Feeding Xavier Jones
SMU gave Jones 14 touches in the first half, and he turned them into 139 yards and three touchdowns. Jones got help from a good early effort from the offensive line and some good blocks on the perimeter, but SMU stuck to its running game and fed its best running back the ball. The offensive line deserves a lot of credit for winning the line of scrimmage against a solid Tulane front that had three players with at least 12 tackles for loss. After strangely getting only eight carries against Navy, the coaches made a strong point to involve him. SMU rushed for 323 yards and six touchdowns as part of its 518-yard output, the highest of the season.
Entering the game, SMU's quarterback had completed 53 of 113 passes (47 percent) for 650 yards with four interceptions since SMU's bye week. SMU stayed committed to the run and started Davis out with simple-read, short, high-percentage passes that resulted in chunk plays. That got him in a groove and opened up the passing game for a Courtland Sutton reverse pass and some longer-developing routes. Davis looked more comfortable in the pocket thanks to solid protection and quick reads, but he also kept the defense on edge with 156 rushing yards. He snapped a four-game interception streak at SMU played turnover-free for 60 minutes.
Converting Third Down
The SMU coaches have talked a lot about the team's issue of falling behind the chains and getting third and longs. SMU had consistent positive yardage on first down and avoided third and long. As a result, it converted 10 of 15 third downs against Tulane, a lot of them managable distances. It also turned a second-and-31 into a first down in the red zone in two plays: a Matt Davis 21-yard run that set up an 18-yard completion to Sutton on third-and-10.
SMU only punted five times, but Josh Williams' freshman struggles continued. His first two punts traveled 26 and 25 yards, respectively. The second punt came on SMU's own goal line and netted just 15 yards after a penalty on special teams. On the season, he's averaging only 40.2 yards per punt, although he has not had a punt result in a touchback.
This is becoming a weekly occurance for SMU. Courtland Sutton is the latest in SMU's season-long caoursel of punt returners to muff a punt. Fortunately for SMU, he recovered after Tulane's attempts to fall on the ball failed miserably. SMU hasn't gotten much production on punt returns all season. Current redshirt wide receiver James Proche figures to get a long look at punt returner next season because of his explosiveness, but especially if he can hang on to the ball.
SMU committed 14 penalties for 123 yards, including a roughing the passer on Andrew McCleneghen on a third-and-28 dump-off that put Tulane in the red zone and set up its second touchdown. Kevin Thomas committed an unnecessary roughness on the ensuing drive that killed the drive's momentum. Courtland Sutton also had a personal foul that backed SMU up into the second-and-31. Finally, SMU had four offensive pre-snap penalties.