The first game of the season always comes with a lot of uncertainty. Will the new defensive wrinkles actually work? How will that new starter at right tackle respond to a road environment? Fortunately for the SMU Mustangs almost everything went well in their 34-21 victory over in-state rival North Texas.
Here are five takeaways from the victory:
Matt Davis’ days may be numbered at quarterback
This is the second year in the Joe Craddock offensive scheme but the senior quarterback still is struggling to find consistent success. Against North Texas, Davis completed only 52% of his passes for 155 yards and had an early goal line interception that could have been disastrous. At 6’0 211 lbs maybe Davis might want to consider the transition to running back. He seems to have better vision as a runner than as a passer and it will allow for the more accurate Ben Hicks to get a shot a leading the offense full time. The goal is to get your best 11 players on the field and as long as Davis is starting at quarterback, that isnt happening.
Justin Lawler is the king of the defense
Eight tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks is a great statline regardless of the opponent. The junior defensive end showed flashes of this ability last season and if he can come close to putting up these numbers on a consistent basis, it could help SMU get out of the bottom of the defensive rankings nationally
Cortland Sutton will play on Sunday’s
Despite the inconsistent play at quarterback, wide receiver Cortland Sutton still finds a way of getting the job done. Against North Texas the redshirt sophomore caught only caught four passes but he made the most of them by turning three into touchdowns — including an 88-yard score. Sutton has the prototypical size at 6’4 224lbs and continues make big plays that NFL scouts drool over.
SMU pass defense bent but didnt break
Last season the Mustangs defense was pretty bad — 118th in total defense — but the pass defense was the least of it worries as it finished ranked 88th in the nation allowing 241 yards per game. Against the Mean Green they allowed 311 passing yards — including 16 receptions by two UNT receivers — but Mustangs pass defense made plays when it was needed. SMU had three interceptions — two by senior cornerback Horace Richardson and only allowed 6.1 yards per pass attempt.
Xavier Jones needs to stay healthy
Jones went down with an apparent injury with 10 minutes remaining in the third quarter but made an impact with the limited opportunities he had. 115 yards on 11 carries — including long runs of 50 and 34 yards — shows how dangerous the sophomore can be, but he has to find a way of staying on the field. He was the teams leading rusher last season despite having more than 15 carries in a game only three times. If he is able to carry the ball consistently between 16-20 times a game, it will take the pressure off of Davis at quarterback and help his defense as well.