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


Mustangs look to come home with a win

The Mustangs return from their one-week hiatus ready to bring an end to a two-game losing streak that leaves them 2—6 on the year. Rice is coming off what might be its best effort of the season, a 38-31 loss at the hands of a 6—1 UTEP squad that is tied for the Western Division lead.

The Owls sit at 0—7 for the season, but Mustang Head Coach Phil Bennett is weary of the scrappy bunch from Houston. “They are a team with a deceptive record,” Bennett said, “and in order to win, we are going to have to execute and finish things off at the end of the game.”

Key Matchup

Rice’s Triple Option vs. SMU’s Defense

Usually, the matchup focuses on a more specific set of units or players. This week, it is the entire defensive unit for the Mustangs trying to stop the constant rush barrage of the Owls. The Owls will run on first, second, third and, as UTEP learned, fourth down, as well. The Owls are 21st in the country in rushing, which is an off-year for them, as the Owls have finished in the top 10 in the country in rushing in eight out of the last nine years.

Joel Armstrong pilots the attack and is coming off one of his better games of the year with 124 yards last weekend against UTEP, and he appears to be extremely comfortable out of the shotgun wrinkle the Owls have added this season.

Multiple players will handle the running back chores, but the best of the bunch is Quniton Smith, who ran for 154 yards on 23 carries against the Miners.

The Mustangs will probably devote nine players to the run on almost every down, leaving their corners in man-to-man coverage throughout the day.

SMU’s defensive line of Cory Muse, Brandon Bonds, Adrian Haywood and Justin Rogers will have to win the battle up front and allow the linebacking crew of D.D. Lee, Alvin Nnabuife and Wilton McCray to flow to the ball. The ‘Stangs must stay disciplined and stick to their assignments.

Making Rice a horizontal team is another key according to Bennett, who said, “We have to concentrate on is keeping them moving east and west and not north and south.”

The Owls thrive when the outside contain man losses leverage and races to the ball rather than maintaining position.

The key for the Mustangs will be to limit the amount of big plays the Owls make out of the option and, hopefully, force Rice into obvious passing situations where Armstrong is noticeably uncomfortable.


Rice’s John Syptak

This is how much respect Syptak’s name carries. He was the C—USA preseason defensive player of the year despite the fact only five of the league’s coaches had played against the speedy defensive end. Such respect is deserving of a player who sees his name in the top four in Rice history in tackles for both loss and sacks.

Syptak hasn’t lived up to the lofty expectations that have been set for him, though, as he has only two sacks on the year, but Coach Hatfield has cited his outstanding leadership as the reason why the Owls continue to play hard despite the dismal record. At the least, Syptak has his skills in the classroom to still brag about as he made the CoSIDA District IV Academic All—American Team last season.

Syptak needs to be the player everyone thought he would be at the beginning of the season for the Owls to be successful on Saturday.

SMU’s Jerad Romo

It goes without saying that a quarterback has to play well for a team to be successful. For the Mustangs’ Jerad Romo, that burden has led to an up and down year.

With the confidence that comes with not having to constantly wonder about if he was playing or not, Romo has looked much more comfortable throwing the ball, as evidenced by his 55 percent completion percentage for just under 170 yards a game.

Romo has also risen to the role of a team leader, which was never more clear then when he publicly took the blame for the loss against East Carolina after throwing four interceptions. In the victory at UAB, Romo showed he could be the difference maker by throwing for over 300 yards passing against UAB in the “Legend at Legion.”

The peaks came with valleys, as Romo has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns and had two games where he has threw for less then 100 yards. Look for Romo to finish the year with three strong games, as he closes his career with the Mustangs in style.

Inside the Mustangs

Mr. Brightside

“We are not into moral victories,” Coach Phil Bennett said, “but we can tell we are a better football team and that we are not that far away.”

For the first time, Bennett has seen the Dallas media publicly call his job status into jeopardy, and his response has been to do as he has always done: Work hard, stress patience and try to improve the talent base. Bennett, for the most part, has been happy with how the team has played, except for its ability to handle the football.

“We haven’t come out on top recently,” Bennett said, “but you have to believe in what you are doing and keep working. I don’t think we are very far from being a good football team, but when you are minus seven in the turnover ratio the last two games [it’s hard to win].”

Some facts back up Bennett’s comments, including the fact the two wins the Mustangs possess are against the nationally-ranked Horned Frogs and a 4—4 UAB team that is still the hunt for a bowl bid.

SMU must play more consistently and eliminate the turnovers if it wants to make its coach look smart by saying it’s a better team then the record suggests.

The Mayor’s Cup

This game is about a whole lot more then just a win, according to Rice Coach Ken Hatfield. “We’re playing for the Mayors’ Cup. We won it last year. It’s the city of Houston playing the city of Dallas and it’s about bragging rights,” je said.

The cup was created in 1998 by then current mayors Ron Kirk and Lee Brown to commemorate the rivalry that started in 1915.

The Owls have controlled the series of late, winning the last three games and 13 of 16 overall. Last season, the Owls ran for 496 yards in a 44—10 win in Rice Stadium, only a year after the Owls’ win 41—20 in Ford Stadium in a game that the Owls threw for 300 yards on like six completions (a bit of an exaggeration, but let’s just say the play-action was working).

SMU hopes to extend its 44—37—1 overall series lead Saturday at 2 p.m when the games kicksoff at Ford Sta.,dium.

Trent Redden is a senior accounting and public policy major. He can be reached at [email protected].

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