Monday, November 28, 2005

Just throwing something out there

Anybody realize that if SMU had beaten Tulsa, SMU would have won C-USA West? and playing on Saturday against UCF in the C-USA Championship Game?

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Head scratcher

Gee. We all saw that one coming. Surely everybody walked into the stadium expecting UTEP to turn the ball over SEVEN times. I am just dumbfounded.

Once again I suggest to you this may be one of the most underrated defenses in the country. Seriously. This defense is . . . fantastic. Is there a better word? There was a lapse of about a game and a half. Other than that the defense has been exceptional. And the defense played better in week 11 than it did in week 1. Statistically, it is a very average defense, but watch the games. The defense kept SMU in the games; the defense even outright won a couple.

As for the offense, the numbers for the UTEP game are better than I thought they were. The inability to get the ball across the goal line in the first three trips to the red zone is a concern, but if you look at the length of the drives, they are encouraging.

13 plays, 76 yards. (FG)
10 plays, 70 yards. (FG)
4 plays, 8 yards. (FG)
4 plays, 88 yards. (TD)
7 plays, 62 yards. (TD)
3 plays, 8 yards. (TD)
4 plays, -5 yards. (FG)
5 plays, 65 yards. (TD)

Five drives of 60+ yards. The first two drives were solid, sustained, time consuming drives despite the fact that SMU could not get in the end zone.

Turnovers: ZERO.

McMurtray has grown on me. I now acknowledge he will be sorely missed. His one stinker of a game came against TCU and it didn’t cost SMU the game. He’s been downright automatic the last few weeks. Mentzel set the school career record for punting attempts on Saturday; I still consider this a rather dubious distinction.

I am not sure I have anything to quibble over about the coaching. Defensive gameplan was perfect. I can’t even disagree too much with Burns playcalling this week.

There will be time to talk about the season later this week.

Friday, November 25, 2005

UTEP and Notes

The last game of the year is Saturday. My prediction for the year was four games and they have matched that. I also said that something in the back of my head said SMU would win five and they can still do that. Unfortunately, I think UTEP gets an early two touchdown lead and SMU won't be able to catch up. Call it UTEP over SMU 28-17.

And hey, if you can make it, please go out to the stadium and cheer for these guys. They deserve it. They had a couple of chances to quit this year and haven't done it. The team is losing a bunch of key seniors on defense and they deserve some applause.

Yesterday's DMN says Tony Eckert will likely not receive a medical redshirt. Eckert getting a medical redshirt was a pipedream to begin with. Frankly, I don't care whether or not he gets it. Ultimately, I think this is more advertising for an opening. I wonder if there will be a "Help Wanted" sign for QB at Ford tomorrow.

Oh, and Ryan Mentzel is six punts short of the career school record. Am I the only one that is surprised this record doesn't fall every year?

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Phillips gone?

Today's note in the DMN is more interesting for who it doesn't mention than what it says. Bennett is again going after junior college quarterback help. That is no surprise. It is a little interesting that the article mentions redshirt freshman quarterbacks Eric Johnson and Justin Willis as being in the mix, but no mention of Chris Phillips. Watkins has written about Phillips several times this year. One can assume the omission was intentional.

Two things deserve mention. First, there is no junior college quarterback committed. There hasn't been that many junior college quarterbacks mentioned. Those that are appear to be of the Romo and Eckert variety; meaning they weren't getting offers out of high school.

Second, Bennett's best recruiting class is dwindling. You are going to have a hard time convincing me that Bennett has handled this as best he could. Two years ago, Bennett lost Ricky Joe Meeks. Now, it appears Phillips is gone. That is two three start QBs gone. Pillips would make the 8th of 23 signings from 2003 gone. There is a rumor Massey is gone. That would make nine. This is ridiculous.

On a side note, can we try Dorsey out on defense and get Massey back in the backfield with Martin fulltime? Dorsey was recruited as a defensive back. We need defensive backs next year. Worth a shot.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Thoughts on the Houston Game.

I like winning. I like winning a lot.

Sorry to those that dismiss these games as meaningless, but winning these games are important. This is not the NFL; we won’t get a lower draft pick as a result. These kids need to learn how to win. They need to feel good going into the spring. SMU needs to find out who is going to step up.

You have to be proud of this defense. This defense can play. They held Houston below their average in passing, rushing, scoring and, of course, total yards. Nnabuife will be sorely missed next year. There was quite a bit of talk a few weeks ago about the defense being worse next year. That may be. But there are still an awful lot of starters returning. And the unit is a good one. With the exception of the A&M game, I think the offense has played well enough to win every game. Still, depth is a problem.

