The Estonian Hammer
Margus Hunt really looked like a man among boys today. I was a little disappointed with the way he played this year, but Hunt showed why NFL scout are raving about him. The Capital One Player of the Game made his presence known early as he sacked Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr and forced a fumble, which was recovered by Spike Davis. The turnover set up a 30-yard field goal. On the ensuing Bulldog possession, Hunt sacked Carr again- this time for a safety that gave SMU a 12-0 lead. But he wasn't done yet. Hunt swallowed up scat back Robbie Rouse in the back field and forced another fumble, which was recovered by Taylor Reed and set up another field goal. Overall, Hunt dominated the line of scrimmage and drew triple teams in the second half. He finished the game with three tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, two sacks and three quarterback hurries.
Defense, Defense, Defense
It wasn't just Hunt who dominated. The entire unit played extremely well and shut down an offense that was averaging over 400 yards and 30 points per game. Carr was rattled from start to finish and was picked off twice. The first one was the game sealer by Reed, who returned it 69 yards for a touchdown and gave SMU a 36-10 lead. Reserve defensive back Hayden Greenbauer added insult to injury in the final minutes as he picked off Carr and returned it 83 yards for another score. Both Ja'Gared Davis and Stephon Sanders recorded sacks and pressured Carr all day long. Fresno State was held to -16 yards rushing and only converted 4-of-14 third downs. This performance was a real testament to the job defensive coordinator Tom Mason has done all year despite injuries to multiple starters.
Outside Wide Receivers
The outside wide receivers struggled to produce all year long but both Der'rikk Thompson and Austin Fuller had key plays that helped SMU come out with the big win. Early in the game, Fuller took a quick slant 67 yards and gave SMU momentum. He led all receivers with four receptions for 83 yards. Thompson was second with five catches for 82 yards. Bird, as he's known by his teammates, flew down the field and could have had an even bigger game if Garrett Gilbert would have delivered accurate passes. But he did have a key third down reception and dropped just one pass. I believe Thompson really has a chance to emerge as a top receiver next year.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Gilbert
Make no mistake about it, Gilbert did an amazing job of using his legs today and made some clutch throws, but he's still very inconsistent with his arm. Gilbert completed 50 percent of his passes and threw two interceptions. He had a nice third down throw to Thompson and a beautiful pass to Darius Johnson for a touchdown. But he came back and turned the ball over. He needs to be more consistent and really work on his touch this offseason as well as developing a better rapport with Thompson on deep balls. He missed three long ones to Thompson that could've put even more points on the scoreboard.
Offensive Line Play
The offensive line didn't have its best day. Gilbert was sacked four times and was smacked on a couple of those. It seems when Gilbert gets hit, he gets rattled. Right after one of those sacks, he threw an interception. Bryan Collins was beaten quite a few times and didn't look like the best lineman on this team as many have made him out to be. The line to do a better job of protecting him next season. Holes weren't really there for Zach Line either. I know Fresno State focused on him, but the line was never really able to get a strong push for Line minus the touchdown run and two other big rumbles.
Where Where The Johnsons?
Despite catching a perfectly thrown touchdown pass, DJ3 was really a non-factor as he's been too often this year. Johnson finished the game with just three catches for 39 yards. Luckily, everything else clicked for SMU because I thought Johnson was going to have to have a big game in order for the Ponies to be successful He's had an up and down season and this performance was a disappointing way to end his overall stellar career. I spoke to a scout this week, and he says Johnson's tock has plummeted and probably won't get drafted. The other Johnson, Jeremy, didn't even record a catch. I still expect him to be a big-time player for SMU next year, but he wasn't anything close to that on Monday night.
3 Up, 3 Down
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