Birmingham Breakthrough!

There were plenty of heroes for SMU in Saturday's upset win over UAB, Rick Atkinson lists them all. Plus, he talks with Taylor Reed about the 2 pt conversion stop and Derrius Bell about his head injury.

DALLAS – There were plenty of heroes for SMU in Saturday's upset win over UAB:

* Defensive end Taylor Thompson, who blocked a third-quarter game-tying extra point;

* Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, who threw for 353 yards and three touchdowns;

* Wideout Emmanuel Sanders, who had 9 catches for 148 yards;

* Running back Shawnbrey "The Closer" McNeal, who finished off another win with a touchdown run;

* The secondary, which had four picks;

* And the offensive line, which again provided superb protection for Mitchell.

But, hey, the electric moment - the play "winners" make and a possible catalyst for an SMU turnaround - belonged to true freshman linebacker Taylor Reed. And he had another one later!

The first moment, known henceforth as "The Pick," came early in the fourth quarter with UAB trailing, 28-27, and on SMU's 6-yard line. Having lost a 28-7 lead, SMU's collapse seemed imminent. But as Mustang fans everywhere prepared to step out onto a ledge, Reed stepped in front of a Joe Webb pass in the end zone.

"The interception down on the goal line was probably the biggest play of the game," said defensive coordinator Tom Mason, "because that kept them from scoring and gave our offense the chance to get us an 8-point lead."

"We knew they were driving," Reed said. "They'd had a few good plays. But we knew that we could always make a play at anytime."

"My responsibility was to drop under the number three receiver, which in that situation was the tight end. The quarterback threw the ball and he didn't see me cut under, and I luckily got the pick."

"[Reed] did it right," Mason said. "He read it right. A lot of times a true freshman gets in the heat of the battle at that point in the game, and he might make a mental bust. Not him, he went over and intercepted it."

"The only thing I was worried about was I thought he was going to try to run it out of the end zone instead of getting down."



The Stuff

The second play, dubbed here "The Stuff," effectively ended the game. UAB scored with 13 seconds left in regulation and needed a two-point conversion to tie it at 35.

After a pass interference call on the first try, the Blazers got another shot. But SMU was ready.

"We pretty much knew that if they wanted to win the game," Reed said, "they were definitely going to put it in Joe Webb's hands. … I'd been seeing that formation a whole lot throughout that whole game. It was a quarterback lead. He had two lead blockers and luckily the [defensive] line got a great push and I was able to slide in there and make the tackle."

Said Mason, "We knew they were going to run that quarterback power behind two backs in there. And that's what they did."

"Sometimes football instincts take over and that's what happened with [Reed] there."

Reed said it feels great to have an impact as a freshman. "I'm glad my coach believed in me to make the plays," he said. "God has definitely been good to me, so I'm happy about that."

Though Reed's performance is the biggest splash by a true freshman at SMU in some time, the coaches aren't about to let it go to his head. Linebackers coach Joe Haering told Reed Monday to have a thick skin about what he hears this week during film study, as it's only meant to make him better.

"I went to go watch film yesterday," Reed grinned. "They definitely said I had some good plays, but at the same time I had some … ‘freshman plays.' So I've definitely got to get that taken care of."

Mason said Reed played 15-20 snaps against SFA. "The thing you want to do with freshmen players," he said, "is you don't want to get them in where they're playing full-time early. You want to kind of build their reps as you go and by game five or six, they're really fundamentally sound players. But we're in a situation where we can't do that."

"Taylor showed big in that game [at UAB] with the snaps that he was in, and we've decided that he could start in some of the sub packages. And that's what we did."



Bell Better

Derrius Bell, who was knocked out Saturday while blitzing from his cornerback position and taken to a hospital, was at Monday morning's conditioning drills but did not participate.

"I'm feeling alright," said Bell, a junior. "I've got a little bit of a headache. My back and my neck kind of hurt a little bit. Besides that, I'm feeling better than I did the day of - and yesterday too."

"I've been going through treatment and getting ice all throughout my neck and down my spine."

"I remember the hit," he said, "but besides that, I don't remember anything. I remember waking up in the ambulance."

Bell said he had been knocked out earlier in the game too, but kept it to himself. "I should have told my trainer or my doctor," he said. "They said I probably already had a concussion earlier from one of my hits." Bell said he was glad he got to return to Dallas with the team. "It felt real good," he said. "Much love. Everybody, Coach Jones, the whole team, gave me a hug and told me how happy they were to see me walking. A couple of players told me how emotional they got, seeing me laying down there like that."

Another post-game highlight? "They brought me some Krispy Kreme [donuts] after the win," Bell said. "Coach Jones let [the team] go to Krispy Kreme."

Bell said, for now, he's been told he won't play Saturday at Washington State.

"If everything goes good," Bell said, "I'll go see a spine specialist today or tomorrow and just keep getting my treatment. They said if everything is thumbs up, I should definitely be able to be at practice starting next week."

Bell had an interception in the second quarter, the second of his career.

A Look Ahead:

The Mustangs are primed and confident - and the timing couldn't be worse for Washington State, up next for SMU. This is right where Coach June Jones has wanted the Mustangs for some time - believing. The Cougars were drilled last week in Seattle by Hawaii's Run and Shoot, 38-20, after trailing early, 35-0. Bo Levi Mitchell, coming off a strong performance at UAB, should light up Pullman - the Cougars' real home in western Washington - and move the Mustangs to 3-0 for the first time since the end of Ronald Reagan's first term – 1984.

Call it, 34-19, SMU.


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