For the third week in a row, SMU will try to get its sixth win of the season, a win that would make the team bowl eligible for the third year in a row.
After a two-game road stretch that resulted in conference losses to Southern Miss and Tulsa by a combined score of 65-10, the Mustangs get Tulane on Homecoming today to try and get back to the way they played during their five-game winning streak earlier this season.
J.J. McDermott is coming off his worst performance of the year, having completed less than half his passes, tossing zero touchdowns and throwing four interceptions against Tulsa.
But the starting quarterback has a short-term memory.
"I'm fine, everybody has bad games," McDermott said. "It was going to happen. If it didn't happen last week, it would have happened at another point. We wipe that one clean. As a quarterback, you can't think much about what you did in the past – good or bad – you just prepare for next week and move on."
Asked if he or any of the other team leaders needed to rally the locker room this week, McDermott said:
"Everybody kind of has that general feeling already, it doesn't need to be said."
Coach June Jones called his team "fragile" this week, explaining that until they play well and get a win under their belt, nothing can help the team's overall frustration of the past two weeks.
"We're just not in sync," Jones said, "When J.J. does his job, then someone doesn't do theirs. We've got a guy wide open, but we can't get it off because we didn't pass protect. Then we pass protect and we miss a guy. Hopefully we'll be sharp this week."
SMU's defense played its worst game last week, too, as the offense, who only mustered a total of 265 yards, didn't give the other side of the ball any hope.
"It seems like defensively, we don't play at a high level if the offense isn't clicking. That's not how a team needs to be," Jones said. "The defense needs to carry you and win and if the defense isn't having a day, the offense needs to carry you and win. We're not feeding off each other. We just seem to be a real fragile team right now."
But the Mustangs face a Tulane team that's had a mid-season coaching change and has dropped its last six games. Even so, SMU must be aware of the Green Wave's pass rush, man-to-man coverage and running back Orleans Darkwa, who is second in Conference USA behind Zach Line with 606 rushing yards, averaging 67.3 per game, and nine touchdowns.
"In Conference USA, anybody can beat anybody and if we're not ready to play this week, they're going to beat us," Jones said. "We're not the type of team, and there isn't a type of team here, that can just show up and win."
The Green Wave still hasn't quite settled into interim coach Mark Hutson's system after Bob Toledo left the team a few weeks ago. Jones said Toledo liked to use a two tight end/two running back scheme in his offense and Hutson will probably spread the field more.
Either way, SMU needs to be ready. Three of their next four games are at home and they need just one more win to achieve one of their goals of making the post-season.
"We need to get back on a roll for sure," McDermott said. "The season is not lost. The team is still excited and motivated. The last two weeks were a bit of a setback, but we're looking forward."
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