1. Ben Hicks
For the second straight game, Ben Hicks played a turnover free game for SMU and accounted for four of the Mustang's five touchdowns on the night. Hicks finished 16 of 31 for 228 yards and 3 touchdowns. Hicks also added 12 yards on the ground and a touchdown. Houston brought a ton of pressure at the redshirt freshman quarterback, but Hicks still protected the ball well and got rid of it when he needed to. Hicks showed he is continuing to grow when he hit Jeremiah Gaines for a 31 yard touchdown on the same play he missed for a touchdown against Tulsa.
To upset a top 15 team like Houston, SMU was going to need to force a couple of turnovers. They forced the Cougars to put the ball on the ground twice in the first quarter, including on their first drive of the game after marching down the field 38 yards on 4 plays. SMU had a chance at a third fumble when Rodney Clemons stripped Steven Dunbar after a couple steps, but the pass was ruled incomplete.
3. Defensive Line Pressure
This group deserves a lot of credit for stepping up to the plate in a huge moment. Led by Jarvis Pruitt with 3 sacks, and Demerick Gary with 2, the Mustangs ended the night with 7 sacks and 10 tackles for a loss. The defensive line did a great job keeping Ward in the pocket and at the very least forcing him to throw it away. One of the biggest stories of the night was seeing a senior defensive end, Pruitt, respond to being challenged by the coaches step up and be a game changer. There was also a youth movement however with Demerick Gary's disruptive play the entire night.
There weren't many negatives for SMU tonight, but fumbles were one of them. Inside the red zone, Freeman put the ball on the ground inside their own territory that allowed Houston to get on the board. West also had a fumble late in the game that could have turned this game around, but was recovered by SMU. The Mustangs were able to overcome these mistakes, but will continue to work on ball security down the stretch of the season.
2. Third Down Conversions
Despite the offensive output from the Mustangs, they were just OK on third down going 6 for 16 on the night. This is certainly better than SMU has been in the past, but will still be something, especially, on third and short they can continue to work on.
3. Special Teams Penalties
This is a small negative of course, but 3 of 5 penalties were on special teams that negated big plays by James Proche. Outside of Sackville's fake punt, this group struggled as a whole once again, but still did enough to win a huge game.