Well it's finally here, SMU game day! The Mustangs will start their season tonight as they take on in-state rival Texas Tech at 7:00PM on ESPN.
To get you ready for the game we will take a look at our Five Keys to the Game for the Mustangs and let you know what we think they need to do in order to come away with a victory against the Big 12 opponent.
1. Protect the Quarterback: Yes, I know that this is a no brainer but it's so important that I wanted to put it first. The biggest concern that most have seen on this team during the fall is their offensive line. The three bright spots are Ben Gottschalk, Taylor Lasecki, and Sam Rice. Filling in the other spots will likely be Ben Hughes and transfer Thomas Ashcraft.
It will be interesting to see what positions these players are at in the game (our guess is Gottschalk at LT, Rice at LG, Lasecki at C, Hughes at RG, and Aschraft at RT) and how guys like Ashcraft and Hughes handle starting against Tech. Coach Jones has always emphasized that the offense needs to be able to get the ball out in 3 seconds. If the line can give Gilbert at least that much time then the offense has a chance to get off to a strong start.
2. Run Shead Run: One of the biggest weapons on the team, in my opinion, is running back Traylon Shead. The transfer junior has great size, speed, and agility and looks to be able to do damage both catching passing and rushing with the ball.
The strength of the Texas Tech defense is their front seven by most accounts so that will make it a little more difficult for Shead to get free. At the same time, if the line is just getting over powered then screens and draw plays to Shead (much like Line was used a year ago) to sneak past a defense that has their ears pinned back going for the quarterback.
3. Create Turnovers: Along with all of the things that the offense needs to do right in the game for the Mustangs to come away with a win they also need their defense to cause a couple of big turnovers in the game to give them a chance to win.
This has been a strength of the defense in the past, unfortunately it usually has come in conference play or against teams like Stephen F. Austin. SMU needs it to happen tonight for the defense, and you have to feel good about their chances. Why should you feel good?
Well the defensive backfield is the strength of the SMU defense and they have the ability to make plays on the ball. Along with that Tech will, reportedly, be starting a walk-on freshman at quarterback. Think about that, the quarterback Tech will likely start against SMU is having to pay for his own education! Seems like to perfect storm to force a few mistakes in the first game.
4. Keenan Holman: We have been trying to figure out all fall who the top receiver will be for the Mustangs this season and now that game day is finally here we're finally ready to put out our guess: senior Keenan Holman.
The wide receiver looks to be one of the most improved in practice and is starting to live up to the expectations that have been around him the past few years. He has the size, the speed, and the length to be a real threat and it needs to start against Texas Tech on Friday night.
5. Special Special Team Play: You know fans haven't seen out of SMU in a while, maybe since the graduation of Emmanuel Sanders? An electric punt or kick-off returner. This could very well be the year that this changes.
For the first time in a while the Mustangs have a ton of athletic, fast, and electric players on campus and available to return punts and kick-offs. It's still not clear who will be back to return punts for SMU but there are a few options including Kenneth Acker, Cedric Lancaster, Deion Sanders Jr. and others. If SMU wants to win, they need to bring the "special" back to their special team play.