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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SMU falls short

Mustangs give Miners best shot, lose 24-21 after stong second half
Sophomore transfer Corey Slater started Saturdays game in Willis absense.
Christina Parrish
Sophomore transfer Corey Slater started Saturday’s game in Willis’ absense.

Sophomore transfer Corey Slater started Saturday’s game in Willis’ absense. (Christina Parrish)

EL PASO – SMU almost made the best of a tumultuous weekend, but fell short Saturday to the UT-El Paso Miners 24-21.

The game was played against the backdrop of the ongoing saga of quarterback Justin Willis, who was indefinitely suspended Friday night for a violation of team rules.

In the post-game press conference head coach Phil Bennett said “none” when asked if the quarterback change was a distraction for the team.

“There are no moral victories…no excuses for Corey Slater being our quarterback,” Bennett said. “Hats off to UTEP, they made the plays necessary to win.”

At one point in the second half, SMU looked as if it could pull out a surprise win.

An 80-yard fumble recovery return for a touchdown by defensive back Jonathan Lindley gave SMU a 21-17 lead with 11:54 remaining in the game.

But UTEP marched down the field on the next possession and scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 27-yard pass from running back Marcus Thomas to wide receiver Daniel Robinson.

Early in the game the UTEP defense was hurrying Slater, resulting in multiple three-and-outs for the SMU offense. Slater said he spent most of the first half trying to establish a rhythm and adjust to the hostile atmosphere of the Sun Bowl.

“I was disappointed with the way I played in the first half,” Slater said afterward.

Slater threw for 132 yards and completed 10 out of 20 for the game, with two touchdown passes and three interceptions.

Play in the first half was stopped for nearly 15 minutes when defensive end Justin Rogers was injured. Medical staff from both SMU and UTEP went on the field to aid and evaluate Rogers’ condition. They left his helmet on, but removed the facemask and stabilized him before placing him on an ambulance that took him to an area hospital.

Rogers was released after being given a CAT scan and X-rays.

Bennett said he saw Rogers plunge head-first into the scrum where he injured his neck.

Both players and coaches say Rogers’ injury was the catalyst for the turnaround in SMU’s play.

“I heard it numerous times: play well for Justin Rogers,” Bennett said.

Defensive back Joe Sturdivant said he saw tears coming from the eyes of his teammates while Rogers was being strapped to a gurney and loaded into the ambulance.

“I think it angered a lot of people,” Sturdivant said.

Defensive end Cory Muse was also injured a few plays later, forcing him out for the remainder of the game. Bennett said afterward that Muse wanted to return for the second half but the staff did not allow him to. Muse re-aggravated an injury from last week against Tulane.

UTEP opened the game with a methodical six-minute, 13-play drive that began at their own 20-yard line. The Miners scored on the lone touchdown pass of the game for Jordan Palmer -a 12 yard throw to Joe West. Palmer ended the game 24 of 35 passing for 271 yards with one interception and touchdown.

SMU was burned in the final seconds of the first quarter when Johnnie Lee Higgins returned at 53-yard Thomas Morstead punt for a touchdown, putting the Miners up 14-0. A second half field goal gave UTEP a 17-0 lead during halftime.

The Mustangs came out reinvigorated in the second half, putting together two quick third quarter drives to get back in the game.

The first was a five-play drive that saw Slater gain confidence in his ability to move down the field. He completed a 56-yard bomb to wide reciever Emmanuel Sanders that was followed a few plays later by an 18-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Bobby Chase on 4th and 1.

The following UTEP drive went nowhere fast with a sack from defensive tackle Brandon Bonds and defensive end Troy Therien forcing a UTEP punt.

SMU quickly took the ball down the field in four plays, with Sanders on the receiving end of an 18-yard touchdown pass from Slater.

Briefly…

Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders caught a touchdown pass for the fourth consecutive game, tying the SMU record held by Emanuel Tolbert (1977) and Jerry LeVias (1966)…The fumble return for a touchdown by Jonathan Lindley was the second for the Mustangs this season, Zack Sledge had a 2-yard retrun for a touchdown against Arkansas State…After spending the bulk of the start of the season on the road, the next four out of five games will be at home for SMU.

DeMyron Martin returned to the Mustang lineup in Saturday’s game. (Christina Parrish)

Cory Muse looks over an injured Justin Rogers. Muse would later leave the game with an injury. (Christina Parrish)

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