Dallas Morning News: SMU seeks passing game

Bennett says he will open up SMU offense

Quarterback change could be next for winless Mustangs


UNIVERSITY PARK – Seeking to establish the passing game, something that has been almost nonexistent in three games, SMU coach Phil Bennett said Monday he will open up the offense this week and that he may use a different quarterback to get the job done.

In Saturday's 17-6 loss to TCU, quarterback Tate Wallis went 9-of-21 passing for 101 yards and an interception.

"We've got to get better execution from our quarterback, or our running game is going to be our only answer," Bennett said.

Wallis must also improve his technique, Bennett said, or redshirt freshman quarterback Richard Bartel may make his first collegiate appearance Saturday at Oklahoma State. Wallis will start, "unless he just doesn't practice very well," Bennett said. He will not rotate quarterbacks.

"Obviously, TCU didn't respect any of our passes," Bennett said. "They kept nine guys in the box, and we still had a back rush for 127 yards. We've just got to be a little more balanced in what we're doing."

The offense has been heavy toward the run, in part because Wallis is a redshirt freshman who had never played in college until this season. Bennett said it's time to change the limited approach and make greater use of intermediate passes.

Wallis, who is 31-of-75 passing for two touchdowns and five interceptions, hasn't completed a pass to a wide receiver until the third quarter in each of the first three games. In the last two games, SMU (0-3) has rushed 92 times while attempting 44 passes, more than a 2-to-1 ratio. Running back Keylon Kincade has three straight 100-yard rushing games.

The grind-it-out approach has resulted in the Mustangs scoring 27 points through three games.

"We can't go into a game and always just sit there and say, 'Hey, we're going to run Keylon 36 times,' " said Bennett, adding that miscues in the passing game helped dictate that. "To be honest, that wasn't our plan Saturday."

In the fourth quarter, with SMU trailing 17-6, the Mustangs called for Cody Cardwell to run a fade route to the end zone. From the TCU 30 on first down, Cardwell beat his man and got behind the coverage for a potential touchdown. But Wallis' pass was underthrown, and Jason Goss intercepted it in the end zone. A "crucial mistake," Bennett said.

Wallis won the starting job over Bartel because of his decision making in practice. But in games, Bennett said Wallis has shown flaws in his footwork, and he's reverted back to a sidearm delivery he used as a quarterback at Ennis. The low release point has resulted in too many batted balls.

And Wallis sometimes has made incorrect reads on option plays, pitching the ball when he should have kept it.

"All of those flaws are correctable," Bennett said. "It's just that we've got to have the attention span and the focus to get it done."

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