This was the easily the best performance SMU has had on offense the entire season. The offense played well in all aspects- Garret Gilbert threw well, the receivers did a better job of catching the ball and creating separation and Zach Line was Zach Line. Gilbert probably was the most impressive having his best game since his arrival on the Hilltop. Gilbert made some mistakes and threw two interceptions but completed more than 50 percent of his passes, played with confidence and with poise. He finally started to make the same throws that he makes in practice and catalyzed an offense that had been dormant. The red zone offense also was vastly improved. SMU scored touchdowns on both of their first two offensive possessions, something that the Mustangs haven't been able to do all year. The Ponies were also efficient on third and fourth down, going 8 for 15 on 3rd-and-1.
The SMU defense played an excellent overall game making great plays all over the field. The Mustangs ended the game with six interceptions and three touchdowns, ranking SMU first in the nation for takeaways with 25. Many of the playmakers on defense that had been expected to have breakout seasons stepped up against Houston. Linebacker Taylor Reed shined as he recorded two interceptions and caused another by delivering a big hit in the middle of the field, which jarred the ball out of the receiver's hand and into the palms of Kenneth Acker, who also played a great game. SMU tackled much better than they have in games passed and got great pressure front the linemen led by Margus Hunt, who had two sacks in the first half and almost recorded another in the second. The defense did allow over 400 yards passing but did an excellent job of defending against the run.
That's right. SMU performed well on all three sides of the ball. On special teams, SMU had a touchdown from Kevin Pope on a fumble recovery. Pope picked up the ball after it was dropped caused by a hit from linebacker Randall Joyner. SMU allowed one yard on one punt return all night and did a fair job of stopping Houston on kickoff returns by not allowing any return to be over 25 yards. Der'rikk Thompson added a nice boost to the SMU kickoff team adding a 43-yard return which set up the Mustangs with great field position. Punter Mike Loftus also averaged 47.4 yards per punt and boomed a 58 yarder in the game.
The SMU defense did not do a good job of stopping Houston through the air although they forced a number of turnovers. SMU constantly gave up big pass plays and at times there were gaping holes in the middle of the secondary. SMU was really torched by running backs catching balls out of the backfield. Houston running back Charles Sims had a huge day catching the ball, grabbing seven passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns including a 49-yard gallop down the sideline in the fourth quarter. Cougar receivers Daniel Spencer and Deontay Greenberry also had big days combining for 13 catches, 190 yards and a touchdown.
Third Down Defense
SMU was caught on a number of third down plays throughout the game that kept Houston lingering behind. David Piland beat SMU on the ground on a crucial third down in the game and SMU was also fooled on a third-and-long draw play up the middle, which went for a decent-sized game. The Cougars went 12-of-21 on third downs in the game and did a good job of finding holes in the SMU defense.
Although I must say that Gilbert and the receivers finally looked like they had established a connection and the wide outs did do a much better job of hanging on to balls, there were by-in-large still too many dropped passes. Darius Johnson, who had a great game, still dropped a few passes most notably one in the end zone. Johnson also had one go right through his hands as SMU was outside the red zone in the first quarter. Arrius Holleman just can't seem to catch footballs ever as he dropped the only pass that was thrown his way.
3 Up, 3 Down
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