By: Nicholas Gilanfar
This past weekend will forever live in infamy for the SMU football program.
On Friday, it was announced that SMU, California, and Stanford will be taking their talents to the ACC. The lengthy wait for a Power Five nod is finally over as the latest realignment news comes to Dallas, Texas as they will have their last dance in the American Athletic Conference for the 2023 Season.
On Saturday, the SMU Mustangs started their final campaign in the AAC with a bang, defeating Louisiana Tech 38-14 in dominating fashions as everything was working in the Mustangs’ favor.
To kick off the 2023 season SMU started with the ball as the first play of the game was a rush for 12 yards by transfer running back Jaylan Knighton which set the tone nicely for the Mustangs. Following the 12-yard carry SMU finds themselves on fourth down, goes for it, and converts it with a run up the middle with running back Tyler Lavine. They then squandered possession and were forced to punt the ball followed by a three and out.
Throughout the entire game, SMU was dropping great punts as this one landed at the five-yard line. Out the gate quarterback Hank Bachmeier passes it for 19 yards to wide receiver Cyrus Allen shifting momentum for the Bulldogs until the next play resulted in a sack for a loss of six yards to linebacker Alex Kilgore. The next play was third and 16 as Bachmeier was sacked again but this time by linebacker Jaqwondis Burns which resulted in a punt for Louisiana Tech.
The next offensive drive was also highlighted for an SMU punt although they were firing on all cylinders offensively, penalties got into the way as Stone passed the ball to wide receiver Jake Bailey for 50 yards on third and ten which was then called back for a holding penalty.
Louisiana Tech receives the ball again with a ten-yard punt return by stand-out wide receiver Smoke Harris. The first play of the drive starts with a short gain of five then Bachmeier airs out a 41-yard pass to wide receiver Kyle Maxwell as it became first and ten at the 40-yard line. Followed by the breakout throw by Hank Bachmeier the Bulldogs failed to make anything else happen on that drive which resulted in a missed field goal.
With an underwhelming start by SMU, the Mustangs silenced LA Tech with a Preston Stone touchdown to transfer wide receiver from TCU Jordan Hudson for 67 Yards as the Mustangs were put on the board 7-0 for the first of many touchdowns in the season.
Followed by an SMU touchdown, LA tech needed to have an answer for the SMU defense as they were not getting anything done. The second play of the drive resulted in a Bachmeier pass which was then batted off and into the hands of SMU defensive tackle Kori Roberson for a pick-six. SMU was back on the board and led Louisiana Tech 14-0.
Followed by the pick-six Hank Bachmeier the Louisiana Tech offense was still unable to find any answers to this high-powered defense as they were forced to punt for the third time due to a three and out.
SMU comes back on offense and by no surprise keeps the sharp momentum by marching down the field. The offense was looking to run the clock to end the quarter by rushing for the first half of the sequence as the first quarter ended mid-drive with a score of 14-0.
Despite SMU’s efforts to end the drive with a touchdown they instead settled for a 34-yard field goal by Collin Rogers to extend their lead to 17-0.
LA Tech starts the next drive with a 21-yard kick return from Harris. You then can sense the frustration in the LA tech huddle as they had nothing going right for them once again which resulted in yet another punt which was their fourth punt of the game.
The next drive resulted in a three and out for the SMU offense although when the Mustangs were getting lined up on punt, LA tech had an illegal 12th man on the field which gave SMU the ball back along with an additional ten yards. SMU then again will take advantage of a Louisiana Tech miscue as Preston Smith gets into the red zone by completing a pass of 44 yards to WR Key’Shawn Smith which ended up in another Preston Smith touchdown to tight end Nolan Matthews-Harris. SMU now led the game 24-0.
With no surprise, the LA Tech offense was forced to punt for the fifth time in the game followed by a three and out with a sack by cornerback Chris Megginson on third and six. LA Tech’s problem was the lack of productivity by Hank Bachmeier as he was never confident in his ability which was why the offense wasn’t getting anything accomplished.
SMU is back on Offense as the first play of the new drive was started by a 47-yard rush by RB LJ Johnson Jr. Where SMU then found themselves at their second home, the red zone. It did not take long before they found the endzone again as their third play in the drive Preston Stone found RJ Marland in the end zone for 25 yards which extended their lead to 31-0.
QB Preston Stone 10/15, 163 yards, 3 TD
RB LJ Johnson Jr. 6 ATT 93 yds
WR Jordan Hudson 1 Rec, 67 yards, 1 TD
TE RJ Maryland 1 Rec, 25 yards, 1 TD
DT Kori Roberson 1 INT, 1 TD
LB Alex Kilgore 1 sack
LB JaQwondis Burns 1 sack
CB Chris Megginson 1 sack
QB Hank Bachmeier 9/17 73 yards, 1 INT
RB Charvis Thorton 8 ATT 51 yards
WR Kyle Maxwell 2 REC, 55 Yards
Louisiana Tech starts the second half with a needed push on the offensive side of the ball. The first play of the drive with a 22-yard pass caught by Harris as the LA tech offense looked fresh and determined. After the Harris reception, first and second downs result in incompletion until on third and ten, Bachmeier airs it out for 53 yards to Koby Duru for the touchdown. Louisiana Tech has now gotten on the board but still trails 31-7.
