1. Courtland Sutton
For the second straight week, Sutton was sensational finishing with 13 receptions for 252 yards and two touchdowns. There wasn't anybody on USF that was able to slow down the redshirt sophomore as he was able to get behind the defense just about any time he wanted to. Equally important for SMU, was the fact he was once again a big target on 3rd down along with Xavier Castille. Sutton also became the 9th player in SMU history to record 1,000 yards receiving with a catch midway through the first quarter.
2. 3rd Down Success on Defense
SMU did a nice job getting off the field on third down against an explosive USF offense. The Bulls finished the day 2 for 12 on third down and for the most part couldn't get close enough to go for it on fourth down which is something they love to do. USF was held without a third down conversion in the fourth quarter which was key to giving SMU a chance late. The Mustangs were good all night winning first and second down to force USF into third and longer than 5 which limited Flowers being able to run for first downs.
3. Forcing Turnovers
SMU certainly did their part forcing turnovers with Jackson Mitchell jarring one loose on a kickoff to put SMU in great field position, and Zelt Minor scoring an interception off a poor decision by Quinton Flowers to force the ball out as he was getting sacked. These were the type of plays SMU needed to stay in the game, they just needed to capitalize more than getting just 3 points.
1. USF Big Plays
Big plays on defense were a problem for SMU's defense from the first play on, especially defending the double move. USF scored on 1 play drives three times in the game totaling 170 yards. Hurting even more for SMU was two of those came following turnovers and one came off the first play of the game. No matter what's happening offensively, that is tough to recover from.
2. Red Zone Execution
Multiple times in the second half, SMU had a golden opportunity in the red zone off a big special teams play and a huge reception by Sutton, but they could only muster 6 points on those two drives. Settling for field goals on those two drives kept momentum going for SMU, but coach Morris and Craddock certainly could have been more aggressive as well especially taking the ball out of Hicks' hands twice on third and fourth down on both drives. Just as SMU had a chance to go down and tie with a little over 5 minutes to play, Ben Hicks turned it over with his second interception of the day to Deatri Nichols. The Mustangs had one more chance late in the game to convert a red zone opportunity, but Braeden West was stopped on both 3rd and 4th down at the 13.
3. Last 4/First 4
Coach Morris has continuously stressed one of the biggest stretches of the game for his squad is the last four minutes of the second quarter and first four of the third quarter. Thanks to two SMU turnovers, they lost this stretch again 14-0 to swing a 14-14 game at the time. When the Mustangs have struggled this season, it has been this time that has got them and it was no different tonight. Especially frustrating for SMU, was they had the chance to close out the half with the ball and get it right back after half to take a lead if they had protected it better.