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Observations from the sideline: Temple

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Observations from the sideline: Temple

Postby PonyPride » Sun Nov 08, 2020 4:52 pm

Observations from the sideline: Temple
Check out some of the storylines in the Mustangs' win at Temple

The importance of winning conference games is obvious, and Sonny Dykes, and pretty much every other coach out there, will stress the difficulty of winning a game — any game — on the road. So while it wasn't always pretty, the result of SMU's 47-23 victory at Temple has to be viewed as a success. Could it have been a wider margin? Yes, and it should have been. The Mustangs didn't do a lot before halftime ... but to still end up with 47 points is encouraging.

Despite the victory, SMU (7-1 overall, 4-1 in American Athletic Conference games) fell a spot in both the Associated Press poll and the Coaches Poll, to No. 19, setting up a critical game Saturday at Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane's game Saturday at Navy was its second of the season to get postponed because of issues related to the coronavirus pandemic. Tulsa is 3-1 overall and 3-0 in AAC games, averaging just over 37 points per game in its three victories.

So, above and beyond the stats, here are a few things that caught my eye from the sideline (actually, from the front row of the stands at Lincoln Financial Field, per Temple's COVID-19 protocols).

• Saturday's game at Temple got off to a dismal start for the Ponies, when Temple quarterback Trad Beatty swung a safe pass in the flat to Randle Jones ... who got around the corner and went up the sideline for a touchdown 13 seconds into the game. It was the perfect demonstration of every coach who says that, when playing a better, more talented team, he wants his team to "punch them in the mouth" to see how the opponent responds. SMU is more talented and undeniably better than Temple, which was without starting quarterback Anthony Russo, among others, and the play gave the Owls a visible lift.

Temple looked like the more confident team throughout the first half, and when returning to the field after halftime with a 13-10 lead, the Owls' body language suggested they were the more confident team. But whatever was said in the SMU locker room was effective. WR Tyler Page smiled when asked after the game what was said at the intermission, and the version he offered to the media was that the Mustangs were implored to "pick (their) crap up" in the second half. Message received: SMU rolled over Temple, 37-10, in the second half en route to their second consecutive victory.

• One of the unsung heroes Saturday's victory was A.J. Ricker. Since his arrival at SMU, the Mustangs' offensive line coach has preached the value of versatile linemen who can play multiple positions, and he has trained his group accordingly (see the decision just before the 2019 season to flip Alan Ali from left guard to center, and Hayden Howerton to left guard). Against Temple, two linemen got hurt: Howerton went down with an injury that looked more concerning when Ali and RT Beau Morris turned and immediately started waving to the sideline for trainers to come check on Howerton. After getting checked out on the sideline, Howerton eventually returned, but LT Jaylon Thomas also went down, with what Dykes later called a sprained ankle. Dykes said after the game that Thomas was "moving around pretty well" after the game and said he wouldn't be surprised if Thomas is available for Saturday's game at Tulsa. With Howerton hobbled and Thomas out, Ricker cobbled together a makeshift offensive line: Morris flipped from right tackle to the left side, Cameron Ervin stepped in for Howerton at left guard, Howerton went back to his old spot at center and Ali took over for Morris at right tackle. In other words, RG Justin Osborne was the only SMU offensive lineman who finished the game at the same position at which he started it. For a position group in which success is decided as much by timing and chemistry and comfort with each other, the job Ricker did having the offensive line prepped to perform in multiple roles was extremely impressive.

Dykes said after the game that while he obviously had not yet had time to review the video of the game, he thought the offensive line was outstanding in the second half, and he was right: the Mustangs had seven possessions in the second half, and scored on six of them — five touchdowns and one field goal. The only one that did not result in points being the last one, when they ran out the clock at the end of the game.

RB Tyler Lavine is fun to watch, but he can't be fun to tackle. Dykes has said all year how strong Lavine is, and lifting up C Alan Ali last week after scoring against Navy. It's one thing to run through tackles — every ball carrier has to do it once in a while. But against Temple, he twice ran over — or through — a would-be tackler so hard that back of the defender's shoulders were the first part to hit the ground, allowing Lavine to run right through. In the second half, he also delivered an absolutely brutal stiff-arm to a Temple defensive back who made the ill-advised decision to try to go up high to tackle Lavine. His rushing numbers were solid, but not eye-popping — he finished with 49 yards and a touchdown on eight carries — but there are several Temple defenders who will remember him.

WR Danny Gray caught two passes Saturday — both on the Mustangs' first drive. There's no reason to think the wrist he hurt a couple of weeks ago is still bothering him — he wasn't wearing a visible brace.

• For the second week in a row, SMU's linebackers were outstanding. Delano Robinson, Richard McBryde and Trevor Denbow were the team's top three tacklers with nine, nine and seven, respectively. Denbow had two tackles for loss; McBryde added one. Temple's top two rushers, quarterback Re-al Mitchell and running back Tayvon Ruley, each ran for 66 yards, but they were punished along the way, and one or more of the SMU linebackers seemed to emerge from the bottom of the pile all day. They were everywhere.

• Remember when TE Kylen Granson transferred from Rice and a lot of people responded by asking "who?" Such its the nature of playing tight end at a school that rarely gets on TV. His performance at Temple only reaffirms why his drops against Cincinnati were so surprising ... because Granson continues to show how valuable he is to the SMU offense. Against the Owls, all he did was haul in six passes for a team-high 149 yards (for the mathematically challenged among us, that's a cool 24.83 yards per catch) and a touchdown.

His best play was not the one that ended in the end zone. He caught a pass on the right sideline and made three defenders miss with a series of spins and fakes that very few tight ends could emulate. Everyone knows Granson can run, but he is listed at 6-3 and 235, so it's not like the coaches took a shifty little wide receiver and asked him to play tight end. That run is going to have a few Owls defending themselves in film this week.

• Last week, the Mustangs were called for just four penalties, but three resulted in Navy first downs. Cleaner day against Temple: SMU was flagged just twice, neither of which resulted in a first down for the Owls.
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Re: Observations from the sideline: Temple

Postby Ikus » Sun Nov 08, 2020 7:05 pm

Game ball to the o-line. Great job holding it together.
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Re: Observations from the sideline: Temple

Postby ponyboy » Sun Nov 08, 2020 7:47 pm

These sideline observation posts are great. Thank you.
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Re: Observations from the sideline: Temple

Postby BUS » Sun Nov 08, 2020 8:59 pm

a thumbs up picture.
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Re: Observations from the sideline: Temple

Postby indianmustang » Mon Nov 09, 2020 8:33 am

thumps up giphy
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Re: Observations from the sideline: Temple

Postby PerunaPunch » Mon Nov 09, 2020 12:23 pm

Yes indeed. Good stuff. Much appreciated!
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