A new coach… a new quarterback… but the results remain the same as the Southern Methodist Mustangs fell to the Texas A&M Aggies 58-6 Saturday afternoon in front of a pro-Aggie crowd of 34,820 fans.
Considering the previous struggles for the Mustangs it would have been understandable to see the Aggies come out flat or even lethargic and thats what happened; three penalties on the first three plays from scrimmage put Texas A&M in a third-and-13 scenario but sophomore quarterback Kenny “Trill” Hill easily completed a 38 yard pass to senior Malcome Kennedy and the home-team’s hopes for being at least competitive were dashed. While they eventually had to settle for a field goal that big conversion was a sign of things to come the entire game.
Unlike the Aggies who were able to move the ball on the first drive, new starter Kolney Cassel sputtered out the gate in his first start as SMU quarterback going 1-of-2 for 2 yards which led to a punt. Cassel, who was making the start in place of the injured Neal Burcham who was lost for the season with an elbow injury, played like it as he did not complete another pass in his other three attempts and was replaced by junior Garrett Krstich for the remainder of the game.
While the Mustangs were struggling to find any type of offensive continuity — they did not convert their first 1st-down until midway through the second quarter, Texas A&M bounced back from the sluggish opening drive to score touchdowns on four of six drives to make the score 38-3 at the half.
Hill, who was done for the day at halftime, completed 16-of-22 passes for 265 yards two touchdowns and also rushed for 58 yards on two carries. His replacement true freshman Kyle Allen took advantage of the mop-up duty by completing 6-of-11 passes for 92 yards and a touchdown.
Six Aggie wide receivers caught at least two balls led by Kennedy’s six catches for 76 yards and Jeremy Tabuyo’s two catches for 80 yards — and this was without super freshman “Speedy” Noil who was out with a MCL strain.
After replacing Cassel to start the second quarter, Krstich seemed to continue the quarterback issues by completing only three of his first eight attempts. He did recover from the slow start to finish the game 13-of-24 for 137 yards — the highest output of any SMU quarterback on the season.
Even with all the issues under center SMU did find some success, if you want to call it that, running the ball. Senior Kevin Pope, a converted linebacker, rushed for 44 yards on 11 carries — including 37 in the first half. It is a mystery why Interim Head Coach Tom Mason did not try to run the ball more to neutralize the overpowering Aggie offense.
But even more puzzling were the decisions to attempt field goals instead of trying to score touchdowns — once in the first half with the team on the goal line and the other when the game was well decided in the fourth quarter. Considering how bad the team has played in the other games this season, this was an opportunity for the staff to show confidence in the players and the players to show that they were worthy of that opportunity… and maybe this is why Eric Dickerson has lost all faith in his alma mater.
The silver lining in the defeat is that the offense may finally have found its quarterback, after playing four different players at the position on the year. If Krstich is able to provide some stability it could pay dividends once conference play starts in two weeks at East Carolina. But before they must deal with another power-5 conference team next week in TCU.
While they aren’t the offensive powerhouse that Baylor and A&M are, this still will be another difficult game for a program that is just trying to find anything to be positive about this season.