming late and really hurting the Mustangs late. The other painful negative was the turnovers, three in total, and two that really affected the game. But Matt Davis provides a massive spark for the offense, and a spark that might be enough to steal a few games at the end of the season.

The game started a little different than what the Mustangs might be accustomed to this season. Dane Evans’ first pass was batted straight into the air by Horace Richardson, but Tulsa’s H-Back Coby Scott still had a shot to reel in the sort-of punt-ish ball in the air, but Shakiel Randolph made him pay for his aspirations by absolutely annihilating Scott. On 3rd down, Randolph broke up the pass intended Keyarris Garrett. The Mustangs would shock the world with their first offensive play. With Prescott Line in to aide in blocking, creating a clean pocket for Davis, he found Der’rick Thompson for the 64 yard touchdown strike en route to the Mustangs first lead of the season, but the Mustangs would go for the swinging gate 2-point try and only get the touchdown’s six points. The Golden Hurricane would roll the ball downfield, but on 3rd and four, Shakiel Randolph would use what makes him unique as a corner to his advantage, his size, and break up the pass intended for Derek Patterson.

The next drive for SMU would take some wind out of the sails, when on the eighth play of the drive, Davis knew he wanted to throw the curl to Der’rick Thompson for the short gain on 2nd down, but Jake Sizelove read the play like he wrote it and intercepted the pass. With the shortened field, Tulsa would move the ball a little closer, and when they reached the red zone, Dane Evans found Keyarris Garrett on the fade over Horace Richardson, just a huge size mismatch, for the touchdown to take the lead back from SMU.

But this was a different Mustangs team on offense, after a huge completion to Nate Halverson for 10 yards on 3rd down, KC Nlemchi got into the game after a two game suspension and showed that he’s the lead back with Davis in the game. Three of the next four plays would go through Nlemchi, a 13-yard run, a 16-yard screen play, and then the 13-yard rush for the touchdown. The Nlemchi speed factor in the Matt Davis catered offense provides a serious threat of speed at any time they’re on the field at the same time.

A supremely excellent 58-yard kick return, would set the Golden Hurricane up for success. But Tulsa wouldn’t take it’s time, as Bishop Louie would take an inside screen pass 42 yards for the quick answer to the Mustangs. The Mustangs would have a healthy drive, but come up with zero points for their efforts as Cody Rademacher would miss the 38-yard field goal wide right. The Golden Hurricane would take this misstep and cash in, after four straight runs, Evans found Keevan Lucas for a 64-yard touchdown score.

The turnover bug would strike again, as on the first play, Matt Davis seemed a tad lax with his ball security as Craig Suits put a perfect hit on the football and caused the fumble and was recovered by Michael Mudoh for Tulsa. But the bug was in the air, as D’Angelo Brewer fumbled the ball as Kevin Pope and Stephon Sanders connected for the tackle at the goal line, and Hayden Greenbauer recovered the ball in the endzone for the touchback and the ball back for the Mustangs. The Mustangs would punt, and Tulsa would take huge bites out of the field, three straight plays of 15 or more yards, to move the ball into the red zone, on their way to another Keevan Lucas touchdown catch to extend the lead to 15 points. The Mustangs would return the ball to Tulsa after a three and out, and march the ball to the SMU 25 yard line in the dying seconds of the second half, but a Darrian Richardson sack would secure the score at the half at SMU 13 and Tulsa 28.

The Mustangs had back-to-back three and outs while the Golden Hurricane had to punt in between those possessions, but on their second drive of the half, Tulsa would put the game on the top shelf with the “All Hands Catch of the Game” by Keyarris Garrett in the back of the endzone, in a spot that Garrett was the only option to get the ball, and Evans dropped a dime and Garrett made the catch to make it a three score game. The Mustangs wouldn’t score until the fourth quarter, when after setting the team up at the Tulsa 4 yard line with a 51-yard run, Matt Davis would score from 3 yards out to shrink the lead.

The defense would allow movement, but held up on a 4th and three to give the ball back to Davis, who would lead another scoring drive. Where Davis rushed the ball six times, including an 11 yard rush on 4th and nine. The next play, Matt Davis broke off from the designed option play, cut the ball against the grain and lunged forward for the 4 yard touchdown to cut the lead to nine. Then a very clever play, where the defensive end Justin Lawler feigned the block and leaked to the left and caught the 2-point conversion to make the game an even touchdown deficient for the Mustangs.

Then the refs would get involved during the crunch-time moments of the game for SMU. After a stuffing of Zack Langer on a 1-yard run, Jonathan Yenga, who help make the tackle, got up and waved his arms as to say, “no more yards,” received a 15-yard taunting penalty. Langer would bust another run, and get nailed out of bounds by Stephon Sanders, who received a late hit out of bounds penalty, but would return two plays later to get the sack of Dane Evans and maybe keep the game on life support for the Mustangs, and Tulsa would be held to the field goal. But after a 24 yard run on 2nd down, Matt Davis was intercepted on 3rd down as time expired.

Best and Worst plays of the Game

BEST: The entire play of the offense. Why joke? They looked fresh and energized, and looked like they believed that they were never out of the game. Matt Davis seemed to be the spark, and KC Nlemchi looked extremely dangerous on every play that he had the ball in his hands, and it was a serious disservice to Garrett Krstich to not have had Nlemchi for the last two ball games, maybe things could have been different.

WORST: The Taunting call. Sure there’s was enough justifiable evidence to think that, that call wasn’t incorrect, but ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!? Yenga didn’t do a throat slash, or slap Zack Langer in the helmet or the facemask. I’ll put it in context that’s understandable, if these teams were in the SEC, there’s no way that Yenga’s gesture is flagged 15 yards, especially in those moments of the game. The refs completely misinterpreted Yenga’s pumped up play for something else, and it might have ultimately cost SMU their first win of the season.