1. Forcing Turnovers
After taking a 24-17 lead midway through the second quarter, SMU forced three turnovers on six plays to blow this game wide open. It started with Horace Richardson breaking on a flat route and taking it all the way back for a touchdown without even breaking stride. Even though Jackson Mitchell's fumble recovery didn't result in points, it swung the momentum firmly in SMU's favor as well. Horace Richardson's good day continued with his second pick-six of the day to put SMU up 21 after ECU was driving again. On the day, largely thanks to those two interceptions, SMU put up 28 points off Pirates turnovers.
2. Courtland Sutton
Courtland Sutton was nothing short of a beast this afternoon finishing with 12 catches for 166 yards and 2 touchdowns. SMU's go to receiver was continuously able to get open for Hicks on third down and keep the chains moving with some big gains over the middle of the field. Sutton also broke a long touchdown drought with his two touchdowns after he hadn't found the end zone since the Houston game three weeks ago.
3. Ground Game Success
With both Ke'Mon Freeman and Braeden West banged up during the week, the running game was a question mark coming into this one. Both running backs responded by going over the century mark and combining for 215 yards on the ground. Freeman had his longest touchdown on the year when he went untouched into the end zone from 39 yards out midway through the second quarter. Both backs were able to run through the tackles and ran hard especially in short yardage situations.
1. Special Teams
There's no doubt this was once again a problem for SMU most of the day. Eight times East Carolina started a drive past the 30-yard line after a kickoff. Two of those kicks were sent out of bounds by Williams attempting the short kick. Much of the day, the Mustangs stuck with the short kick, but when they strayed from it they were gashed for big returns by ECU. Sackville wasn't great either only averaging just above 34 yards on his punts. This will be an area SMU will definitely have to address with two offenses that will capitalize on that field position better than ECU did.
2. Defending the Direct Snap
SMU had a lot of problems covering James Summers coming out of the backfield whether he kept it himself or handed it off to one of the other backs. At times, SMU over pursued allowing even bigger running lanes for the speedy senior back and he capitalized finishing the day with 12 rushes for 89 yards.
3. Finishing the Half
Not a big down here, but it was certainly not a good defensive series for SMU to end the half. With ECU turning to a backup quarterback, he drove them right down the field for a touchdown to make it a two score game. The Mustangs responded well in the third quarter to put this game away, but continuing to allow touchdowns right before half is certainly something they can work to address.