1. Neal Burcham – The redshirt freshman had a very nice start to the game. In the first quarter, despite the cold weather, he played with poise and threw catchable balls to his receivers. He led an eight-minute drive on SMU's first possession and although the Mustangs had to settle for a field goal, it was the kind of start he needed. He had a great completion percentage and did not turn the ball over. His throw to Keenan Holman for a touchdown was beautiful. Had the Mustangs had Burcham on their final drive of the game, they would have had a shot at the upset.
2. First Half Defense – They played as good as anyone could have anticipated in the first half holding UCF to just three points. The Golden Knights went three and out on their first possession. Storm Johnson proved to be ineffective and Bortles couldn't get into a rhythm. Stephon Sanders had a great day overall. In the second quarter, he had a big tackle for loss as well as a sack.
3. Run Game- It may have been because of the weather, but June Jones was very committed to a balanced attack against UCF. It was obvious that Burcham benefitted from the run game because there was less pressure on him to burn the defense through the air by throwing an abnormally large amount of passes every possession like he did against Houston last week. This was also because SMU wasn't playing catch up. Kevin Pope ran incredibly hard and was a great plug in for a backfield depleted by injury. Prescott Line ran hard as well, showing the ability to break multiple tackles.
1. Injury – Neal Burcham going down with a concussion all but insured a win for the Knights. With the Mustangs not wanting to burn a redshirt, they were forced to put in practice squad quarterback Garret Krstich who obviously wasn't ready to come in and perform under that much pressure under the icy conditions. Taylor Lasecki also went down but came back into the game. He went on to get called for a holding penalty where the UCF nose tackle beat him cleanly. That usually doesn't happen to the lineman that most people consider one of the best on the team.
2. Second Half Defense - In the second half, the SMU defense wasn't nearly as effective as they were early on. They consistently allowed Blake Bortles to scramble outside of the pocke,t extending plays with his legs. Many times he would throw for first downs on the run and run for first downs. One of his touchdowns was also him taking off out of the pocket and getting to the end zone. SMU did apply a decent amount of pressure on him throughout the game, but they only sacked him once. Once Bortles got comfortable, he picked a part the SMU defense all too easily. He would have had an even better day if his receivers would have held on to the ball.
3. No Bowl Game – For the first time since 2008, the Ponies won't be playing in a postseason matchup. With the seasons that individual players like seniors Garret Gilbert, Jeremy Johnson and Keenan Holman all had, they would have enjoyed the opportunity to play in one more bowl game to end their careers. Instead, the Mustangs season ends on an ice cold Saturday afternoon. June Jones' team just simply wasn't up to par this year. Too many senseless penalties. Too many questionable play calls. Too many mishaps in the secondary. Too many injuries. We'll see what next season holds.
3 Up, 3 Down
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