1. Offensive Line Play
The battered offensive line was able to hold up for most of the game. Braylon Hyder left the game early with an injury and was replaced by Travis Fister. In overtime, center Evan Brown went down and Fister moved over to take his spot. Despite this, the line did not allow a sack all night.
2. Ben Hicks
Ben Hicks played what was easily the best game of his career tonight. After struggling with interceptions in his first four starts, Hicks was able to avoid turning it over. He spread the ball around, completing passes to ten different players. On the biggest play of the game for the SMU offense, a fourth down and five on their final drive of the fourth quarter, Hicks got the ball to Courtland Sutton to set up the game tying field goal. Hicks finished the game with 29 completions on 52 attempts for 258 yards and two touchdowns. His number would have been even better if not for some critical drops by Braeden West, James Proche and Xavier Castille.
3. Pass Rush
SMU rushed the quarterback well today, with a combination of good defensive line play and some timely blitzes dialed up by Van Malone. They were able to drop Dane Evans four times, as J.T. Williams, Jarvis Pruitt, Mason Gentry and Zelt Minor all picked up sacks. SMU had some successful blitzes on third down, pressuring Evans before he could get an accurate pass off.
1. Run Defense
For the second straight week, SMU had a lot of trouble stopping the run. Tulsa’s running back duo of D’Angelo Brewer and James Flanders both had monster games, recording 182 and 132 yards, respectively. Tulsa did not attempt a pass on their overtime drive and they did not need to. They ran the ball four times, punctuated by quarterback Dane Evans’ 14-yard game winner. Tulsa finished with 315 rushing yards, averaging 5.3 yards per carry.
Although the yellow flag did not hit SMU as hard as it hit Tulsa, the Mustangs still committed a few backbreakers. On one Tulsa kick return, Christian Burks and R.C. Cox both committed personal fouls, giving Tulsa an extra 30 yards. Horace Richardson also committed a pass interference on a third down deep ball, extending a Tulsa drive. Kevin Thomas committed a chop block on first down, negating a James Proche reception and stunting an SMU drive. In total, the Mustangs committed six penalties for 81 yards.
3. Kick Return Coverage
Tulsa burned SMU on kickoffs all night, bringing three into SMU territory. Tulsa returners had wide lanes to run through on all of these long returns. Penalties also hurt SMU on kickoffs. In addition to the double-penalty play, a Mustang player also went offside on one kickoff. By the fourth quarter, SMU was squibbing the ball to limit the damage. It would really help the Mustangs out if Josh Williams could get some more distance on his kickoffs to force touchbacks, which would eliminate these long returns.