In a press release Monday morning, The Joe Moore Award Foundation announced that SMU’s offensive line had earned honors based on their display of “toughness, effort, teamwork, consistency, technique, and finishing.”
Release: “The Foundation for Teamwork has announced the Mid-Season Honor Roll for the Joe Moore Award, which identifies notable performances by offensive line units in games played through October 7. The OL units from the following universities, with a combined record of 100-19, earned a spot on the Honor Roll (in alphabetical order): Alabama, Auburn, Buffalo, Clemson, Georgia, Miami, Navy, North Carolina State, New Mexico, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon, San Diego State, SMU, Stanford, TCU, Virginia Tech, Washington, Western Michigan, and Wisconsin.”
SMU’s offensive line has been anchored by Center Evan Brown, who is considered one of the top centers in all of college football.
The Mustangs have only allowed 10 sacks through 6 games this season.
SMU’s offensive line passed the eye test and has not looked as good all season as they did Saturday night at Houston. Despite the Mustangs loss, the o-line protected Ben Hicks on 58 pass attempts and only gave up 2 sacks.
Trey Quinn and Courtland Sutton combined for 316 yards, 397 total for Hicks, thanks in part to the time and protection Hicks was afforded in the pocket.
RUSH FOR IMPROVEMENT
Despite being undaunted in pass protection, the o-line will look to improve the run game over the next two weeks.
On the season SMU’s running backs have enjoyed 4.08 yards before contact per rush attempt, nearly a total yard over the national average. The Mustangs also boast 15 rush touchdowns on the season.
See full release here.
Last week, in so many words Chad Morris called his team’s response against Connecticut a pivotal moment in his programs journey to prominence.
On Saturday night, the 4-1 Mustangs took the field of Houston’s relatively new TDECU Stadium. For SMU, the opportunity to beat Houston and establish themselves as a title contender for the American loomed in the distance – and when the final whistle blew that evening, just shortly after Ben Hicks had thrown his second interception in less than five minutes, the Mustangs walked off the field defeated.
After losing to Houston 35-22, the 4-2 Mustangs bye week could not come at a better time.
Ben Hicks and company got off to a quick start on Saturday night against Houston. Both teams were aggressive out of the gate. Offensively, SMU seemed to focus on the pass game. What appeared to be a good strategy for the Mustangs (Hicks was 11-14 for 100 yards and a TD in the 1st Q) ended up being 58 pass attempts for Hicks.
“We threw the ball entirely too many times. The game, the score, given the situation we had to do that.” Chad Morris said. “It’s very out of balance for us, we want to be as balanced as possible.”
Even though Hicks completed 41-58 for 397 yards and 1 touchdown, the sophomore threw two costly interceptions in the final minutes of the 4th quarter to seal Houston’s victory.
Hey @KirkHerbstreit , icymi, here’s the best play of the weekend by @treyquinn8 2nd in Recs, 7th in RecYds @SMU_Football @ESPNCFB pic.twitter.com/aFEKtxKOW6
— Dr. Keith Leger (@keithleger1) October 8, 2017
However, despite the ‘Stangs offensive barrage they struggled to find the end-zone. What was once the most reliable red-zone offense in the country was suddenly nowhere to be found. Including the final 10 seconds of the first half that saw the Ponies with a first and goal from the 6 yard line. The result was a missed Josh Williams field goal.
At halftime the score was Houston 21, SMU 12.
Once again Chad Morris found himself standing on a precipice wondering how would his team respond?
Unlike the game against Connecticut, SMU struggled to rally. After holding Connecticut to -8 yards rushing, the once reliable run defense of SMU struggled to tackle and fill the seems in front of a Houston offense that had not been defined as a running team. Houston running back Duka Catalon finished the game with 177 rushing yards, a career most and 2 touchdowns, his first multi touchdown game of his career.
Throughout the game Houston focused on Jordan Wyatt, targeting the receivers he lined up against.
Coming back from a shoulder injury Wyatt looked his normal self containing and tackling. But he was called for two pass interference calls and seemed about half a step behind his normal speed in coverage.
However, Wyatt has continued to show off his speed and ability to track down the ball behind the play.
Jordan Wyatt like a freaking cheetah out of nowhere to save the TD for #SMU. 45 yard gain for Houston and another big momentum shift.
— The Stable (@TheStableSports) October 8, 2017
With a huge momentum shift coming off of an SMU turnover Houston looked poised to score a TD on a 45 yard run by Duke Catalon when Wyatt emerged out of nowhere to save the TD. Houston would eventually score on that drive however.
