Don’t look at the score, because the 56 to 21 final tally does not tell the full story about what really happened at Gerald J. Ford stadium in front of 32,047 fans.
If anyone was wondering if first year head coach Chad Morris would have an impact on a program that won only one game in 2014, those questions were answered by the team’s performance in the home opener.
Coach Morris said that there are no moral victories in the post-game press conference but you cannot deny that how the team looked, especially offensively should give fans something to look forward to as the season progresses.
The biggest improvement is quarterback play. Last season it was a revolving door under center and it seemed as if no one could figure things out.
2024 yards six touchdowns 14 interceptions and a 53% completion rate… that is what Garrett Kristich, Neal Burcham, Kolney Cassel and Matt Davis combined; those are measly stats for one quarterback let alone four, but it looks as if Davis has bought into Morris offense and could find a lot of success.
Known more for his running prowess last season — 613 yards and four touchdowns — against Baylor Davis continued the maturation as a passer that he showed in the later half of the season. He finished the night with 166 yards on 16-of-23 attempts and may have found a new No.1 receiver in the process.
Not even listed on many preseason publications, Cortland Sutton was a three-star ranked safety coming out of Brenham (TX) High school in 2014. After choosing the Mustangs over offers from BYU, Colorado and Rice, Sutton made the switch to receiver where they were in need of help. He eventually redshirted after only playing in one game but it seems as if the time away from the field helped as he burst on the scene for 2015 in a big way with a three catch 82 yard performance, including a 45-yard touchdown on the first offensive play for SMU.
That score was significant as a confidence booster for the Mustangs because in 2014 their first home touchdown did not come until the fourth game of the season in a 48-10 loss.
The next score was just as significant because it came from a position, running back, that is getting a jolt of freshman exuberance. Xavier Jones led the running back position in rushing with 41 yards on 13 carries and while it doesn’t seem much, the fact that he was playing high school ball this time last season says a lot.
But he wasn’t the only youngster that contributed.
Braeden West’s only other collegiate offer was from the home area Houston Cougars, but the Katy, TX back chose to take his talents to Dallas and play for Chad Morris who, as Clemson’s offensive coordinator from 2011-14, found success in using small quick backs like Andre Ellington in his offense.
Both Jones (190) and West (170) will need to add significant weight to handle the rigors of being college running backs, but both have the talent and toughness needed to add some diversity to a position that only had Prescott Line to depend on heading into the season.
Unlike the offense, which showed a lot of promise, the defense still has a lot of work to do moving forward.
723 total yards and 12 chunk plays are inexcusable for any team that wants to be considered competitive in 2015. Too often it seemed as if Baylor was able to get beyond the Mustang defenders for long passes — and when they weren’t going deep they were breaking multiple tackles on the way to the endzone.
The lone bright spot defensively was safety Darrion Richardson. On the night he tied for team lead in tackles with seven had one interception and two pass breakups. And while you never want to give up over 400 yards passing, new defensive coordinator Van Malone can find solace in knowing that his defensive backfield will not face a collection of talent at receiver this good for the rest of the season.
The team must regroup quickly as they welcome local rival North Texas to Gerald J Ford Stadium this Saturday. For many the game against the Mean Green is a bigger game because it’s a team that SMU should be able to defeat. If they can bring the same effort and energy that they did against the Bears, the first win of the 2015 season will not take as long to get as it did in 2014… but if not, Mustang fans could be in for another long season.