Three Keys to Victory | SMU
Tomorrow at 2:30, the Bulldogs take on their third consecutive high-octane offense as the SMU Mustangs head to Ruston. How can Skip Holtz defeat his predecessor Sonny Dykes for a second time?
One of the keys to beating a pass-happy team is always going to be wrapping up your man and bringing him to the ground. SMU, like SLU and MSU before them, are going to complete some passes. But unlike those previous two opponents, SMU's Tanner Mordecai likes to throw the ball down field. Through two games, he's thrown 35 passes at short range (within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage) and 27 passes at longer range. For context, last season Cole Kelley threw 197 short passes and only 96 long (and only 30 of those beyond 20 yards). My point is that while SMU is a pass happy offense, that's about where the similarities end. SLU came in looking to dink and dunk all the way down field, and unfortunately for us... they did. SMU, on the other hand, will take some shots down field. And that means defenders are going to be put in one on one situations where it's tackle the guy, or give up the score. Last week against North Texas, SMU scored on three plays that should have been routine stops for 15-20 yards, but ended in a 50+ yard touchdown. If Tech wants to win, that absolutely cannot happen!
Last week, North Texas lost to SMU 35-12. That's a pretty big score and seems to indicate that the Mustangs completely outplayed the Mean Green on both sides of the ball. But that's not really the full story. SMU gained 537 yards compared to UNT's 506... SMU had 4 turnovers compared to UNT's 2... So what was the big difference in the game? Well as I said above, the Meanies gave up too many big plays on defense, but they also failed to turn their gaudy offensive numbers into points. They had two drives early in the game end in 3 points each, then had FOUR drives end on downs: a 7 play, 43 yard drive; 7 play, 31 yard; 11 play, 60 yard; and 8 play, 32 yard drives! They also threw a pick after driving 46 yards. Even worse, three of those drives ended inside of SMU's 20 yard line in the fourth quarter. Talk about missed opportunities! The lesson here is that SMU is going to give up some yards, especially through the air. But without finishing those drives in touchdowns, you'll have nothing but an L to show for it.
This key is a little less "stat nerd" and a little bit more "watch the game, nerd!" I don't know about y'all, but my first trip back to the Joe in over 5 years last week was a little bit uncomfortable. As I sat under the press box listening to the Band of Pride's Superhero themed halftime show, I figured the coaching staff was hard at work tweaking the game plan to make sure we'd pull away from the Lions. You see, Cole Kelley and his gang of misfit FBS WRs were absolutely lighting us up for yardage and points in that first half. "Without BeeJay Williamson's pick six, we would be losing!" I thought... But then, to my absolute dismay, virtually no adjustments were made at halftime. The defense continued to give up dink after dunk and dunk after dink... It was hard to watch, especially when everyone in the crowd knew they'd just keep taking 8 yards right on down the field. This week, our coaching staff has got to do a better job of adjusting to what Sonny Dykes' high octane offense is doing. SMU will gladly take 596 yards of offense if we let them. Sonny Dykes has put up gaudy numbers at the Joe before, but not this time!
Evan is also a contributor to gtpdd.dog, a lighthearted Louisiana Tech blog. Be sure to check out @gotechplsdntdie on Twitter, play the gtpdd Contest and CUSA Pick'Em, and listen to the gtpdd Podcast!