Series Record: First meeting
SMU's June Jones: is in his second season at the SMU helm. His SMU record is 3-11 and his career mark is now 79-52. Jones went 76-41 in nine seasons at Hawaii, leading the Warriors to the All State Sugar Bowl in 2007. Prior to heading to Hawaii, Jones had a 12-year coaching career in the NFL, including head coaching stops at Atlanta and San Diego.
WSU's Paul Wulff: Began coaching in 1993 at Eastern Washington at a volunteer assistant. He is 2-13 in his second year at Washington State with a career record of 55-53. Previous stops as a head coach were at Eastern Washington.
Last time out: SMU Holds Off UAB's Rally for Second Win
George Brown- PonyStampede.com Contributor
For the second week in a row, SMU was involved in race to the end finish for a win. After a dominant first half, the Mustangs went in the locker room with a 28-7 lead over Joe Webb and UAB.
The blazers turned on the jets in the third quarter. After Webb's second touchdown of the night, UAB running back Mark Ferrell ran 80 yards for a touchdown, cutting the lead to seven. During SMU's next possession, UAB's defense squeezed an interception out of Bo Levi Mitchell, presenting an opportunity for a tied game, until SMU blocked the extra point, giving the Mustangs a one point hold on the lead going into the fourth quarter.
With most of the fourth quarter passing by scoreless for both teams, June Jones went against the grain. On a second down on the 19 yard line, most would assume (UAB included) that SMU would definitely go for a passing play, but a hand off to Shawnbrey McNeal took the Blazers by surprise, as they allowed a touchdown with four minutes left.
UAB did manage to score a last minute touchdown, but SMU stuffed Joe Webb's running attempt for a two point conversion. The two point difference would hold until the end of the game.
Shawnbrey McNeal is proving to be a legitimate running back, allowing Mitchell to relax a little more with his passing game. McNeal's 225 yards in just two games is already 35 yards better than SMU's leading rusher last season.
Mitchell threw to more interceptions, giving him four on the season, still keeping him on pace to match last year's 24.
SMU caught four interceptions, bringing the season tally to 9.
SMU's 2-0 record is their best start since 1996.
This week: SMU Goes for 3-0 for First Time in 25 Years Against Washington State
George Brown- PonyStampede.com Contributor
After SMU's second consecutive edge-of-your-seat win, the Mustangs tread up to the great northwest to play against Washington State. The Cougars are in search of their first win of the season, while the Mustangs hope to start 3-0 for the first time since 1984 and earn their first victory over a BCS opponent since 2000.
Washington State will take a different approach to SMU's defenses than their first two opponents. The Cougars offensive strength is in their running game. SMU's turnover happy secondary should get a breather, while the 3-4 defense should get their first test on the line.
Washington State gave up 626 yards last weeks, including 489 in the air. That, plus the fact that Washington State has yet to catch an interception, should allow Bo Levi Mitchell to get comfortable in the passing game. But, running back Shawnbrey McNeal is proving to be too much of a force to be left out of the offensive scheme, and should have another healthy performance, as well.
Last time out for WSU
By Matt Smith- Mr Pac 10 of CollegeFootballNews.com
Hawaii 38, @ Washington St (+2.5) 20
my pick: @ Washington St 28, Hawaii 27
What to take from this:
Wazzu had five first-half turnovers and seven overall. That pretty much says it all. But in keeping with the aggressiveness theme, it was telling that, midway through the second quarter, down 35-0, with 3rd and goal on the Hawaii 3, the Cougars threw that ball and then kicked a field goal instead of trying to actually turn it into a ballgame by getting seven points. As it was, they made something of a run in the second half, but they might have actually had a chance had they gone into halftime only down 35-10 rather than a full four TD's plus one point. When you're that far down, you have nothing to lose, you should make the conscious decision to run the ball twice and tough out three yards for a score rather than screwing around with a pass and then setting for three points.
More About WSU
• WSU AGAINST NONCONFERENCE FOES: Since the opening of the 2001 season, WSU is 19-5 against unranked nonconference opponents. WSU has wins over Idaho (seven times), Nevada (twice), Montana State (twice), Boise State, Purdue, New Mexico, Colorado, Grambling State, Baylor and Portland State.
• The Cougars will try to take advantage with athletic QB Marshall Lobbestael and possibly true freshman Jeff Tuel, who'll be ditching his redshirt. Wazzu has a talented transfer of its own at running back, former Cal Bear James Montgomery, who had 118 yards and a score on 17 carries last week.
• This week's game with SMU is the first meeting between the two schools. The Cougars have not lost to a first-time opponent in Pullman since Oct. 18, 1902, a span of 22 games over 107 years. WSU is 19-0-3 since a loss to Pacific (Ore.) at the newly-named Rogers Field in 1902, when the team was referred to as the "Farmers" and the school was called Washington Agricultural College and School of Science. The loss to Pacific is the only blemish in 25 first-time meetings with a school in Pullman.
• Washington State opened its season with a 39-13 loss to Stanford, following it up with a 38-20 loss at Hawaii. It does not get any easier for WSU after this contest, as the team will hit the road for back-to-back meetings against USC and Oregon.
SMU needs to stop the run
Josh Harvey- PonyStampede.com Publisher
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."