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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

Mustangs set to go 12 rounds with ‘Frogs

The Red Zone
 Mustangs set to go 12 rounds with Frogs
Mustangs set to go 12 rounds with ‘Frogs

Mustangs set to go 12 rounds with ‘Frogs

SMU lost the game last weekend against Texas Tech, but the teamplayed with a lot of heart, showing signs of possibly breakingtheir 13-game losing streak in the near future. This weekendpresents a stiff test in the form of Metroplex rival TCU. TheHorned Frogs are coming off an 11-2 season along with a seasonopening victory against Northwestern on national television. TheIron Skillet is up for grabs, and according to head coach PhilBennett, SMU has some unfinished business. “We’re nothere for moral victories,” he said.

 

Key Match-Up

Mustang Defensive Backs vs. ‘Frogs Passing Game

The Mustangs young defensive backfield had mixed results intheir opening challenge against the high-powered Red Raiders. Nowthey get tested by current Conference USA Offensive Player of theWeek Tye Gunn. The junior threw for 386 yards on 20 of 38 passingand four TD’s in the Horned Frogs 48-45 double overtime winover the Northwestern Wildcats last Friday. Gunn ran his record to9-0 as a starter and kept highly regarded senior quarterbackBrandon Hassell on the bench. The plan was to alternate Gunn andHassell, who is 7-2 as a starter, but Coach Patterson said that”when a guy gets a hot hand, it’s hard to take himout.”

Gunn has a plethora of receivers to chose from, led by MichaelDePriest and senior Reggie Harrell. DePriest hauled in an 82-yardtouchdown pass to put the Frogs up early on his way to 125 yardsreceiving on the evening. Fellow reciever Harrell presents hugematch up problems for the Mustangs. At 6-3 Harrell stands 7 inchestaller than the Mustangs’ top corners, Rolando Humphrey andCharles Akinyemi. Despite his large stature, he still has speed toburn, as he is the defending Conference USA champion in the60-meter (indoor) and 110-meter (outdoor) hurdles. Harrell, anAll-Conference USA second team selection, will probably see a lotof attention from the ‘Stangs who played 5 and 6 defensivebacks for much of the game against Tech.

Despite giving up 470 yards of passing to Sonny Cumbie of Tech,the defense had a lot to be proud about from their”bend-don’t-break” effort. Coach Bennett praisedhis team, his DB’s in particular, for their “very goodred zone defense.” This was due in large part to the effortsfrom Humphrey, who had 13 tackles and 4 pass breakups, and Akinyemiwho pitched in nine tackles and broke up three passes of his own.The safeties also played well, with Jamey Harper coming up withsome monster hits, and Jonnie Fitzgerald being in on 11 tackles. Ifthe defensive backfield can slow the TCU aerial attack down andmaybe come up with an interception, SMU will be right in thegame.

 

X-Factors

SMU’s Melvin Williams

The senior leader needs to have a huge game for the Mustangs tocontend with the Frogs. With fellow senior DT Alan Adami likely tocommand double teams all night against Tech, Williams will receivesingle coverage much of the night from his defensive end spot.Williams came up with two tackles against the Red Raiders, but SMUneeds more against the Frogs. To cover the talented core ofreceivers of TCU the ‘Stangs need a consistent pass rushwithout blitzing and that task falls on the front four. Williamsneeds to have a top notch effort to get his first win in his fourthand final chance against the Horned Frogs.

TCU’s Robert Merrill

The Freshman All-American last year at the running back spot hasbeen hampered with a myriad of injuries during training camp and itshowed in his opening night performance. He received only threecarries and gained a grand total of -2 yards as Lonta Hobbs tookover the ground attack that belonged to him in 2002. “Theyhave two outstanding running backs that can carry the mail,”Bennett commented about the duo. Merrill had a solid week ofpractices and if he can return to his 2003 self watch out. Ahealthy Merrill would give the Horned Frogs a pair of 1,000-yardrushers in the backfield to go along with the Gunn led passingoffense. The Mustangs could be in for an uphill battle if the Frogsadd Merrill to the arsenal that put up 48 points and 525 yards ofoffense.

 

Inside the Horned Frogs

Defense-less?

TCU built its program around the stout Gary Patterson leddefense, and a conservative run based offense. In the middle of theyear last year, starting with a 65-55 win over Houston, this allchanged. TCU’s offense has averaged 38 points a game over thelast seven games while the defense is giving up an astounding 32points a game. This 32 points is surprsing because the Horned Frogshad averaged giving up less than 20 points a game the three seasonsprior.

Northwestern quarterback Brett Basanez was coming off a seasonwhere he threw only four touchdowns the entire year while startingall 13 games. Last Friday night the TCU defense made Basanez looklike a Heisman trophy candidate as he threw four touchdowns in thegame to go along with his 513 yards through the air. The TCUdefense did not record a sack all night despite the fact thatPatterson tried to keep his unit fresh. ‘We played ninesafeties, six linebackers and 11 D-lineman,” Patterson said,”we rotated a lot of people.”

The Mustangs must take advantage of TCU while their defense isdown, although a few early stops may give the Frogs the confidencethey need to return to their normal dominant selves.

 

Inside the Mustangs

Quarterback Questions

Chris Phillips closed last season showing the promise of afuture star, but the late performance by Tony Eckert on Saturdaymay have created a controversy.

Phillips had an average game in Rusty Burns’ version ofthe spread offense. He gained 75 yards on a series of quarterbackdraws and scrambles, but he looked hesitant when throwing the balland predictable in his decision making at times. He threw for only109 yards on 12 of 28 passing but most of that could be becausethis was the first time he ran the spread in a real game.

More then what Phillips didn’t do was what Eckert did,leading the team on its only touchdown drive of the game whichculminated with Cedrick Dorsey’s touchdown scamper. Eckert, aJC transfer from Tyler Junior College, went six for nine on thedrive and seemed to have a better grasp of the offense although heis not the athlete that Phillips is. Expect to see bothquarterbacks on Saturday with the hope that one gets a hot handthat can move the Mustang offense.

Purple Reign

The Horned Frogs have won the last five meetings between the twoschools and own a 39-38-7 series lead overall. The last time theIron Skillet was in the hands of the Mustangs was after the 1998game where SMU won 10-6 at home.

Last season the Mustangs, despite being winless, played the then10-1 Frogs tough, falling 20-13 to a team that finished the seasonin the Top 20. The Mustangs travel to Fort Worth for a 6 p.m.kickoff Saturday night in Amon Carter Stadium.

 

Trent Redden is a junior finance and public policy major. Hecan be reached at [email protected].

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