Up #1: Turnovers
SMU’s defense has been much improved in 2016 when it comes to taking away the football. Jordan Wyatt got things going for SMU early with a pick six on the third play of the game to give the Mustangs a 7-0 lead. That didn’t hold for very long though and the Owls started pouring on points. Still, SMU’s defensive players continued to make plays in spots and eventually Horace Richardson jumped in front of a pass in the second quarter to make his fourth interception of the season and The Mustangs’ 12th. Wyatt’s return for a TD was his second of the season and his fourth interception. Kyran Mitchell also recovered a fumble in the fourth quarter. SMU now has 14 turnovers this season which ranks second in the country.
Up #2: No major injuries
Given that a major reason for SMU’s struggles offensively is because of injuries to Matt Davis and Xavier Jones a relatively clean bill of health after a butt whooping is a good thing. Jones took his first carries since the season opener, and showed the same burst as always—there is still a bit of rust though and he should be completely back to his old self soon. He finished the day with 25 yards on four carries.
Up #3: Ke’Mon Freeman
The freshman from Texarkana was the best player for SMU on the offensive side of the ball. Freeman played quarterback for Liberty-Eylau and was the ranked the No.12 athlete in Texas by Scout.com. He took a couple snaps when Hicks was briefly sidelined with an injury in the first half, but he only attempted two passes. He got a few more plays in the fourth quarter and was being used primarily as a runner, Freeman picked up just 49 yards on 12 carries.
Down #1: Ben Hicks
Hicks was 22-of-42 for 199 yards with two passing touchdowns and two interceptions. He also fumbled the ball twice (only losing one). That makes nine interceptions for Hicks in 2016 to go with just three passing touchdowns. SMU is rolling with Hicks and unless the line can start giving him time, we should get used to seeing picks.
Down #2: All the drops and all the flags
In the defense of Hicks, he did make a number of good throws that receivers just flat out dropped. And on the few times that SMU got on the same page, Hicks made a good throw, and the receiver made a catch, there was a flag to wipe off the play. SMU was penalized eight times for 63 yards compared to Temple who was flagged three times for 25 yards. When you have a young quarterback that is struggling behind a leaky offensive line, you have to do everything you can to help him out. That means making the wide open catches and avoiding morale-killing penalties.
Down #3: Offensive line
The offensive line gave up four sacks Saturday. Hicks has made some poor decisions this season even when he has had time. Far too often he had hands in his face and pressure coming from all sides. To make things even worse, Temple consistently got pressure, even when it only rushed three. That’s just the passing game. For SMU’s offense to work well, there needs to be some semblance of a running game. It wasn’t there Saturday. SMU finished the game with just 89 rushing yards.