As for the offense . . . Martin is just a freshman. That is the positive I could find from this game. I know it would be chaotic to switch to a third offensive system under one head coach, but I am through with this offense.

90-117-90-109

That is the national ranking for the SMU offense from 2002-2005.

McMurtray deserves a lot of credit for hitting an important field goal when it was needed.

Could Bennett replace K-State's Snyder?

No. I can’t buy it. I come back to the cajones it would take an AD to hire a sub .500 coach coming off a sub .500 season, even though it is a better season than the three prior. That being said, don’t be surprised if Bennett is offered an interview. I half expect it. Just like LSU’s AD interviewed RC Slocum. It is a courtesy among friends and Bennett is a friend of the K-state program.

Now, is Bennett interviewing a good thing? Six of one; half dozen of the other. On the one hand, it makes it look like Bennett would jump ship at the drop of a hat. On the other, it appears as if Bennett is still a commodity and reflects an apparent belief that he is turning the SMU program around. Regardless, Bennett will try to use it to his advantage on the recruiting trail. For that reason, I won’t sweat the Bennett interview.

So, who could get the job? Interesting to note that most of the candidates are offensive coaches. I wonder to a degree what happens if there is wholesale turnover in the K-state staff. Does Bennett try to make staff changes using people he has a familiarity with, particularly on the offensive side of the ball? If K-State’s Offensive Coordinator Del Miller is looking for a job, won’t Bennett at least make a phone call?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Peruna

Somebody is selling two bottles of Peruna on E-bay. This is "new" Peruna. "New" meaning post-prohibition 40's. If you didn't know Peruna was a "cure-all" (high alcohal) tonic sold during prohibition and is where the SMU mascot got its name.

I definitely think some Mustang fan should pick them up.

Football Scoop

Here is why I have given up on football Scoop. In the same breath, they will mention both former NFL QB and San Diego U HC Jim Harbaugh and former SMU QB and UNT OC Ramon Flanigan as candidates for the Buffalo HC job. There is such a wide disparity there, it is comical. I wish Ramon the best, but UNT is 2-7 on the year and they are not an offensive juggernaut this year.

In other coaching news, Bill Snyder is stepping down at K-State. I wonder if Phil wishes he had a do-over. If Bennett were 5-4 this year, he'd probably be a candidate with his ties to the program, but he is not so he won't be. But, what about TCU's Gary Patterson? Patterson went to K-State.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Interesting Information on Tulane Athletics

Sloooooow day. No SMU football info anywhere. So I thought I would direct everybody HERE. A very interesting report on the state of Tulane athletics. It strikes me as a very honest yet optimistic report on the state of the program.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

In case you missed it...

Below is Copeland's backpedalling from his "We have to get over the hump and win consistently where we win five or six games every year" comment. A comment that I didn't think was all that bad. I certainly didn't expect Copeland to feel he needed to clarify his remarks.

Obviously, somebody beyond message board land read the comment and got pissed. Or enough people harassed him at the game that he thought it was necessary.

Someone said it was a great letter and was very well written. It's fine, but I wouldn't call it great. Maybe I am too cynical. Actions speak louder than words. Tell us what you are going to do, Copeland, and I will be more interested.

A couple of things jumped out at me, which I have put in bold in the letter.
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AD Notepad 11-8-05

Before, during, and after our victory over Rice last Saturday, a lot of people who care deeply about SMU football expressed their anger with me after reading Saturday's article in the Dallas Morning News, where I was quoted as saying, "We have to get over the hump and win consistently, where we win five or six games every year." That one line made it seem that I would be satisfied with mediocrity. Nothing could be further from the truth. No one at SMU accepts being average - whether it's in academics, art, athletics...or any area.

I'm not going to use the all-too-common excuse that I was misquoted. But for anyone who has gone through a face-to-face interview with a writer or broadcaster, you know that sometimes your initial response to one question generates a second question from the reporter before you finish your answer to the first one he or she asked. I would like to clarify my comments.

Given where we are in our disappointing 2005 season, we would love to finish with five victories and build on a season-ending three-game win streak for the future. But we should NEVER - and I can't emphasize this enough - NEVER be satisfied with a five- or six-win record. How do we ever expect to win the Conference USA championship, go to a bowl, and crack the Top-25 rankings if we don't set the bar as high as possible? How can we demand the best effort from our student-athletes if we don't set the highest goals for them...and ourselves?

