I was sitting in the press box for Oak Ridge High school vs Klein Forest at Woodforest Bank Stadium in the Woodlands, Texas. Over the past couple weeks, this has been my office Thursday through Saturday.
I made it in the box about two and a half hours early for a 6 p.m. kickoff. I staked out my usual spot: a corner seat on the first row. After finishing my prep for the game, I leaned my chair back, folding my arms behind my head and watched as the sun slowly sunk below the tree-line.
I was wearing a pair of wayfarers and my traditional jeans and black t-shirt. It wasn’t long before my photographer joined me, decked from head to toe in purple. He threw his usual digs at me, called us Ponies in that condescending tone TCU alumni use.
But thanks to his remarks, I was reminded that the game was on ESPN3 and therefore, I wasn’t able to record it for after my high school game. I spent the final hours leading up to kickoff trying to set up my stream on the incredibly crappy Wi-Fi signal of the stadium. It finished buffering about ten seconds before UNT kicked off.
I spent the next two and a half hours keeping stats of a high school game and simultaneously trying to watch our Mustangs on their path to redemption.
At times, my fellow reporters were confused by my reactions during timeouts or other moments of non-action.
Towards the third quarter of my game, things got pretty exciting and I lost track of the SMU contest. After talking to both the home and visiting coaches and chasing down the winning quarterback, I headed to my car.
I downloaded a radio app and found SMU’s radio broadcast and listened to the rest of the game on my way home—yelling at stoplights and earning the stares of other drivers.
They didn’t understand. How could they. For SMU and for all its fans, Saturday’s 31-13 win over North Texas was huge.
Not just because it was a redemption or revenge game, but because it was our first win of the 2015 season. We had to wait until week 12 last year to experience our first win.
If punching the sleeping Bear before getting ripped to shreds last week gave us any reason to hope for a better season, then spanking the Mean Green solidified those reasons.
It’s still very early in the season, and it is only one win but if I were to pick a turning point it’s hard not to say the 4th quarter against UNT.
With two minutes left in the third quarter North Texas’ Antoine Jimmeson scorched the Mustangs for a 25 yard run.
SMU looks up at the scoreboard and finds itself trailing 13-10 entering the fourth. It wasn’t where they thought they’d be. This was a team they believed sucker punched them last season—a team they should be beating easily. They’d dominated the stat sheet, but had failed to capitalize on two of the three drives they took into the UNT redzone. So, here they found themselves trailing.
Then, just like he did last season against UConn, Matt Davis took over the ball game.
First he finds Courtland Sutton for 15 yards to their own 44. Three plays later he connects with Shelby Walker to the North Texas 35. After a Xavier Jones run to the eight, Davis found Jeremiah Gaines for a go-ahead touchdown.
That’s three big completions to three different receivers and a long run from a true freshman. That is what you call a complete drive.
Davis followed that up with a 50 yard touchdown run on the Mustangs next possession.
Now up 24-13 with just under eight minutes to play, SMU knew the most important thing was to eat up clock. Davis orchestrated an eight play, 4:47 drive consisting of seven runs. Of course that drive ended with yet another Davis rushing touchdown—this one from 14 yards out.
The Mustangs finished with 444 total offensive yards while only surrendering 240 to UNT. Had they been better in the redzone, their margin of victory would have been bigger.
Still, some of the mistakes they made against Baylor they fixed against UNT. As much as we wanted to believe the first half against Baylor was a sign of the turning point in this program, it wasn’t. SMU was getting the better of the Bears and yet found a way to shoot itself in the foot and lose like everyone expected…like they did 11 times last season.
But when they were behind in the fourth quarter—in a game where they’d once again shot themselves several times—they buckled down and pulled out a win.
That took poise. That took confidence. That took grit.
It’s often said that the mark of a good team is that it finds a way to win.
On Saturday, SMU found the way and its name was Matt Davis.