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


Can’t touch this

McNeal, defense steal win from SFA in front of sold-out crowd

Ford Stadium was more crowded than games in recent memory after the Mustangs sold a stadium record 34,749 tickets on Saturday night. The new and old fans came out to see the SMU Mustangs (1-0, 0-0) play the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks (0-1, 0-0).

After the Mustangs opening offensive drive fizzled, the SMU defensive unit took the field. On their first play, junior defensive lineman Marquis Frazier intercepted the ball after reading the play.

On the next offensive drive, the Mustangs elected to go for it on fourth-and-two. The decision resulted in quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell throwing his first of two interceptions on the game. The intercepted pass was returned 75 yards down to the SMU 5-yard line. The Lumberjacks capitalized on the favorable field position by scoring the first touchdown of the game.

The interception underscored the type of day it was for Mitchell. He threw for 202 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. He also had to contend with some of the receivers dropping the ball as well.

Due to the dropped ball, head coach June Jones was quick to defend his quarterback. “It’s frustrating because we drop a lot of balls,” Jones said after the game. “That makes him lose his confidence in what he is doing. If we catch the football in the first half, he would feel a lot better about how he was playing.”

The slow passing game did not keep the Mustangs off the board in the first half. Senior Emmanuel Sanders tied the game when he returned a punt for 79 yards for a touchdown.

The first half ended with the Mustangs leading 14-10 after Mitchell threw his only touchdown pass to freshman receiver Darius Johnson.  Johnson made an outstanding effort by completely laying out to catch the ball in his first collegiate football game.

After halftime, the momentum seemed to shift momentarily away from the Mustangs. The Lumberjacks mounted two strong drives to open the half, but could only convert field goals on both drives.

After losing the lead, Mitchell’s second interception of the game gave the Lumberjacks another drive that started on the SMU 5-yard line.   This was converted into another touchdown that left the Mustangs trailing 23-14 at the end of the third quarter.

The game was seemingly slipping from the Mustangs grasp, but something was different this year.  “Last year, we would have folded no matter who it was,” Jones said.  However, the Mustangs got a lift from two transfer students.

The first came from junior kicker Matt Szymanski who converted a 53-yard field goal to bring the Mustangs within one score. The field goal tied for the third longest in SMU history.

On the next SMU drive, junior running back Shawnbrey McNeal rushed for three straight first downs on his way to gaining 158 yards for the game.  After driving down to the 1-yard line, the Mustangs decided to go for the win on fourth down. Jones called for an option and Mitchell lowered his head to gain the yard and lead. 

The Mustangs would not give up that and would eventually go on to win by a score of 31-23.

The Mustangs defensive unit stood out with its crucial stops and big plays. They were backed up twice and never broke when the Lumberjacks mounted a drive down the field.

The only two touchdowns allowed by the defense came off of short drives after turnovers.  “They had two three yard drives,” Jones said. “You take that away and you have a different game.”

Not only did the defense weather short fields, but they also created big plays of their own. The defense forced six turnovers during the game. Its five interceptions were the most since the Mustangs intercepted eight passes against the University of Arkansas in 1951.

Senior safety Rock Dennis, who had his second and third career interceptions in the game, was named C-USA defensive player of the week for his efforts.

In addition to the big plays, the defense also improved in an area where it struggled last year. On third down, the Mustangs stopped the Lumberjacks from gaining a first down 10 out of 18 times.

The Mustangs hit the road next weekend for the first of three straight road games. They will travel to Birmingham, Ala. to face the UAB Blazers (1-0, 0-0) on Saturday afternoon.

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