SMU was looking to respond to the LA Tech touchdown still being overly aggressive in the passing game. SMU ended up getting three and out on this drive but got bailed out once again due to a facemask penalty called on LA Tech. SMU being on the 45-yard line now relies on running back LJ Johnson Jr. to keep up that great production but was only able to gain 8 yards on that drive. On the third and two, Stone looked for the deep ball to Moochie Dixon but was incomplete. 4th and 2 SMU had to turn to kicker Collin Rogers for a 47-yard field goal which ended up being no good. Score still stands 31-7 in SMU’s favor.
After scoring for the first time in the ball game, LA tech was not able to capitalize as they were relying heavily on the deep ball to get in the end zone fast which resulted in their 6th punt of the game and a three-and-out.
Back on offense, the Mustangs have another lengthy offensive drive for ten plays. The first two plays of the drive resulted in a gain of three yards. For third and seven, Stone dropped back and found Maryland for 15 yards to convert the first down. The next play SMU capitalizes on the offensive outburst with Stone finding Roderick Daniels Jr. for 19 yards. For the third play in a row, Stone competes a play-action pass to Maryland for 12 yards for yet another first down. Again, with no surprise, SMU converted a 1st down again for the fourth play in a row by a 12-yard rush by Johnson Jr. as he was cooking the LA Tech defense all game. The next couple of plays SMU was stagnant and was then forced to kick another field goal. Collin Rogers lined up for a 36-yard field goal and was called no good. SMU still led the game 31-7.
On the first play of the new drive for Louisiana Tech, Bachmeier is sacked out of the gate by Alex Kilgore who had a second of the game as he was in Bachmeier’s nightmares for 48 minutes. It was now second and 17 where Bachmeier was scrambling the ended-up rushes for 13 yards to make it third and four. On third down Bachmeier drops back and finds Harris for 29 yards as they start to match to the red zone. On the next play, they will lose two yards on a rushing attempt by Thorton then no gain on second down.
The last quarter of the game started mid-drive, Louisiana Tech had the ball at third and 12. Thorton rushes the ball on 3rd down for eight yards which resulted in fourth and four. The Bulldogs elected to go for it on fourth down but were unable to complete it as it became turnover on downs.
On the second play for the drive for the Mustang offense, Stone finds Daniels Jr. for a gain of nine yards for the first down. From there SMU ended up going three and out but decided to remain aggressive and go for it. They were unable to convert a first down, so it resulted in a turnover on downs.
LA Tech back on offense, desperate to get something going finds themselves on third and six which resulted in a five-yard penalty by Elijah Chatman. Replay third down, but this time on third and one Bachmeier fakes it to Thorton and runs it himself to gain the first down. First and ten, Bachmeier dropped back for a pass as he was sacked for the fifth time in the game, this time by Elijiah Roberts. From there, LA Tech squandered their momentum and was forced to another turnover on down.
SMU, being back on offense comes out with another lengthy drive of 14 plays remaining aggressive in this game. In the first eight plays of the drive, they found themselves twice at fourth and three and converted both. The next two plays resulted in incomplete passes until on third and nine there was a pass interference call on LA Tech which gave them another first down as it seemed like they were getting bailed out by penalties for the entire game. Now it is first down as Stone finds Maryland for the touchdown but is called back at the last minute due to his foot being halfway out of bounds. The called-back touchdown did not matter, as SMU scored on a one-yard rushing touchdown by Johnson Jr. SMU was now leading the football game 38-7.
For the last drive of the game, Louisiana Tech was still determined to get into the end zone one last time as Bachmeier was able to find Julian Lewis for a 37-yard reception to set themselves up in Mustang territory. LA Tech ended up scoring for the second time in the game with a rushing touchdown by Willis Jr.
The game ended from there as SMU earned their first victory of the season winning 38-17.
QB Preston Stone: 23/37 248 yards 3 TD
RB LJ Johnson Jr.: 14 ATT 128 yards 1 TD
WR Jordan Hudson: 2 REC 72 Yards 1 TD
TE RJ Maryland: 5 REC 58 Yards 1 TD
DT Kori Roberson: 1 INT, 1 TD
LB Alex Kilgore: 2 Sacks
DE Elijah Roberts: 1 Sack
DE Nelson Paul: 1 Sack
LB JaQwodnis Burns: 1 sack
DT Jordan Miller: 1 Sack
Offensive Player of the Game: SMU Offensive Line: LT #73 Marcus Bryant, LG #71 Logan Parr, C #56 Barnson Hickman, RG #51 Justin Osborne, RT Hyrin White
The O-line was the best feature of this SMU offense as they provided a cushion for Stone ahead of his second career start as he was not pressured much during the game. The offensive line also bolstered the running game as they ran the ball 41 times and were able to tally up 208 rushing yards. The big boys up front will be a force to be reckoned with and will be the lifeline of this offense.
Defensive Player of the Game: LB #54 Alex Kilgore
Kilgore lived in the backfield for the duration of this game as he was able to log a team-high of two sacks and three solo tackles. Kilgore started the season as the backup middle linebacker, so it is safe to say that he made a well-needed statement in the Louisiana Tech game to increase his playing time.
Featured Image via smumustangs.com