I saw things in our victory over Rice that made me optimistic about our future despite our 3-6 record. I saw playmakers. They came up with big plays - not just big words - to rejuvenate their teammates after what could have been momentum-changing mistakes.
Junior safety Joe Sturdivant - who was named C-USA Defensive Player-of-the-Week for the second time this season - came up with a critical fumble recovery when Rice was at our one-yard line and threatening to make a run at our lead in the third quarter. Later in the game, he intercepted a pass in the end zone when the Owls threatened to score again. Juniors Justin Rogers and Adrian Haywood each made two tackles for losses to stifle Rice's running game that had given us fits in three consecutive losses to the Owls before Saturday. Haywood is one of our junior college transfers who has made an immediate impact. We expect more like him in the future.

When our offense had its back against our own end zone, redshirt freshman DeMyron Martin broke tackle after tackle to finish with 171 yards rushing. What was particularly impressive was that 128 of those yards came in the second half when we needed them the most. As Phil said in his post-game interview, "The more you feed him, the stronger he gets." Our two leading pass receivers against Rice and for the season are juniors - Bobby Chase, who made the dramatic game-winning catch at UAB, and Reynaldo Pellerin.

This may be a bit melodramatic - but we all have to exorcize ourselves of the "here we go again" resignation when we fumble or give up a big play at a critical point in the game. We have all been guilty of this at one time or another. Playmakers who produce victories such as the Rice win are providing the cure.

After my Dallas Morning News statement last Saturday, one of the most astute pieces of advice I received came from a literary Mustang fan in the form of a suggestion. He said, "You need to read Robert Browning's poem." The passage he was referring to was:

"Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp. Or what's a heaven for?"

Heaven for SMU football is not a five- or six-win record. Heaven is an undefeated season. That will be our reach every year. We intend to do all we can to grasp it.
***********************************
More like Haywood? This really is a nice little nugget of information; I can only assume that means more junior college players. At this point that is fine. Why not do things to make that easier to accomplish? If you have done those things, why not be honest and tell us?

"Here we go again."-Man, aren't we all guilty of that? The problem is that this season, that has happened after games and not plays. And that is affecting the whole season and the mindset of the fans and players.

"We intend to do all we can to grasp [an undefeated season]." The statement is "grasp it." He's clearly referring to "an undefeated season" in the first sentence of the paragraph. So Cope, who is "we" and what is all you can do to get SMU to an undefeated season?

Monday, November 07, 2005

Rice Game Thoughts

Let's be clear. Rice may be the worst team in the country. Let's also be clear that any win is a good win.

Starting with the defense, it looks like Bennett finally figured out the option. Would have liked to have the shutout, but the touchdown was in garbage time. A little more concerned with the touchdown that was called back. That was at a time that Rice could have made the game competitive. Still, it was a solid effort.

Still veeeerrrrrrrry concernced about the offense. It is great that Martin was able to get 171 yards on 26 carries, but it was against the worst rushing defense in the country. And that is why I am worried about the passing game. 9-17, 111 yds? Against the 98th pass defense? Oh, excuse me, now Rice is the 87th pass defense in the country. The offense really had only one good drive and the field position on first touchdown drive (Rice 6 yard line) was pretty fortunate.

Really, I think the offense was playing restrained all day. Bennett was playing not to lose from the second quarter on. Once Bennett saw the team could control the option, the reigns on the offense tightened up; he wasn't willing to risk turning the ball over. Once it was 27-0, I thought for a moment that Phillips might get in the game, but then I realized it didn't matter-Bennett would not have let Phillips pass anyway.

As for special teams, another blocked punt? Holy crap.

Overall, a good defense effort against a bad deam witha scheme that tends to give SMU fits; a troubling offensive effort against a team that has given up at least 38 points in every game until this week; and both good and bad on special teams.

Is three wins enough to protect Bennett's job? It is a legitimate question and I thought I knew the answer but now I am not so sure. There is no reason to keep the suspense going. Once the decision is made, it should be made clear. As each day goes by, I start to wonder more.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Saturday's DMN

Go here. As they say, "Read the whole thing."

If you ask me, the article is just as important for what it says as what it doesn't say. Watkins gave Copeland the chance to give a "vote of confidence," but it isn't there.

Regarding season ticket sales, I am surprised that it wasn't higher in 2000. In fact, I think it was much higher than the more than 10,000 stated. The entire West half of Ford was sold out if I recall. that has to be more than 10,000 right there. Disappointed that the department says "Being in Dallas, you can find different things to do." I think that is a cop out. I lived in Fort worth for 18 years. Contrary to what most Dallasites think, there is plenty to do in Fort Worth. The fact is, when the team is good, people show up.

"I have very seldom put a whole lot on any one game, and I'm not doing it this year," athletic director Jim Copeland said Wednesday. "Not winning consistently bothers me. We have to get over the hump and win consistently where we win five or six games every year."


