Pony NATE-tion: SMU should ride Green Wave to a winning record
Mustangs face Tulane on Senior Day Posted on 11/23/2017 by PonyFans.com
PonyFans.com is proud to have 17-year-old Nate as a guest columnist. In this installment, Nate breaks down SMU Senior Day, when the Mustangs will take on Tulane at 11 a.m.
|Nate says the Mustangs will end their three-game losing streak in large part because of the desire to provide seniors like Nick Horton (23) and Anthony Rhone (48) with a victory in their final home game (photo by Max Franklin).
Feel free to post comments and constructive criticism, ask him questions, and/or give suggestions for upcoming columns! (He can be followed on Twitter at @Pony_NATE_tion.)
The Mustangs will head into Saturday at 6-5, riding a three-game losing skid after going 0-3 on the important UCF-Navy-Memphis gauntlet. Exhausting the resources and effort on tight games against UCF and Navy, SMU simply ran out of gas and could not stop Memphis at all, getting torched 66-45, and the game wasn’t even that close. Memphis racked up 664 yards. The Tigers had 333 yards on the ground, tearing apart the defense for 7.2 yards per carry.
This has been the prevalent problem for the Mustangs, as they have not been able to stop the run at all. The common denominator of all of the Mustangs’ losses this year has been the defense’s inability to help out the offense, as the offense has done nothing but generate points. Ben Hicks has been playing phenomenal football, throwing for four touchdowns against Memphis. Xavier Jones has officially taken the lead role at running back, accounting for 175 yards and two touchdowns.
Meanwhile, the Green Wave comes in to Dallas in full desperation mode, with a 5-6 record, needing a win to secure bowl eligibility. After a 3-6 start, Tulane turned things on, beating East Carolina and Houston, keeping its season alive. The Mustangs will take on a desperate Tulane team that they can not take lightly. Desperate teams are usually the most dangerous, and with a bowl already secured and no shot at the conference title, all SMU has to play for is Senior Day. A great group of seniors that helped resurrect this program will play their final game at Gerald J. Ford Stadium. Expect the Ponies to play hard for their upperclassmen.
Tulane’s offense is relatively pedestrian and run-dominant. Only scoring 25 points per game, the Green Wave doesn’t sling the ball around at all, with a 10-6 touchdown to interception ratio. Quarterback Jonathan Banks has thrown for 1,483 yards and rushed for 544 yards, accounting for 17 total touchdowns. The real weapon for Tulane has been Dontrell Hilliard, an explosive runner who has more than 1,000 rushing yards, and is averaging 5.3 yards per carry while finding the end zone 11 times. On the outside, Terren Encalade has been the only true resemblance of a weapon, averaging almost 20 yards per catch. Tulane does not have a lot ability the throw the ball, but unfortunately its strength is SMU’s weakness. Look for Hilliard to have a field day on the Mustangs’ porous run defense.
Defensively, Tulane has 17 takeaways, taking advantage of other teams’ mistakes, especially through the air. The Tulane secondary has 11 interceptions, causing a lot of havoc in opposing passing games. Teams have had a lot of success on the ground, pounding the Wave for 5.6 yards per carry and 24 touchdowns. The key to the Mustang’s offensive success will be Jones establishing an effective run game early on. SMU needs to jump to an early lead, forcing the Green Wave out of its run-heavy gameplan. Hicks needs to take care of the ball and keep it from this ball-hawking secondary, something Hicks has done a great job of throughout the year.
Tulane will have a lot of success running the ball, as will SMU. The difference will be takeaways and which team makes big plays. SMU has proven to be an extremely opportune offense that can keep up with most offenses in the country. The offense will have plenty of success against Tulane’s average defense. But the defense needs to slow down Hilliard and the Tulane run game. This could easily be an SMU loss if the Ponies allow another 300-plus rushing yards. I like SMU to light up the scoreboard and fend off a potent Tulane running game, sending the seniors out on top.
Nate’s take: SMU 48, Tulane 38