SMU fans have heard the storylines for their upcoming road game with Washington State. The Mustangs have not been 3-0 since 1984. The Cougars have not lost to a first-time opponent in Pullman since Oct. 18, 1902, a span of 22 games over 107 years. SMU has not won a non-conference road game since 1998.
While all these things are true, it's time to put them aside. The storyline of this game should be, "can SMU stop the run to get their high-power offense on the field." Washington State's secondary has shown in the previous two games that they can't handle a run-and-shoot style of offense. It's not something you fix over the span of a week.
"Their defense had some trouble stopping the pass against Hawaii, so I think they are going to line up with two tight ends and try to pound the football. They don't want to see the run-and-shoot on the field," stated Defensive Coordinator Tom Mason to PonyStampede.com. "We have some run blitzes ready for them, so once we stop the run and establish a lead; we will have some more blitzes ready to turn loose on them."
If Mason is right and Mustang fans should expect a smash mouth style of offense from the Cougars, the Mustangs' defensive line will have added pressure this week. It's a challenge that senior Chris Parham is looking forward to.
"It gives me the extra motivation that I need. Nobody wants to be the team that is ran on and considered soft. Going up against our scout team, it looks like they are going to be doing a lot of double teaming on the line," stated Parham. "This week we are going to have a lot of linebackers hovering in our area. If we do well on our double teams, that gives them the opportunity to roam free and make a lot of tackles. It's definitely going be a challenge that we will have to meet. If the d-line plays well, we are going to get the win."
Currently SMU is allowing 118.6 yards per game. Teams have rushed the ball 56 times averaging 4.3 yards per carry. Numbers that are better than last year, but still not satisfying the SMU coaching staff.
"I think we are growing, but I'm not going to say we are there yet. I'm happy with the turnovers, but I think we still have a lot more in us as the young kids grow up," said Coach Mason.
The youngest underclassmen on defense are at the linebacker position. True freshman Taylor Reed showed enough against UAB in the early quarters to earn a spot on the field during the Blazers last possession. Freshman Ja"Gared Davis is also expected to gets reps as a back-up.
"The linebackers will be ready to play. Washington State will have the advantage when it comes to size and strength because a lot of the guys we are playing are underclassman and undersized," said Linebacker Coach Joe Haering. "They get the bigger stronger athletes, so that is what they are going to depend on. Their defense has had some problems stopping people, so they are going to want to waste some clock and pound the football. We are not going to just sit there and exchange hits with them. We are going to blitz, pressure, and move around."
If SMU can stop the run, it will make inexperienced sophomore Marshall Lobbestael, who is making his fourth start, be forced to throw the football. Something that could make Coach Tom Mason very excited. The Mustangs have nine team interceptions, which is good for number one in the nation.
"The only time that I wasn't happy was late in the third quarter against UAB. Our kids got tired and they didn't execute some things right. But when we did execute things, we did them pretty well, especially in the first half," said Mason. "We had three sacks on the UAB quarterback, but most importantly we had 13 hits on him. That is what we are designed to do. We need to get after people. We have some new stuff going in this week that will give us some more bullets to fire."