Kevin Pope ready for his first start

With SMU"s leading tackler Taylor Reed suspended for today's game at Tulsa, true freshman Kevin Pope will get the starting nod. Pope says he isn't nervous and feels like he can "get the job done." His teammates and coaches trust him just like he's a regular starter.

With starting linebacker Taylor Reed suspended for this today's game due to "conduct detrimental to the team," true freshman Kevin Pope will get the starting nod.

Reed leads the team with 57 tackles this season; Pope has made 13, plus one sack.

This conference road game against Tulsa is a must-win for SMU. Coming off last weekend's loss at Southern Miss, if the Mustangs don't win this game, it will be unlikely that they'll get a shot at winning the conference, which is the No. 1 goal the team set for itself at the start of the season.

Despite the high stakes, Pope isn't nervous about getting his first start.

"I see this as a big opportunity and I'm excited about it," he said. "I was nervous about the [Texas] A&M game when I first played, but since then I've gotten all the nervousness out. I'm ready for [this weekend]. Can't wait."

Last weekend, Southern Miss' offensive line, which June Jones compared to a line in the NFL, gave SMU's defense problems. Pope said Tulsa's offensive line is bigger and stronger than USM's, but they're not as athletic.

Pope is ready to face whatever comes his way Saturday. Asked if any of the older linebackers like Ja'Gared Davis or Victor Jones pulled him aside for words of encouragement, Pope simply stated, "They trust me."

And the coaches trust him, too.

"I don't expect any drop off," defensive coordinator Tom Mason said. "He's got natural instincts."

"They trust me like a starter," Pope said. "I feel like I can get the job done, so I'm going to go out there and get it done."

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