SMU had no answer for the Marshall Thundering Herd on Saturday afternoon, losing 34-31. With the loss ,the Mustangs no longer control their own destiny for the C-USA championship game. Despite an evenly played first half highlighted by Shawnbrey McNeal's 71 rushing yards, SMU came up short in the second half. The Thundering Herd had two rushers go for over one-hundred yards and were able to establish a consistent running game from the start. The Mustang defense wore down in the second half and had no answer for the Marshall running game. The SMU offense attempted to stage a late comeback after a quick two minute drive resulted in a touchdown. However, the ensuing onside kick failed and Marshall sealed the deal.
While SMU came up on the losing end, they were able to stick around in a game where they were outgained by almost 150 yards. If it weren't for a few big plays by the Herd in the third quarter, SMU might have come away victorious.
Let's take a look at what Mustang fans can learn from today's game:
1.) The run defense is vulnerable- SMU gave up 260 yards rushing and that was even without Marshall's top running back Darius Marshall who was out due to injury. Marshall's ability to establish the run tired out the SMU defense and left them susceptible to the long ball.
2.) Sterling Moore was even more valuable than we thought- Marshall took notice of the abscence of Moore and picked on third string corner Bennie Thomas all day. Thomas had a couple pass interference calls against him and allowed a few big plays to Marshall's wide receivers. However, itwas difficult for the 5'8" Thomas was trying to cover a 6'3" wide receiver.
3.) The offensive line misses Bryce Tennison- By the time the second half rolled around, the offensive line seemed worn out. The Marshall defensive line seemed to have figured out the offensive line blocking schemes and bowled them over leading to four consecutive negative rushes in the third quarter. SMU's inability to continue the ground game in the second half affected the whole offensive unit. Additionally, Kyle Padron was sacked five times.
4.) The passing game continues to click under the leadership of Kyle Padron. Despite his one interception towards the end of the game, Padron yet again rallied the offense and found his most valuable target, Emmanuel Sanders, when he needed to.
5.) This team has all grit and no quit- It would have been easy for the Mustangs to give up late in the fourth quarter, but the team fought back and made things interesting. With Tulane next week, the Mustangs are looking ahead to a winning season.