A couple of thoughts on Justin Willis. Was it really appropriate to give Willis an ovation when he entered the game in the second quarter? He did, after all, get in a fight, get accused of a hate crime and needlessly brought the wrong kind of attention to the football team. It is his fault, not SMU’s that he got suspended for the UTEP game; he is the one that did something stupid. Agood argument can be made that if Willis had played in the UTEP game that SMU would have won. OK. I admit it. I too was excited when he came into the game. No doubt there were an indignant, cynical few that were perturbed with the whole situation. I take pleasure in the fact that they weren’t there anyway.
Now as for Willis’ performance, I don’t think you can say enough about what he did against Marshall in three quarters’ work considering what he went through last week and the fact that he had only one and a half practices. I mentioned to the guy next to me that I thought there was a lot of pressure on him when Willis came into the game. The crowd was absolutely looking to him to perform at a high level under difficult circumstances. If you consider 20-23 for 208 yards and four touchdowns playing at a high level, then I suppose he delivered. Add to that the 34 rushing yards, you have a nice day. Through six games of work, Willis has already had the best freshman season in school history for a quarterback. We now need to seriously consider the possibility that by the end of the year, Willis will have had the best season in school history as a quarterback, statistically speaking.
The running game needs work. With a combination of Willis and a stable of running backs by committee, SMU has done OK, but not good enough. Case in point, over the last three weeks, SMU has been held below its season average in rushing yardage. Worse yet, over the last three weeks, the opposing team’s rushing defense has had above-average games against SMU’s running game, meaning that SMU has not even been doing an average job against those defenses. SMU did not run the ball well against Marshall and Marshall is 96th in rushing defense. This needs to get better in a hurry. And that means DeMyron Martin needs to be both healthy and productive.
Defensively, the rushing defense continues to excel. Currently, the 16th best rushing defense in the country; SMU held a team averaging over 160 yards on the ground to just over a hundred. Also of note, SMU leads C-USA in tackles for loss.
There are two problems with the passing game. First, no sacks this week. That is bad, bad, bad. The cure is obviously to get Justin Rogers and Cory Muse back in the lineup. Even with zero sacks in the Marshall game, SMU is still first in C-USA in sacks (bet ya didn’t know that, did ya?).
Oh, the coverage. What to say? SMU is woefully bad in defending the pass: 114th in the nation, giving up 262 yards per game. SMU needs to get to a point where its leading tacklers are not in the secondary. Every team that has played SMU has had a better than average day throwing the ball. The good news is converted WR Devin Lowery had three interceptions. You can say that is burying the lead if you wish, but SMU plays another good passing offense this week.