By: Nicholas Gilanfar
Coming off the bye week, the SMU Mustangs returned to action for their second conference game of the season against East Carolina University on Thursday night.
It took SMU a while to get things going but ultimately knocked the rust off by defeating ECU 31-10 to improve to 4-2. Although SMU had a three-touchdown edge on ECU, it was not smooth sailing to get there as they were forced to punt nine times with seven of those occasions being three and outs.
Luckily, ECU was also sloppy on the offensive end as well, not being able to capitalize on any of the SMU offensive miscues as they trumped the Mustang special teams by punting 11 times. ECU rotated quarterbacks throughout the game with both Alex Flinn and Mason Garcia. Flinn was used in order to expand the offensive package on the passing game and Mason Garcia was used for his athletic ability being able to use his versatile playstyle to get some yards on the ground.
For both SMU and ECU’s first two drives it was clear that both teams are coming off the bye week as they both traded two punts a piece out the gates. SMU had a hard time executing in the first two possessions as the ECU defense was overwhelming QB Preston Stone, having him under pressure on just about everyother play. Discipline also came into play as SMU was called offsides in a positive field position in the first play of the second drive where they were eventually forced to punt.
After the punting mirage for both teams SMU gets the ball back being able to string consistent plays together as they kicked off their third drive with a 38-yard reception to Keyshawn Smith as he was making play after play for the entirety of the game. The SMU offense is able to get close to the 35-yard line after converting a third down. After the third down conversion Stone drops back under pressure weaving through defenders and is able to find Keyshawn Smith on the fade in the endzone for a 21-yard touchdown and took the lead 7-0.
With ECU looking to answer to the touchdown QB Alex Flinn leaves the game temporarily and QB Mason Garcia starts to get going for ECU. Like the first two drives with Flinn, Garcia wasn’t able to do much better as he started out slow and was under pressure by the dominant SMU defense forcing yet another three and out for the ECU offense.
For the first five games of the season the trend has been, when SMU scores they keep building positive momentum and starts to stack up the scoreboard. This trend came into fruition once again as they were able to succeed on back-to-back drives with a touchdown as Preston Stone was able to find WR Broderick Daniels Jr. for a 24-yard touchdown reception on just the third play of the drive.
The second quarter kicks off with another ECU offensive possession as they look to answer a 14-point deficit. Mason Garcia stays in the game for the pirates as he starts to build some momentum through the air finding great chemistry with ECU WR Chase Sowell. ECU ran 14 plays on this drive as they started to march down the field slowly but surely. The lengthy efforts from the pirates were not enough to reach the endzone as they were forced to settle for a 49-yard field goal to put their first points on the board still trailing 14-3.
After the ECU field goal, SMU began to embark on a dry spell for the next three drives being forced to punt for both whiles being three and out. SMU was unable to get the run game going as well as being overly aggressive on the pass game. QB Preston Stone was constantly looking for the deep ball and looking for the flashy plays which drowned the SMU offense for the second quarter. The ECU defense was also holding their own as it has been a focal point to their disappointing 1-4 season so far.
Following the SMU offensive miscues, the ECU offense with Mason Garcia was able to build onto the lead forcing yet another lengthy drive of 13 plays but this time got the outcome they wanted with a six-yard QB sneak from Mason Garcia. ECU was starting to play aggressively as they went into the half closing in on a one score game at 14-10.
For those who favor a defensive gauntlet, the third quarter had everything. The quarter featured three offensive drives for each team as they both were forced to punt three times in the third quarter. Neither team was able to get anything going but it was clear that either team was one dynamic play away for drastic changes in the score. Neither team was able to score in the third as SMU entered the fourth maintaining a four-point lead at 14-10.
After an unbearable third quarter for both teams, the negative trends continued for ECU but did not last any longer for SMU as ECU fumbled the ball on the opening possession in good field position setting up the Mustangs in prime position to take full control in the ball game. Following the fumble SMU capitalizes on the opportunity with a career long 50-yard field goal from K Collin Rogers to log their first points on the board since the first quarter extending the lead at 17-10.
After the fumble, ECU made another QB change by bringing QB Alex Flinn back in the game after being the initial starting. Like Mason Garcia in his first drive, the ECU offense was forced a three and out under the helm of Alex Flinn as they were constantly squandering game changing situations and not being able to close in on SMU’s momentum.
Getting on the scoreboard for the first time since the beginning of the game, SMU was still looking to put points on the board but was unable to make any noise in the next possession as they were forced to punt for the ninth time of the game. Luckily, they were able to make an impact on the scoreboard as ECU was slated for an offensive drive until QB Alex Flinn threw an interception to S Jonathan Mcgill which was turned into a pick six as the lead grew larger at 24-10.
Following pick six, the SMU defense was still putting pressure on ECU forcing their 11th punt of the game. SMU will receive the ball back, still being heavily aggressive by marching down the field and eventually finding TE RJ Maryland for a 43-yard touchdown reception cementing a 31-10 lead which was the final score.
The game featured a combined 20 punts for both teams as it was a tale of two halves for the SMU Mustangs, but they still hung in there for a 31-10 victory propelling them to a 4-2 record. SMU will remain on the road for Friday Night lights as they look to take on Temple on Friday, October 20 for their next game.
Featured Image via Scott Davis/The Daily Reflector