PonyFans.comBoard IndexAround the HilltopFootballRecruitingBasketballOther Sports

Observations from the sideline: Tulsa

This is the forum for talk about SMU Football

Moderators: PonyPride, SmooPower

Observations from the sideline: Tulsa

Postby PonyPride » Mon Nov 16, 2020 2:17 am

Observations from the sideline: Tulsa
Check out some of the storylines in the Mustangs' loss at Tulsa

There's something about playing at Tulsa ... the Mustangs haven't won there in what seems like forever (2009, to be specific), and it seems like every time they face the Golden Hurricane — SMU leads the all-time series, 15-12 — some kind of odd subplot unfolds.

The Ponies lost, 28-24, Saturday night, and returned home with a record of 7-2 overall, 4-2 against American Athletic Conference opponents and a need to regroup before welcoming Houston to Gerald J. Ford Stadium Saturday at 11 a.m. If you're reading this, chances are you were at the game or at least watched it. Even if neither of those is true, you know the result and might have peeked at the box score.

For my purposes, maybe this piece should be renamed this week. Tulsa's Covid-19 protocols dictated that I was not on the sideline for radio this week, which was understandable, as the bench area at Chapman Stadium is the smallest in the AAC. Even without a pandemic, it can get cozy on the sideline, so it made sense that I was dispatched to the space behind one of the end zones. At first, I thought I'd miss half the game, but the night was clear and I saw as much as I normally do — just from a different angle — and I was able to see things I wouldn't normally see, such as the way the ball flew upfield, or the way teams opened running lanes, etc.

With that said, here's some of what caught my attention above and beyond what showed up in the box score:

• It was pretty clear before the game even started that the wind was going to be a factor. There was no way to know which team (or both) would be affected, in the passing game or the kicking game. But it was blowing harder than in any other game in which SMU has played this year, and it kept changing direction. In pre-game warmups, field goals and punts changed direction in mid-flight. Tulsa P Lachlan Wilson drilled one in warmups that looked like it suddenly hit a wall and dropped out of the sky. Tulsa K Zack Long doesn't have a powerful leg, but thanks to the wind, managed his first touchback of the season.

• Speaking of kickers, this just in: Chris Naggar has a strong leg. During warmups, he banked a field goal off the upright (it did go through, if that matters) from 50 yards out. A lot of kickers have trouble connecting from 50 yards; not only did Naggar doink it through the uprights, but it hit more than three-quarters of the way up the left goalpost. Sure, there was wind behind him, but that was a bomb. Moments later, he drilled one from 65 yards out that had a couple of yards to spare (for comparison, the NFL record is 64 yards, by Denver's Matt Prater in 2013 ... and yes, players have hit longer bombs in practice). Yes, kicking in warmups is different than in a game. Yes, the ball is held by a portable metal "arm" and is not snapped to a holder. No, there is not another team sending players in to block those kicks. So don't read this is as a claim that Naggar has the strongest leg in the history of the world. But when he hits it right, he can absolutely thump it.

• The Mustangs were without LT Jaylon Thomas, who sprained his ankle in the Temple game last week. He was replaced in the starting lineup by true freshman Marcus Bryant, who QB Shane Buechele said after the game "found out before the game" that he was getting the call to start. Physically, he looked like a freshman — if his listed 6-6, 260 size is accurate, he was the leanest starter on the offensive line by 20 pounds (RG Justin Osborne is listed at 6-4, 280), looking more like a basketball power forward than a college offensive lineman. But Bryant fared pretty well. On the Mustangs' first offensive snap, Bryant knocked Tulsa DL Anthony Goodlow (6-5, 256) on his back and buried him into the turf. No, he didn't get a pancake block on every play, and yes, he has things to clean up. Buechele said after the game that Bryant played well, didn't seem lost in the communication within the offensive line, etc. The Mustangs also helped their young tackle in his first college start, leaving TEs Tommy McIntyre and Kylen Granson in to help, or asking RBs Ulysses Bentley or Tyler Lavine to help out when the situation called for it. Buechele was sacked just twice, and the Mustangs rushed for 151 yards, so while Bryant and the offensive line were not overpowering, they also weren't a massive liability in his debut. Decent start for Bryant for his first time out.

