J.J. McDermott had two turnovers – an interception in the end zone (his second in two games) and a fumble on the following drive – that Houston turned into touchdown on their next possessions.
The interception: McDermott (34 of 40 for 239 yards, a touchdown and an interception) completed his longest pass of the night, a 27-yarder to Cole Beasley, to get down inside the Houston-5.
SMU opted to run the ball on first- and second-down, but true freshman Jared Williams lost a couple yards on both plays.
McDermott was picked off by Phillip Steward in the end zone on third down. It was his second interception in the end zone in as many games.
The fumble: After some trickery on a kickoff return, McDermott couldn't find an open target on second-and-10 and fumbled on the quarterback keep.
That led to Houston going up 23-zip.
2. Other costly errors were an abundance of overthrown and underthrown balls, many in the end zone. Two of SMU's five first half drives should have resulted in touchdowns, the most frustrating coming in the second quarter that could have given the Mustangs the lead.
After holding Houston to a field goal from inside the 10, J.R. Richardson had a 54-yard kickoff return. The offense was forced to punt after failing on third-and-3, but Matt Stone faked a punt and got the first down.
McDermott was unable to take advantage of June Jones' trickery, however, underthrowing Der'rikk Thompson in the end zone on third-and-15. Mike Loftus, who was filling in for a sick Chase Hover, went wide right on a 35-yard field goal attempt.
Had McDermott connected with his receiver, the score becomes 7-6.
Asked about McDermott's turnovers, receiver Darius Johnson said, "I can't expect him to be perfect."
At the end of the night, SMU was a lousy 5-of-15 on third down, 1-of-3 in the red zone and only had 263 yards of total offense, well below their average of 412.1 ypg.
3. SMU's solo touchdown of the night was produced from an 18-play drive. That is way too many plays.
"We have to do a better job of making explosive plays," McDermott said. "It's going to be hard if you have to string that many plays together. A 50- or 60-yard touchdown would help."
4. For the most part, SMU's defense did their part. For most of the game, they arguably played well enough to win. For awhile, they showed Houston what it was like to play against a real defense, as opposed to one full of fluff.
Though Houston had 166 total yards at halftime, they'd only scored 13 points. Red zone stops were key as they forced the Cougars to field goals instead of touchdowns, quite a feat against the No. 1 offense in the nation.
But, as the story has been in SMU's four losses in the past five games, the offense didn't give the defense a chance to win. The offense turned the ball over. Too many opportunities were thrown in the trash.
Sure the defense could have forced a few takeaways, but McDermott's misfires and turnovers made all the difference.
"The defense played their butts off," McDermott said.
Houston ended up collecting 513 yards of total offense from SMU.
Asked about his frustration with the offense not doing their job, defensive end Marquis Frazier said, "Honestly, I can't worry about the offense. They're going to go through their phases. I gotta worry about the defense and my part. That's all I'm going to worry about…just have to stay positive and move on to the next game."
5. As stated earlier in the week, there was a lack of fire on the sideline. When I got down there at the end of the game, sure they were down, but nobody was pumping anybody up. McDermott didn't appear to be talking to a single teammate and as the quarterback, that's disappointing to see – doesn't matter if you're a vocal leader or not.
The good thing was that a bunch of players looked upset, so at least they're showing emotion in some form or another.
Extra Point: SMU missed Zach Line. With him, they average 122 rushing yards per game. Today without him, they had a net of 24. Turns out they also missed Hover, who has kicked every field goal and extra point this season. Loftus missed a 35-yard attempt that could have made the score 6-3 Houston at the start of the second quarter.
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