It would be easy to challenge Copeland for saying five or six wins a year, but I won't. SMU is so far away from that that I can't blame him. SMU has to get to five or six wins a year before it can get to eight or nine. Still, the goal ain't five or six, Copeland. The goal is championships.

Cut the BS; No excuses

Lots of people, including myself, are fearful that SMU is going to lay an egg tomorrow. A lot of it focuses on the SMU defense's ability to stop the Rice triple option offense.

I am here to tell you that Rice's offense does not matter. Rice has one of the worst defenses in the country. Rice is ranked 114 out of 117 in total defense (yards allowed). Rice is 98th in passing defense and 108th in rushing defense. Rice has the worst defense if you go by points allowed per game (allowing 45.7 points per game). The Rice defense is the worst defense in the country for taking the ball away. There is not a defensive category that Rice does not rank at or near the bottom in. Every team Rice has played has been able to run on Rice; every team Rice has played has been able to pass on Rice; every team Rice has played has been able to score on Rice.

The SMU offense should be able to tear the Rice defense apart, like every other team's offense has this year. SMU is two years into this offensive system. SMU has an experienced quarterback. SMU should be able to run and pass on this team.

SMU has recruited better under Bennett in the past four years than Rice; SMU has better talent.

SMU has better facilities.

SMU has a better record.

SMU has a better offense.

SMU has a better defense.

SMU is a better football team than Rice.

SMU is favored by eight points.

SMU is at home.

There are NO EXCUSES for losing this football game.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Pepper Brooks

Again, the picture is not me. It is Justin Bateman, as Pepper Brooks, the color commentator in the movie "Dodgeball."

Here is a quote from the screenwriter for Dodgeball on Pepper Brooks:
Oh God, I tried to put [all the sports clichés] in. I mean, I really did. I’m a sports nerd and I tried to use every single one that I could remember. Especially [the characters] Cotton McKnight and Pepper Brooks. Gary Cole I’m absolutely in love with and Jason Bateman was fantastic also as the idiot. I just hate sportscasters so much, I hate the bad ones, and I love the good ones. I mean, I love Al Michaels and I love Jon Miller, and I love Joe Morgan, and obviously I was a big Chick Hearns fan. But when it’s done badly, which it so often is, especially like for local sports when it’s not a nationally televised game, you just want to pull your hair out. And so, those two guys specifically were kind of my take on the cliché sports announcers where Cotton McKnight will use three words when one will suffice, and he has obscure references that no ones ever really get. Pepper Brooks, I remember I watched the Extreme Games on ESPN, and there’s a guy doing it, I don’t know which sportscaster it was, but I’d seen him on ESPN where he wears like a suit and tie. And then he goes on the Extreme Games and they put him like in a polo and f*ck his hair up. So somehow he’s extreme, and it was really sad and so I kind of wanted to do that with Pepper Brooks, that he’s really kind of the dim witted, the worst color commentator of all time. He’s just really passionate, really enthusiastic and always wrong. And just makes the most obvious statements, like “He’s not going to be able to see very well Cotton.” Just like the dumbest stuff ever. So also on the clichés, there’s “Oh that’s going to hurt.”

Rice's Offense already giving SMU fits

Today's DMN SMU notes are curious.


UNIVERSITY PARK – Rice's multiple offense is expected to give SMU's defense problems. The Owls run the Triple option, Wishbone and the spread option.

SMU coach Phil Bennett said trying to simulate the different offenses in practice poses a problem.


How is it a problem? Can the scout team run all over the starting defense? Or is the scout team too confused to execute the Rice offense? I like the assumption that the Rice offense will cause problems.

SMU can't figure out its own offense, much less some other team's.

Rice's running game is 2nd in C-USA. I think that is a little deceiving because Rice has been playing from behind so much this year. Rice's defense is very poor. I am very interested to see what SMU's offense does against Rice.

Finally, let's look at Conference USA. There are seven teams with an honest shot at the Conference USA championship. Against the other four teams that aren't in the running, SMU has a record of 1-2 with the last game being this week against Rice. BTW, SMU doesn't even have to play the three best teams in Conference USA East (Memphis, Southern Miss and UCF). The Tulsa-UTEP game this week likely decide the Conference USA West title. Tulsa and UTEP are two of the three teams Bennett beat in his first season at SMU.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Phillips Solid No. 2; Willis Keeps Redshirt On

Today's DMN indicates that Willis won't play this year. Thank goodness. Playing Willis at this point would be stupid. Now, the question is whether Phillips will get a chance to play these last three games. I think he should; I doubt he does.

Backup DE Kyle Griffin will miss the rest of the season. Griffin has seen playing time in the last six games. Griffin hasn't really shown up much in the stats, but his absence hurts the depth of the defense, which has never been very deep.