• The way in which the Mustangs have started games has been an area of concern. After last week's game in Philadelphia, head coach Sonny Dykes was less than thrilled with the Mustangs' first half against Temple, and when SMU visited Tulsa two years ago, a slow start played a significant role in an SMU loss with a bowl bid on the line. Whatever Dykes said Saturday must have had a different tone to it, as the Mustangs started fast. CB Brandon Crossley got the Ponies on the board with an interception return for an 18-yard touchdown. Moments later, DT Elijah Chatman pounced on a fumble by Tulsa QB Zach Smith, setting up a 22-yard touchdown pass from Buechele to Granson. On the first play of the second quarter, Bentley scored to give SMU a three-score lead. The offense got bogged down after that, of course, scoring three points the rest of the way. But the start was an improvement over many this season.

• Dykes did not mince words after the game when expressing his displeasure with the offensive execution. The stats weren't as lopsided as the game felt at times. SMU had 25 first downs compared to 27 by Tulsa and outrushed the Golden Hurricane, 151-130, but Tulsa had a decided advantage in the passing game, throwing for 325 yards compared to just 200 by SMU. The total offense numbers: Tulsa 455 yards, compared to 351 for SMU — not an awful total, but compared to what the Ponies normally have put up under Dykes, it's understandable why he was upset.

• Way too many penalties — by both teams, actually. SMU was called for 11 infractions that cost 70 yards, and Tulsa was flagged 13 times for 117 yards. The first half was particularly packed with miscues — each team was whistled for eight penalties before halftime.

• In recent weeks, WR Danny Gray has caught most or all of his passes in the early going — last week he caught two passes, both on the first drive. Whether his injured wrist still bothered him over the last couple of weeks is unknown. But against Tulsa, he led the Mustangs with eight receptions for 93 yards. Worth watching: Gray fell awkwardly in the fourth quarter right in front of the SMU bench and missed the game's final minutes.

• Something that never appears in the stats: the quarterbacks for both teams looked like baseball catchers trying to corral knuckleballs at times. Presumably the wind factored in, but there were times when a snap was coming back to either Buechele or Smith, who had to adjust as the ball moved mid-flight in one direction or another. Each had to scoop a couple of passes off the short hop, too.

• The most impressive stretch of the evening, at least from my perspective, was the Ponies' defensive stand in the third quarter, as they stopped Tulsa when the Golden Hurricane had first-and-goal at the SMU 4-yard line. Tulsa ran four plays, including three runs by RB TK Wilkerson, who is listed at 6-2 and 229 pounds, and the Mustangs' defense held.

• Sometimes the good plays are the ones that don't get made. Case in point: with 5:29 to go, WR Austin Upshaw was playing on punt cover and shot through the line. Yes, it would have been better if he had blocked the punt, but Wilson was able to step a little to the side and get the punt away. At least Upshaw managed to avoid what looked like an unavoidable roughing-the-punter flag, contorting his body to avoid contact with Wilson after the ball was kicked.
PonyFans.com ... is really the premier place for Mustang talk on the Web.
New York Times

https://www.facebook.com/PonyFanscom/

twitter.com/PonyFans

https://www.instagram.com/ponyfans_staff/
User avatar
PonyPride
PonyFans.com Super Legend
 
Posts: 13738
Joined: Sat Apr 01, 2000 4:01 am
Location: Dallas, Texas

Re: Observations from the sideline: Tulsa

Postby ALEX LIFESON » Mon Nov 16, 2020 7:51 am

Thanks for the update. Presser videos?
User avatar
ALEX LIFESON
PonyFans.com Super Legend
 
Posts: 10572
Joined: Mon Oct 06, 2003 3:01 am
Location: GARLAND

Re: Observations from the sideline: Tulsa

Postby PonyPride » Mon Nov 16, 2020 6:33 pm

PonyFans.com ... is really the premier place for Mustang talk on the Web.
New York Times

https://www.facebook.com/PonyFanscom/

twitter.com/PonyFans

https://www.instagram.com/ponyfans_staff/
User avatar
PonyPride
PonyFans.com Super Legend
 
Posts: 13738
Joined: Sat Apr 01, 2000 4:01 am
Location: Dallas, Texas


Return to Football

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot] and 11 guests