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

SMU students gather around a bucket of markers to write an encouraging note to put in “Welcome to the Shelter” kits at event in mid-April on SMU’s campus.
Dallas homeless recovery center, The Bridge, is a home
Morgan Shiver, Contributor • June 20, 2024
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Must win for Mustangs

Must win for Mustangs

There are too many things at stake this weekend for the Mustangs to come out flat. This could be the last chance for red-shirt freshman quarterback Justin Willis to show that he is capable of running the Mustang offense, and this could be a test for Head Coach Phil Bennett. People can take a loss to North Texas if the rest of the season turns around, but a loss to a NCAA Division I-AA team would be unacceptable.

But there is hope. Willis turned in a more impressive performance against North Texas, including his first collegiate touchdown pass. The only problem is he still displayed ‘happy feet’ tendencies. While he did stay in the pocket longer than he did against Texas Tech in week one, he did not look comfortable while he was there.

Bennett spoke of Willis’ needing to do a better job of picking up his reads at this week’s football luncheon, but Bennett also put some of the responsibility on his coaching staff, saying it was the staff’s job to help him improve.

Bennett also ended the talk of a bowl game for this season. He hasn’t ended the idea or the ability of SMU to make one, but he will not speak about it anymore.

The biggest thing the Mustangs have to overcome is the injury of running back DeMyron Martin. With three players in the running for the spot, the Bearkats’ defense could see some different looks. Bennett pointed out that it isn’t just about being able to run the ball, but pass protection and blitz coverage, for which he noted Martin was the best. The three in contention are senior Johnnie Fitzgerald, red-shirt freshman James Mapps and junior Cedrick Dorsey.

Mapps leads the three in carries so far this season with 11 picking up 43 yards. Fitzgerald has gained 27 yards on eight carries and Dorsey has yet to take a hand-off this season. Mapps has also been used in the passing game with one reception for two yards.

The receiving core has been lead by senior captain Bobby Chase, which is no big surprise. What is a big surprise is that after two games he has yet to reach 100-yards. The other surprise is that the second leading receiver for the Mustangs is red-shirt freshman Emmanuel Sanders. Not to mention the lone touchdown pass was caught by sophomore Columbus Givens, one of his two receptions of the year.

The tight end position has been almost silent so far this year. Senior tight end Ryan Kennedy has only gotten one reception for only two years. Kennedy saw his number of receptions drop from 21 his sophomore year to 14 last season. Kennedy is joined at the tight end spot by sophomore Vincent Chase, who has not had a reception so far this season. All this after Bennett said before the season started, “getting the ball to our tight ends must be a must. Ryan and Vincent are too good not to utilize them.” Well then, why haven’t they been used?

The defense has held strong, but hasn’t been perfect either. Against Tech they did the best they could, but the run and gun Red Raider offense was more than they could handle. SMU even stopped the only Tech red zone appearance, forcing a fumble. And against the Mean Green they weren’t given a chance.

The Mustang defense hadn’t even stepped onto the field when North Texas scored their first touchdown. The only fall out was the eight-play 88-yard drive early in the second half. The other touchdown was scored after a fumble, giving the Mean Green offense a short field to work with.

The Mustangs need to work on turnovers. They have thrown two interceptions and lost two fumbles, and have only forced one fumble and one interception. The Mustangs need to pressure Sam Houston to make mistakes and take advantage of them.

Keys of the Game

The top key of the game has to be third-down conversions. SMU hasn’t been able to get the yards when they need them. Against Tech they were only 3-13 for the game and were 0-8 after the first quarter.

It didn’t improve too much against North Texas. The Mustangs went 6-16 on third-down conversions. For the season, they have 31 percent completion rate on third down conversions, while their opponents have a 56.7 percent success rate against the SMU defense.

Quarterback Justin Willis needs to take control of the offense. Without DeMyron Martin the Mustangs need to look to go to the air and that will rely on Willis.

Play calling also needs to improve. No one wants to watch a 2-yard run up the middle on second and 10. This is where the third downs are caused. If the plays allow SMU to have third and less than five, their success rate has a chance to improve.

But most importantly the Mustangs must win. And if they want to get fans off their backs, they need to do it with style. Beating a Division II team by 10 points is not impressive. They must make a stand and make it loud.

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