The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Mustangs look to bury Miners

A win for SMU means bowl elibility
Senior Bryan McCann celebrates with teammates after returning a blocked field goal attempt for a touchdown. CASEY LEE/The Daily Campus
Senior Bryan McCann celebrates with teammates after returning a blocked field goal attempt for a touchdown. CASEY LEE/The Daily Campus

Senior Bryan McCann celebrates with teammates after returning a blocked field goal attempt for a touchdown. CASEY LEE/The Daily Campus

With three games remaining, SMU will continue their hunt for a bowl game this weekend, hosting the University of Texas at El Paso Miners as part of SMU’s Family Weekend. A win for the Mustangs would put SMU at 5-1, the team’s best conference start since going 7-1 in the Southwest Conference in 1983.

One more win would make the Mustangs bowl eligible, but with four teams in Conference USA just one game away from 6-6 records, SMU would need a seventh win to guarantee them an appearance in the post season.

The Mustangs (5-4, 4-1) remain tied with No.15 Houston for first place of the West Division, but could still earn a spot in either the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl or Fort Worth Armed Forces Bowl if they fall short of playing in the conference championship for a chance to compete in the Auto Zone Liberty Bowl.

Coming off a tough win over Rice, the Mustangs host UTEP in the 17th meeting between the teams, with SMU holding a 9-7 advantage in the series. The Miners (3-6, 2-3) have struggled lately, winning just one game on the road, but are also the only team in C-USA to knock off Houston. It was also just last season that the Miners held SMU to just one touchdown in the fourth quarter crushing SMU 36-10 in El Paso.

“This will be the best team we’ve played,” head coach June Jones said. “They’re the best 3-6 team I’ve looked at on film in a long time. This will be a tough, tough game for us, probably our hardest of the last five games on the schedule.”

While the Mustangs rely more on their air game to put points on the board, the Miners rely on their ground game and junior running back Donald Buckram. Buckram, with 13 touchdowns on the season, averages 131.2 yards per game, 120 rushing yards more than any other player on the roster. As a whole, the UTEP unit averages 151 rushing yards, but gives up an average of 211 yards on the ground. Buckham is also the sixth UTEP player to record six 100-yard rushing games in one season, including two 200-yard games.

Despite recording more rushing touchdowns, the Miners post 241.6 passing yards on average per game, led in the air attack by junior quarterback, Trevor Vittatoe. Vittatoe, with nine touchdowns on the season has thrown for an average of 239 yards per game with a .515 completion percentage.

Going up against a UTEP quarterback with 11 interceptions, the most for any C-USA quarterback on the season, SMU has another advantage over the Miners as the Mustang defense is ranked third in the nation with 15 picks.

Fortunately, the SMU defense, led by the trio of senior Chase Kennemer, junior Youri Yenga and senior safety Rock Dennis should be able to at least quiet Buckram and the Miners, as the defense has allowed 156.4 rushing yards per game.

While head coach June Jones says who will start at quarterback is a game time decision, freshman Kyle Padron continues to perform well for the Mustangs, despite five sacks against Rice. Padron, in his second college start, threw for one touchdown and one interception, but still completed 17 of his 24 attempts. Whether Bo Levi Mitchell, Padron or redshirt freshman Braden Smith will start at quarterback is still up in the air.

I would say [Padron] has played well enough,” Jones said after the Rice game. “We’re going to continue to analyze where we’re at. I feel like we’ve got pretty good production out of all three, but they need to play more consistent.”

Senior wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, now with 4,036 career yards and in seventh place in SMU history is just the eighth Mustang to record over 4,000 yards. Padron or Mitchell will be looking for Sanders to put up another 100-yard plus performance, following 136 yards and one touchdown against the Owls. Sanders, SMU’s all-time leader with 257 catches and 30 touchdowns will be up against a UTEP defense that has allowed 256.3 passing yards per game and recorded 10 sacks.

“Their record doesn’t show how good they are,” Sanders said about UTEP. “They play with some of the best teams. We’re on a two game win streak and now we just need to focus in.”

The Mustangs’ running game will be in the hands of junior Shawnbrey McNeal, as the University of Miami transfer looks for another multiple-touchdown game following his performance last weekend against Rice.

SMU’s special teams unit had proved time and time again to be a valuable asset, especially in the form of freshman defensive end Margus Hunt. Hunt, in his first season playing football, has already set a new SMU record with six blocked kicks. The current NCAA record is eight. Joining Hunt is junior defensive back Sterling Moore, the player responsible for blocking a Rice field goal that transpired into a Mustang touchdown to put SMU up against the Owls.

“I know they’re going to come in here ready to play,” Jones said. “They lost a tough one last week and they know if they win out they have a shot to get to a bowl game so this is as big of a game to them as it is to us.”

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