After holding #UConn to -8 yards rushing last week, #SMU has given up 188 yards so far tonight – the heart breaker Catalon’s 52 yard TD run. pic.twitter.com/GmdhdoGfdh
— The Stable (@TheStableSports) October 8, 2017
To add to SMU’s defensive struggles Cedric Lancaster remained sidelined, despite reports that he would play, and safety Rodney Clemons left the game with an ankle injury. He is expected to return against Cincinnati.
Despite coming into the game scoring points in every quarter, SMU did not score in the 4th and with time running out the Mustangs were forced to rely desperately on the pass game in the final minutes.
FINAL SCORE: Houston 35, SMU 22.
The Mustangs will travel to Cincinnati October 21, to take on the Bearcats.
Last week against Connecticut the SMU secondary sorely missed defensive back Jordan Wyatt who was out with a shoulder injury. The Huskies offense picked SMU apart on their way to 408 passing yards. Lucky for the Mustangs, Wyatt is set to return on Saturday against Houston.
Even more lucky for SMU is that Houston’s star defensive end Ed Oliver will most likely be out. Oliver has been listed as a game time decision after suffering a MCL sprain during last week’s game against Temple.
So far this season, Oliver has recorded 23 total tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and a blocked kick. Oliver was 2016 American Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year after a posting 23 tackles for loss, nine pass breakups, 47 solo tackles, 66 total tackles, five sacks, and three forced fumbles.
If Oliver remains out, it will simply make SMU’s run game more effective. But even if Oliver plays he will most likely be limited by his injury and will be facing a SMU offensive line that is anchored by one of the best centers in all of college football and has only allowed eight sacks on the season.
Chad Morris joined in the studio was we talked SMU’s offense, making defensive adjustment, the loss at TCU and how his program is trying to attract more fans.
We will be off next week for fall break, but stay tuned to for my next interview in two weeks!
The Mustangs looked rough through the first three quarters.
Kind of how they’ve looked through Chad Morris’ first two seasons – a flash of brilliance and flair followed by a heart breaking string of plays – but Saturday afternoon under the blue “Lock Arms” flag that flew over Ford Stadium, the Mustangs did something they’ve struggled to do for the last 34 months, finish.
“This was a football game the last two years would have been hard to win.” Morris said.
The Mustangs got started early, with Courtland Sutton finding the end zone on a six yard slant from Ben Hicks. However, Connecticut recognized SMU’s weakness on defense and took advantage of both Jordan Wyatt and Cedric Lancaster being out with injuries.
The Huskies dominated through the air, starting quarterback Bryant Shirreffs threw for 408 yards and 2 touchdowns. Despite the struggles of the secondary, the Mustangs were able to get pressure on Shirreffs. The defense was boosted by the return of Senior Mason Gentry, who sacked Shirreffs twice. In total, SMU sacked the quarterback eight times for a season high.
“Defensively not our best play, we were exposed on the back end, we knew that we knew Jordan was going to be out this game. He will be back next week.” Morris said.
Despite UConn’s success in the air, SMU’s run defense continued to improve. The Mustangs held the Huskies to -8 yards on the ground, the fewest allowed by SMU since 2012.
“While it wasn’t our best performance, in any of our phases, it was our best response.” Morris said.
Leading at halftime 21-10, the Mustangs looked poised to run away in the third quarter, but back to back scores by the Huskies cut SMU’s lead to 21-20.
And so began the response that Chad Morris has been missing for nearly 34 months.
“I didn’t think we came out in the third quarter and played very well. I thought we had a lot left in the tank.” Morris said. “I challenged them to finish empty. We did play well in the fourth quarter. We dominated the fourth quarter.”
“It’s not about WHO we play, it’s HOW we play!”
Check out @smu_football highlights from Saturday’s big win!#PonyUpTempo pic.twitter.com/nT6lXbgsar
— SMU Football Video (@SMU_FBVideo) October 3, 2017
Dominate in the fourth quarter the Mustangs did. SMU outscored UConn 21-8 in the final 15 minutes with Ben Hicks lofting a strike to Courtland Sutton while Braeden West and Ke’mon Freeman scored a touchdown each.
Oh hey @Bease11.
Whoops. 😬 pic.twitter.com/pKYqX3iZ0p
— #PonyUpTempo (@SMU_Football) October 1, 2017
The Mustangs offense is averaging 48 points a game and is the only FBS team to score 36+ in every game this season. With three solid running backs and the emergence of Trey Quinn at receiver, Morris and Offensive Coordinator Joe Craddock have been gifted with easily the best three look running back and three look receiver set with Proche, Sutton and Quinn.
POST GAME HIGHLIGHTS
Waking up with those 4-1 feels.
Did Micah learn these moves from you @coachmarksmith? pic.twitter.com/q3QSCCHukO
— #PonyUpTempo (@SMU_Football) October 1, 2017