SMU looks for a fresh start against UTEP

With a new starting quarterback, the Mustangs look to exploit a weaker defense than they faced last week.

June Jones and Co. are starting off fresh this week.

The Top 10 opponent (Texas A&M) is out of the way, a new quarterback is getting the start (J.J. McDermott over Kyle Padron) and it's the first conference game of the year.

The slate is (sort of) clean.

To rehash what happened at Kyle Field last Sunday for a minute—Padron threw two interceptions in SMU's first two series of the game that resulted in an early 14-0 deficit. Padron was replaced by backup McDermott, who ended up going 21 of 34 for 254 yards and a touchdown in the Mustang's 46-14 loss.

Due to the turnovers and the way McDermott came in and took over, Jones said that he gets the start, but both quarterbacks will play against UTEP.

Saturday's game will be McDermott's first career start at SMU.

"He has bought into the ‘Where can I go with [the ball] quickly if I get pressured,'" Jones said about the things he likes about his new starting quarterback. "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."

A&M's defense bludgeoned SMU and McDermott was sacked eight times for 41 yards.

But UTEP won't bring the same noise (figuratively and literally) as the Aggies did—they won't blitz as much nor will they be as fast. Last week the Miners allowed FCS school Stony Brook 410 yards of total offense and had to comeback in overtime to beat them 31-24.

"They're simpler in their scheme so I think that will be a little easier on everybody," McDermott said of UTEP's defense. "We still gotta block them and pitch and catch, but mentally, they're not going to throw as much stuff at you. But you have to execute nonetheless."

Stony Brook racked up 231 rushing yards on the Miners, so Zach Line should be able to exploit their interior, considering he blasted through A&M for 128 yards.

On the defensive side, Jones called out his players for not being physical against A&M.

"I don't think we got enough out of the whole 11," Jones said. "We missed a lot of tackles. We gotta turn it up and out-hit the team we're playing."

UTEP's new starting quarterback, JUCO transfer Nick Lamaison, went 24 of 38 for 365 yards and three touchdowns against Stony Brook. His weapon of choice is receiver Donovan Kemp, who had four receptions for 144 yards, including the game-winning touchdown.

The Miners don't have a running game, though, totaling jut 56 rushing yards in their first game.

So if SMU's secondary locks down UTEP's receivers and the front seven play more physical and focus on their pass rush, the Mustangs should walk away with a win.

"We got out-hit and out-hustled last week," Line said. This week is going to be a big statement for us because right now, our report card isn't very good."

UTEP has won four of the last five meetings versus SMU, including last year's 28-14 win in El Paso.

For more SMU coverage, follow Laken Litman on Twitter!

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