SMU can move the ball. It can strike quickly, or it can drive a while too. It has no problem scoring touchdowns.>p>Neither do SMU's opponents, based on two weeks' worth of games.
The good news, part one – SMU is 1-1 on the season following a 47-36 win over Texas State, and has matched its win total from last season one week into September.
The good news, part two – see the opening paragraph above.
The good news, part three – SMU's defense, while exposed at times, made enough stops and came up with five takeaways to do its part in earning what was still a hard-fought win.
The bad news – that SMU's defense didn't make more stops when it had the chance against an over-matched opponent, especially on third downs. The Mustangs' defense that faces much slicker offenses than Texas State's down the road, stayed on the field far too long.
It is the defense that will apparently dictate the Mustangs' fortunes this fall. That's not a positive or a negative at this point, just a glaring fact made more obvious by some glaring statistics from Saturday's win.
Texas State did not punt.
Texas State out-gained SMU in total yards, 465-431, and ran 24 more plays.
Texas State was 12-of-15 on third-down conversions, an 80-percent success rate.
Texas State scored on four of its five second-half possessions, and on six of its last seven in the game going back into the second quarter.
When you win by 11 points in your home opener and have some offensive fireworks doing it – yes, SMU did plenty on offense to draw smiles from the Mustang faithful – that should be dominating the post-game coverage.
But right now, it's just that SMU's concerns on defense, at least tonight, drew more attention than the offensive numbers. And this just in – Texas Tech, one of the nation's top offensive teams every season, awaits the Mustangs next week.
But worrying about that game can wait. There's little gnashing of teeth in the Mustangs' locker room tonight, and rightly so, as SMU celebrates winning the debut game of a new head coach for the first time in 20 years.
"A win is a win," said SMU head coach June Jones, who opened his post-game press conference saying he was impressed with the attendance of 22,218 fans on a warm but breezy night at Ford Stadium.
"We've gotta improve, and we know that we have a long way to go," Jones said. "(To give up 465 yards) is scary, but the biggest thing I see was the third-down conversions, not getting them off the field. The one difference in the game was the turnovers."
Youri Yenga had his first career fumble recovery, and blocked a kick for the first time in his career. That point-after kick block led to two SMU points when Derrius Bell picked up the loose ball and ran it back for a conversion.
"We've just got to keep believing in what we're doing and everybody pulling together," Jones said of the defense. "We'll get better, we'll correct things, and we'll just keep on grinding –we're not going to change what we do as coaches."
On offense, true freshman quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell threw for 370 yards and five touchdowns in his second career start.
Two of the touchdowns went to Aldrick Robinson, who caught eight passes for 172 yards, both career highs. Three other scores were to Emmanuel Sanders each caught eight passes, with Robinson gaining a career-high 172 yards.
The offense at SMU is working, even though Jones says it too has a long way to go.
Whether it can fill the gaps for a defense that is still forming and finding itself remains in question.