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Simply Stunning: Mustangs Squeak by UAB in another Nail-Biter
While SMU improved to 2-0, doubling their win total from 2008, it wasn't without some late-game drama. After the offense stormed out to a 21 point lead in the first half and the defense forced four turnovers, UAB came right back in the second half pulling within one late in the third quarter. The fourth quarter proved to be the turning point in the game, as Shawnbrey McNeal yet again scored late to put the Mustangs up by eight. UAB however drove down the field and scored with 13 seconds left in the game. A two point conversion attempt failed as the Mustang linebackers stifled Joe Webb's attempt to tie it up. The Ponies are still searching for a game in which they can play consistent from start to finish, but they will take any wins they can get. Year two of the June Jones era starts with a 2-0 record and several signs of hope for the future.
1. The first half- One of the keys to the game was establishing an early lead and setting the tone. The Mustangs did just that as they picked apart the UAB defense and Bo Levi Mitchell got in a groove with his wide receivers.
2. Braden Smith- The Mustangs' first scoring drive was capped by a Braden Smith draw for a touchdown. He appeared 3 times, finishing with 18 yards. His athleticism and quick play ability provided a spark and a change of pace early in the game. Despite his fumble, Braden's opening touchdown set the tone for the first half.p> 3. Defensive Pressure- Linebacker coach Joe Haering had preached all camp about stepping up the defensive pressure and using their speed to make plays. The Mustang linebackers did just that today as they were able to contain Joe Webb and put pressure on the offensive line.
What Didn't Work:
1. Defending the Big Play- Both the defense and the offense contributed to allowing UAB to have two big plays that changed the game. An 80 yard run by Mark Ferrell and an interception return for a touchdown helped keep the Blazers in the game. Without these big plays, the Mustangs would have had smoother sailing in the fourth quarter.
2. Holding onto the Football- Too many fumbles. Period. SMU fumbled four times, twice losing the ball. Both fumbles killed SMU drives and one directly led to a UAB touchdown.
3. Playing a Full Game- In week one, the Mustangs struggled in the first half and third quarter. This week was the opposite. The first half was by far the best football of the young season, but an inconsistent third quarter and a rough fourth quarter almost cost them the game. SMU could easily be 0-2. Hopefully next week they can be consistent from kickoff to buzzer.
How the Offense Fared:
The passing game clicked in the first half as Bo Levi Mitchell connected with Emmanuel Sanders and Aldrick Robinson for touchdowns. Overall, Mitchell looked better than last week but still struggled with accuracy in the second half. The running game kept the UAB defense honest and Shawnbrey McNeal put in another solid performance. The offensive line had another great week not allowing any sacks and providing Bo with plenty of time. True freshman Bryan Collins continues to do well. The wide receivers did better holding onto the ball but there were still instances of dropped passes. Overall the offensive performance seemed improved from last week.
How the Defense Fared:
Already matching their interception total from last season, the defense has had a hot start to the season. The defensive line applied lots of pressure on Joe Webb and were for the most part able to provide ample containment. The position of the day was the linebackers as they came out with lots of pressure and speed. Taylor Reed was the player of the game, with a key interception in the end zone and it seemed like he was in on the majority of plays. Not enough can be said about the strides this defense has made this season and its adjustment to the 3-4 scheme.
The main thing to take from this game is the fact that SMU has moved to 2-0 and are showing significant signs of progress. While the first two wins may not have been pretty, they are wins after all. Things are looking good for the Mustangs, and hopefully they can make it 3-0 next week in Washington. Stay tuned, this season looks to be promising.
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