SMU Keys to Victory

SMU has shown that last year's success under June Jones and his staff was no fluke. The Mustangs are 4-2 overall and perched in the driver's seat in Conference-USA. This week, SMU travels to the east coast for a challenging non-conference contest at Navy. What do the Mustangs need to do in order to secure a fifth victory and snap a lengthy non-conference road losing streak?

Linebackers continue to bring the pain - June Jones' reputation as an offensive braintrust is both well-documented and well-deserved, but SMU has developed a reputation this year as a team that performs well on both sides of the ball.

The Mustangs are have been intense on defense and the linebackers have played with enthusiasm and aggression. Ja'Gared Davis is second in the nation with seven sacks and the fiery sophomore has 12 tackles for loss. The four leading tacklers on the team are all LBs: Taylor Reed (53, 39 solo), Pete Fleps (51), Davis (44), and Youri Yenga (36).

Padron continues his hot hand - The sophomore QB has been on a roll. Last week, Padron shredded Tulsa's secondary with a 27-of-40, 381-yard performance that included three TDs. He's reading defensive schemes extremely well and has utilized every quadrant of the field in the passing game.

Don't overlook the fact that Padron has been the second-leading ballcarrier on the team. He's sustained multiple scoring drives by deftly scrambling for timely first downs.

Secondary stays consistent - Tulsa came into Ford Stadium last Saturday averaging close to 40 points per game, thanks in large part to their passing game. SMU's secondary was more than up to the task, however, allowing zero passing TDs and forcing Tulsa QB G.J. Kinne to complete less than 50% of his attempts.

Among defensive backs, Chris Banjo is the leading tackler and he has the strength to blow up an unfortunate receiver who happens to come across the middle at the wrong time. If SMU's secondary is able to come up and effectively assist with run support vs. Navy (while guarding against the play-action), that could go a long way towards shutting down the Midshipmen.

Pound the "Line" - RB Zach Line is averaging more than 106 all-purpose yards each game and he's the breadwinner when it comes to the ground game. The powerful runner has been chewing up the yardage with a healthy average of 6.8 yards per carry.

When the Mustangs get into the red zone, it's comfortable knowing that they have a big, fast back who will move the pile forward. The presence of Chris Butler and true frosh Darryl Fields ensures that a pair of fresh legs is always ready to hit the field. Butler is averaging 5.3 yards per carry and Fields has been a terror on kickoff returns (25.4 average, including a 92-yarder).

Tough in the trenches - Last week, the defensive line was able control things up front vs. Tulsa. Taylor Thompson, who is second on the team in sacks and tied for third in TFL, harassed Tulsa's Kinne for four quarters. Marquis Frazier has 18 tackles this season, while Margus Hunt and Kevin Grenier have both brutalized the opposition.

The aforementioned duo has combined for four sacks and four TFL (not to mention several blocked field goals). If SMU's defensive line can win the battle up front and clog the holes on the fullback dive, that could result in Navy being forced to throw the ball on 3rd-and-long -- a situation that the Midshipmen hope to avoid.

Receivers gone wild - As previously discussed, Padron has spread the football around the field and he's gotten each of his wide receivers involved. It's difficult for defensive coordinators to scheme for SMU's passing game, because you never know who Padron's next target will be.

Aldrick Robinson has the most hefty yards per catch (20.0) and is third on the team with 27 catches (for 539 yards and 6 TDs). Darius Johnson has 33 catches (for 336 yards and 4 TDs), while Cole Beasley has 30-431, 3 TDs.

Beasley was a beast in the open field vs. Tulsa, turning what initially appeared to be a modest pitch-and-catch into six points after he left four defenders flat-footed with some shake-and-bake maneuvers.

Robinson and Johnson can each stretch the defense and make the acrobatic circus catch in traffic. Bradley Haynes is an excellent target near the goal-line and has come through with several clutch catches.

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