"Two interceptions," June Jones said three different times when asked in three different ways why former starting quarterback Kyle Padron was taken out against A&M and why he won't get the nod this week.
Both quarterbacks will see the field, but McDermott, who went 21 of 34 for 254 yards and a touchdown in SMU's 46-14 loss to A&M Sunday, will start in his first-ever game for the Mustangs.
Despite it being his first career start at SMU, McDermott doesn't feel any different at practice this week. He's been coming in for extra film sessions, but other than that he's just preparing like he normally does.
"I'm just trying to do the same things," McDermott said.
McDermott and Padron have been taking equal snaps all throughout spring, summer and fall camp, so it's not like the new starting quarterback is awestruck or jittery or anything like that. He's basically going through the same routine.
"He has bought into ‘Where can I go with [the ball] quickly if I get pressured,'" Jones said. "He got a lot of pressure last week and a couple times he didn't even have a chance. But he stood in there and took the licks and tried to make the throws."
More than anything, the UTEP game is a chance for McDermott to prove that he can win. Padron hasn't been ousted—he's been the starter for a year-and-a-half, threw for almost 4,000 yards last season and has talent and mobility—he's just had a few hiccups as of late.
"June wants to give J.J. the opportunity to see if he can protect the ball and not turn it over," assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach Dan Morrison said. "It's not that we know J.J. is better, it's that we're giving him an opportunity to see if he can make good throws and good decisions."
Morrison thinks McDermott has the ability to see things and read things better, while Padron has more ability.
"Neither one is bad at either side," Morrison said. "The both have strong arms and are very accurate kids. They'll help each other out and make each other better."
As far as how the rest of the team feels about what could be more of a constant rotation, half the time they don't even realize there's been a change because McDermott and Padron are a lot alike.
"It's not like you're going from a loud kid to a quiet kid," McDermott said. "Their voices and demeanor are very similar."
"I don't think the change will do anything," running back Zach Line said. "If J.J. starts and Kyle comes in, you won't feel a difference because they're both really good quarterbacks. I wouldn't even notice if they switched."
The Aggies sacked McDermott eight times for 41 yards. UTEP is simpler in its defensive schemes, so he won't feel as much pressure.
But regardless of last week's outcome, McDermott doesn't care that it was against a Top 10 team. He knows he can do better.
"I feel like I missed some people," he said. "After looking at the tape, it's pretty simple stuff. There was a pass to Cole [Beasley] up the sideline that probably would have tied the game, but I overthrew a little bit. There were a couple others that I missed and could have had. I just need to try to eliminate the mental mistakes and get the ball to the open guy."
The mental side is what will be the key for McDermott this weekend—it's his first-ever start as a Mustang and there's an anxious backup in Padron trying to get his No. 1 spot back. But if McDermott can do the things the coaches ask him to do and pull out a conference win, it might be his job to lose.