3 Up, 3 Down

Pony Stampede publisher EJ Holland shares three positive things he saw from SMU against Southern Miss and three negative

Three Up

Defense Defense Defense

The SMU defense played lights out and held Southern Miss to just six points. The Golden Eagles mustered just 178 yards of total offense and were forced to punt on almost every possession. SMU forced two first half turnovers that led to scores and really put the game out of reach just before halftime. The first was an interception by defensive end Margus Hunt, who had his best game of the year. After the pass was tipped, Hunt was able to get catch the ball right before it hit the ground and set up the SMU offense with a short field. Hunt finished the game with three tackles including one for loss and a sack. But he really made his presence felt and overpowered the offensive tackle attempting to block him. The second turnover was a direct cause of a bone-crushing hit made by Ja'Gared Davis, which forced a duck that was picked off by nickel back Jeremy Gray. Taylor Reed also had a nice game and led the Mustangs with 8 tackles and 1.5 sacks. It was a great bounce back performance for this group after allowing 42 points at UCF.

Garrett Gilbert

His stats weren't amazing and his throws weren't either but the fact is Gilbert completed 63 percent of his passes and didn't throw an interception. He was extremely efficient and finished the game with 249 yards passing and a touchdown. But what really amazed Mustang fans were his legs. Gilbert has shown the ability to be mobile all season, and June Jones really utilized that on the first drive. Gilbert ripped off a 25-yard run and then followed that up wit ha 36-yard touchdown scamper. He scored again on a 19-yard touchdown run late in the game and has scored six rushing touchdowns in the last three games. If he can continue to make plays with his legs, defenses will have to respect that and be forced to adjust. But the big things were his decision-making and protection of the ball.

The Wise Choice

There is no question SMU has struggled to find an effective X wide receiver. Keenan Holman couldn't get the job done, Gehrig Dieter appeared to be too young for the spotlight, Arrius Holman drops too many balls and Stephen Nelson is always hurt. This finally forced June Jones to let Austin Fuller play at his natural position. Ever since he arrived on campus from Virginia Tech, I've been raving about his hands and the acrobatic catches he makes at practice. I was glad he finally got his shot especially after June moved him to tight end during fall camp. Fuller will not drop balls, and that's been a constant theme for this team. Tonight, he was very effective, catching seven passes for 59 yards. I think he can put up even better numbers with a little more experience but unfortunately, there are only two games remaining. I do have to mention that Der'rikk Thompson had his best game of the season with eight catches for 66 yards. SMU definitely needs production from both of these guys if the Ponies want to win out. Also worth noting, Jeremy Johnson led all receivers with eight receptions for 97 yards.

Three Down

Settling For FG's

SMU cannot keep settling for field goals especially after the defense sets the offense up with golden opportunities time and time again. This team needs to line up and get physical when they get inside the 20. You have one of the best running backs in SMU history so there is no reason why you should be kicking more field goals than punching it in for touchdowns. After a long completion from Gilbert to Johnson put SMU down at the four, the team kind of self-destructed. In fact, two Gilbert touchdowns were wiped out by penalties. The first was a false start and the second was a holding call. They moved all the way back to the 17 and Chase Hover's kick ended up getting blocked. You can't do that in these next two games especially on the road against Rice next week.

Play Calling

The above is a direct cause of June Jones' play calling. I was actually surprised he came out running the ball with Gilbert and giving Zach Line a lot of early carries. I thought he had finally adapted his offense to his team's strengths. But instead I was disappointed and saw the same old lackluster Run N' Shoot. The quick screen pass to the outside and the draw are tiresome and old. If Southern Miss wasn't so inept, maybe they would have caught on. In the second half, this team could have taken some shots and truly put the game away but instead we saw the same old play calling and one of the most boring halves of football that I've ever seen. In the red zone, June does nothing to mix it up. There is no waggles, no tight end to come in and help ground and pound and quite frankly no innovation. Then there are just some head scratchers. On a third-and-2, he had Gilbert throw the ball into the end zone instead of just lining up and pounding away with Line. At half, he told the TV station that he only ran one running play. Does he realize how he's making himself look? This is offense is as exciting as June's facial expressions and answers at his press conferences.

Where is DJ3?

Yes he caught a touchdown, but this isn't the same Darius Johnson from last year. He finished the game with just four catches for 27 yards. This is the guy that was supposed to be the next receiver to be drafted. Now, he's getting outshined by his fellow slot receiver. Johnson dropped two key third down passes early in the game and doesn't seem to have the best chemistry with Gilbert. He really needs to step up and make some of those ‘wow' catches in these last two games.

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