Rapid Reaction: SMU at North Texas

With a 34-21 win at North Texas, SMU won its season opener for the first time since 2009.

How it happened

SMU burst out to a 17-0 first-quarter lead using 243 total yards and two North Texas interceptions. Xavier Jones scored on a 49-yard touchdown run on the opening drive. Two possessions later, Ben Hicks entered the game in a planned substitution for Matt Davis and threw an 88-yard touchdown pass to Courtland Sutton. UNT quarterback Alec Morris threw 2 second-quarter touchdowns, the second coming with 38 seconds left in the half. But he also threw 3 first-half interceptions.

SMU’s 274 total rushing yards offset some struggles in the passing game. Matt Davis completed only 8 of 17 passes for 112 yards before leaving the game with an injury sustained on a scramble in the third quarter. Hick went 4 of 7 for 57 yards passing after replacing Davis, including a pretty back-shoulder throw to Sutton, who caught 4 passes for 162 yards and 3 touchdowns.

What it means

SMU has a winning record for the first time at any point in the season since December 2012, when it beat Fresno State in the Hawaii Bowl. While SMU relied on its running game to move the ball, the defense held its own against a fast-paced offense. The Mustangs looked leaky at times in the first half after busting their coverage on both touchdowns, but also forced a punt on each of the Mean Green’s third-quarter possessions. In bend-but-don’t-break fashion, they allowed 394 total yards, 311 through the air.

Player of the Game

Xavier Jones. He left the game in the third quarter after sustaining a non-contact injury, but Jones was SMU’s most consistent offensive player before departing. He ran for 115 yards, averaged 10.5 yards per rush and also had a couple important blitz pickups in pass protections. His pickup of a safety on a nickel blitz allowed Hicks time to find Sutton. He threw a couple key blocks on Davis scrambles.

Side note

Freshman running back Ke’Mon Freeman entered the game in the third quarter shortly after Jones’ injury and rushed for 39 yards on 5 carries, all on one drive. UNT's defense struggled to bring him down and he could fell forward to pick up extra yards as he was tackled. As a team, SMU averaged 6.1 yards per rush.

What’s next

SMU is on the road again next Saturday to play No. 23 Baylor. Kickoff is at 2:30 p.m. CT.


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