Matt Visinsky

Upon Further Review: SMU vs. USF

Demo has this week's Upon Further Review following SMU's loss to USF.

We could all use a little positivity right now, so let’s try to find it. The best way might be to simply go through the stat book and see what we find. 

Oh, look at that—SMU had 19 first downs and USF had 15. And hey, the defense held the Bulls under 100 passing yards. The Mustangs also outgained USF 365-352. SMU even won the time of possession battle 34:48 to 25:12. And maybe for the first time this season, Matt Davis wasn’t sacked more than three times. 

Courtland Sutton found the end zone again, even if it was in garbage time. For the first time since September, SMU managed to hold an opponent under 48 points. 

Deion Sanders Jr. racked up 61 yards on three kick returns. He now ranks 6th in SMU history with 1212 career return yards—la dee freakin da! 

That’s it—that’s all the positives I can take away from what was one of the most was disappointing, uninspired performances I’ve seen. 

We knew SMU hasn’t been able defend against a dual threat quarterback. South Florida knew it and Quinton Flowers knew it. The sophomore ran for 201 yards on 23 attempts and found the end zone three times.  

And by the way, let’s get rid of one of those positives, because Darrel Colbert, Jr. put up 120 yards during garbage time. SMU's inability to find consistency and effectiveness on the offensive line is hurting the Mustangs success on offense. 

And even when the line does its job, SMU has been narrowed down to only two real threats: Davis and Sutton. Sutton has been taken out of the equation on most plays and has been a non-factor since being place on the Biletnikoff watch list.   

Xavier Jones and Braeden West have been decent weapons in their freshman seasons—occasionally—but haven’t done enough to be respected by defenses as real threats. You could argue that they aren’t getting enough touches and that might be true, but they also aren’t doing anything to earn more touches. 

It should have been pretty obvious that my “positives” were all straw men. If you want a real positive it can actually be found on the defensive end—shocking, I know. 

SMU’s best defense performance came against—no surprises here—North Texas. SMU managed to hold UNT to just 240 yards a game. 

Now, the positive we can take away from Saturday’s otherwise awful showing is: for the third straight game, SMU has given up fewer yards than it did the week before. James Maddison put up 729, but then things started looking up. First they held ECU to 555, then Houston to 457, and finally USF to 352. 

It might be hard to believe, but the defense is actually playing better. The even managed to record 11 tackles for a loss—three courtesy of Zach Wood.

I know it’s a small thing to cling to, and it might even be hard to believe, but the defense is improving. It’s something we weren’t expecting to happen this season. We’ve been able to place the blame for SMU’s struggles on the defense and early on we were justified—I’m not sure that’s going to be the case anymore. 

Sure, Flowers hurt SMU. But USF didn’t put up ungodly numbers—they were typical offensive outputs. This defense picked its poison and kept the game within realistic come-from-behind range. Do we place the blame on the offense? 

Ever since losing to TCU the air seems to have been taken out of the football for SMU. The Mustangs averaged 10.4 yards per pass against TCU, but is gotten progressively worse each week—JMU 8.7, ECU 7.6, Houston 7.1, and USF 6.3. 

Dig deeper and you realize your eyes are pretty good—SMU likes to start games well, take the next two quarters off and then try to finish the fourth strong. The proof is in the third down efficiency pudding: SMU is 56.7 percent on third downs in the first quarter, 25.9 in the second and third, and 55.6 in the fourth.    

To make matter worse, SMU has lost the turnover battle 7-2 over the last two weeks. 

While the defense is getting better, the offense is floundering. It’s up to the offensive coaches to get the unit back on track while simultaneously hoping the defense continues to improve. 

Meanwhile all we can do is watch them struggle though it and yell in unison, “DAMN YOU JUNE!!!!”   

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