SMU was up against a formidable foe on Saturday night in Ft. Worth, and after four quarters it became obvious which team was ranked No. 11 in the country. While SMU didn't play their best game of the season, they still stuck with the Horned Frogs for the first thirty minutes of the game.
A blank score after one quarter, the Mustangs scored the first points of the game on a shovel pass from Bo Levi Mitchell to Shawnbrey McNeal. TCU would then storm back to take a 12-7 lead. Going into the half down by five against one of the top teams in the country, SMU was right where they wanted to be.
Emmanuel Sanders hauled in a touchdown pass late in the third quarter to pull the ponies back within eleven. The TCU offense mustered up another touchdown drive early in the fourth quarter to officially put the Mustangs upset hopes away.
While SMU lost by twenty-five points to the number eleven team in the country, they certainly have a lot they can take away from this year's edition of the Battle of the Iron Skillet.
What Went Right: Not a whole lot went right for SMU in Ft. Worth. The defense played well, but they were not able to play nearly as well as that of the Horned Frogs defense. The SMU defense was able to make TCU's offense seem stagnant in the first quarter and really gave the Mustangs a chance to take a commanding lead early. While the defense did allow 418 yards of total offense, the second half proved to be where TCU did the most damage. However, it must be taken into consideration that the offense had several three and outs and that the TCU starting field position was in SMU territory. While TCU is not known for their offense, the SMU defense, specifically Chase Kennemer and Chris Banjo, put up an admirable performance to try and keep the Mustangs in the game.
On the offensive side of the ball, the offense did a decent job not committing turnovers. Even though Bo Levi Mitchell did throw two interceptions, that's not a bad number considering the caliber of the TCU defense. SMU did a good job in not allowing the big play that has hurt them all season.
What Didn't Work: We knew coming into the game that the offense would struggle against a top ten defense, but their inability to put together drives and get into TCU territory ultimately cost SMU the game. Bo Levi Mitchell didn't have his worst game of the season, nor his best, but his performance simply wasn't enough to even keep the score close. The receivers also struggled a bit in catching the ball, the rain was quite a factor, and they didn't provide enough of a threat to stop the TCU linebackers from swarming Bo. The running game proved to be a non-factor as well as Shawnbrey McNeal had a tough time gaining positive yardage. While June Jones made the effort to establish the running game, he found himself having to abandon it midway through the third quarter as the Mustangs needed points fast.
The main back-breaker for SMU on Saturday night was the special teams coverage. TCU's main punt and kick returner Jeremy Kerley had five returns for a total of 175 yards and a punt return touchdown. Greg McCoy also contributed to the abuse of the special teams coverage with two kick returns for 72 yards. The SMU special teams allowed TCU prime starting position and forced the SMU defense to play with their backs against the wall. Overall, it was not the best of nights for the Mustangs.
What' Next: TCU is very good. SMU simply did not have the size and speed on defense that TCU had and the offensive line had no way to stop the blitz as Bo Levi Mitchell went down five times. If anything, the SMU defense should be proud of the way they played considering the circumstances and the fact that the ponies were able to be down by just five at the half has to give them a little confidence. With Conference USA opponent East Carolina up next, the Mustangs will be looking forward to playing at home for the first time in over a month. The matchup will be a good indicator of how tough this SMU team is and how well they can rebound from the loss in Ft. Worth. The countdown begins until the Battle of the Iron Skillet returns to Dallas in 2010 and until then, TCU gets the well deserved bragging rights.