Rapid Reaction: SMU vs. Houston

SMU beat No. 11 Houston 38-16 Saturday night to improve to 3-4 on the season.

How it Happened

After an uninspiring three-and-out to open the game, SMU racked up 315 yards and forced two fumbles in the first half to take a 28-7 lead into the break. SMU drove 88 yards and scored its first touchdown on a Ben Hicks keeper after Chance Allen fumbled on Houston's opening drive. SMU scored its next two touchdowns on a 31-yard catch by Jeremiah Gaines and a 2-yard catch by Courtland Sutton on an end zone fade route. Houston set up its lone first half touchdown when Ed Oliver forced Ke'Mon Freeman to fumble. Greg Ward Jr. found Steven Dunbar on 4th and goal from 5-yard line. Houston added a touchdown on a 70-yard drive that ended with Ward's 2-yard pass to Tyler McCloskey. Houston had first and goal on the 4-yard line with 11:34 left in the game, but did not gain any yards on second and third down from the 2 and missed a 19-yard field goal.

What it Means

After the offense struggled in Ben Hicks' first four games as a starter, SMU has scored 78 total points in its last two games. Defensively, SMU held Houston to 303 yards, and Greg Ward to 3 rushing yards. Ward was sack seven times. SMU struggled with running quarterbacks last season because it was not disciplined on the edge and couldn't tackle in space. Tonight, SMU was both. It's an encouraging sign with triple-option teams Tulane and Navy still on the schedule. After getting a lot of interceptions to start the season, SMU has started forcing fumbles at defensive coordinator Van Malone's urging. The defense forced two Houston fumbles, and a first-quarter incompletion looked like it could have been ruled a fumble.

Player of the Game- Ben Hicks

Hicks threw nine interceptions in his first four starts. He's thrown none in his last two and led SMU to its two highest point totals of the season. He still missed some throws and displayed some shaky accuracy at times, but avoided pressure and looked calm all night. For the second straight game, he was not sacked. He still has plenty of room for improvement, but he's made progress since his first start at Baylor. He completed 16-of-31 passes for 228 yards and three touchdowns.

Side Note

After coming into the game with two catches all season, Kevin Thomas had three catches vs. the Cougars. On one of them, he settled into the zone in the middle of the field for a 21-yard catch and run. He spent much of the spring in the proverbial dog house and didn't see much action early this season, but he and Alex Honey are getting more snaps and giving SMU some more depth.

What's Next

SMU goes on the road next Saturday to play Tulane. Kickoff is a 3 pm CT and ESPNews will televise.

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