How it Happened
SMU jumped out to a quick 23-7 lead early in the second quarter behind two Matt Davis touchdown passes and two interceptions of East Carolina quarterback Blake Kemp. But the Pirates put in James Summers at quarterback midway through the second quarter and he gave them a spark for the second straight week. He led them to six unanswered touchdown drives that sealed the 49-23 win. ECU piled up 306 rushing yards, including 85 from Summers. It also held the dangerous Courtland Sutton to four catches for 51 yards and shut out SMU’s offense for the final 36:58 of the game.
What it Means
SMU needed a win to realistically salvage any bowl hopes. This loss drops the Mustangs to 1-4 on the season heading into its toughest game of the conference season Thursday at Houston. SMU will face another explosive, powerful offense still facing major defensive questions and an inability to stop spread, shotgun-based running games. Chad Morris just might burn more redshirts to see if some of his younger players can provide any kind of spark to a defense lacking it. The offense sputtered with Courtland Sutton taken away and the failure to create any consistent running game. To have a chance at winning games with a struggling defense against high-scoring offenses, SMU needs run the ball well and win the possession battle.
Player of the Game
Jeremiah Gaines: Gaines had his best game of the season, going for 96 yards on four catches and a touchdown. ECU didn’t account for him coming out of the backfield at all during the first half. His 60-yard deflection touchdown seems fluky, but he turned on the jets as he outran ECU’s secondary for 40-plus yards on his way to the end zone. On another, he discarded a blocker at the line of scrimmage and took a pass in the flat for 15 yards. Opposing defenses had largely shut down Gaines in SMU’s first four games, but his big first half made up for Sutton’s quiet first half.
Morris burned freshman linebacker Matt McNew's redshirt, as he hinted in his weekly press conference. McNew played on special teams and at linebacker, where he should see significant time going forward. Fellow linebacker Jonathan Yenga was ejected early in the game, and Jackson Mitchell filled in for him. Other lineup shuffling included Kyran Mitchell starting at star linebacker and William Barns at right guard. Morris is sending the message that players will have to compete for their spot every week.
SMU has a short week when it heads to Houston on Thursday night. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.