Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween

When you google SMU and Halloween, you get this:

Worst costumes of all time.

SMU looks to shake a few ghosts
Before this Halloween night is over, the mask will be ripped off the SMU football program.

SMU will be revealed as a legitimate bowl contender, a program finding its way, or revealed as a sliding team in desperate need of two wins heading into its final three games.

On Halloween, UAB is scared of Justin Willis.
"They spread you out and have a running quarterback," Brown said. "It's Rice all over again."


The UAB defense didn't fare well handling Rice quarterback Chase Clement when the teams met earlier this month. Clement ran 57 yards untouched on the first play of the game, threw for 191 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 141 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-33 Rice victory.


"I think (Willis) had 20 carries last Saturday" in a 38-21 loss to East Carolina, Brown said. "They weren't a bunch of quarterback (running plays). He was scrambling around making plays."

Willis ended up with 29 yards on his 20 carries but he was sacked four times for minus-39 yards, which counts against his final total. Brown said pressuring Willis will be important, but the Blazers also have to make tackles after the pressure.

"I can't tell you how many sacks we've had in the last couple of games where we had somebody and either we miss the tackle or we don't go at proper angles," Brown said. "Then he slips by us and all the sudden we go from a 12-yard sack to a 20-yard completion. We've got to do a better job of that."

The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Willis, a redshirt freshman, leads C-USA in pass efficiency. He is 122-of-174 for 1,273 yards with 19 touchdowns and three interceptions. He's rushed for 208 yards on 78 carries with 133 yards in losses.

The only time Willis has been shut down was when he was suspended for the UTEP game after being involved in a fight with another SMU student. Willis was reinstated the next week and, although he didn't start, he led the Mustangs to a come-from-behind 31-21 win over Marshall.

UAB spent extra time working on ways to stop Willis since losing to Marshall 10 days ago. But UAB linebacker Orlandus King said the Blazers have done just as much work on improving their struggling defense.

Preview. SMU is favored and the News predicts a win.

Students get better seats. Interesting. I never realized there is a rule against allowing students on the 50 yard line. That rule is, of course, stupid. But that is OK because SMU student attendance stinks.

I avoid recruiting news, but I thought I would mention that Matt Doherty got another pair of good recruits.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Scouting UAB

Some spare actress named Tammy Bellisle:

Ditto Sophia Bowen (apparently 4th runner up Miss USA):

Jodi Benson, the voice of Tour Guide Barbie in Toy Story II:


It is a weird week. Technically, last week was an off week. It didn't feel like an off week because SMU plays on Tuesday.

I haven’t said much about UAB. But I did say this on Saturday:

SMU is going to beat UAB. SMU will beat UAB by double digits. Here's another [prediction]: SMU will hold UAB to fewer than 225 passing yards. And then, SMU can clinch bowl eligibility at homecoming.

I still mean it. SMU is better. With the exception of that pesky pass defense, SMU leads UAB in nearly every statistical category. UAB is not as good as last year. Yes, they barely lost to Oklahoma, but that is the best UAB is going to play all year and that is the worst Oklahoma played all year. They play that game today and Oklahoma wins by 30.

There really isn’t much more to say. According to the paper everybody is expected to play, including Martin and Muse. Some people keep suggesting Martin should not play and hope for a medical redshirt. I disagree. SMU has not been effective running the ball and Martin is SMU’s best back by far. SMU is still in the driver’s seat to accomplish its goals with three straight home games; favored against UAB and a game against Rice in which SMU will probably be favored as well. Last season, SMU outscored its next four opponents by 19 and a 3-1 record with three of those games on the road.

Indianapolis Colts owner Irsay establishes scholarship SMU. Uh, why don't we make a big deal out of this? How many schools have multiple alumni that own NFL teams? Surely, SMU is the only one with two. Shouldn't SMU hype this a little?

Apparently, teh Mustang Club is trying to start a new tradition:

Our PA announcer will also start a new tradition at this week’s game. Every time SMU makes a first down he will say “ First down SMU” and the crowd then says “MUSTANGS” and points in the direction we are going to score! Create some spirit!

You can be cynical and laugh at this, but I support it. SMU's traditions have been in decline for 20 years. It is time to put some new life in it by restarting old traditions and starting new ones.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Wednesday news and notes

Not much to talk about since Bennett told everybody to take a day or two off. Practice resumes today. Today's DMN states the obvious: Upcoming game big for SMU

UNIVERSITY PARK – SMU football coach Phil Bennett has mentioned several times that this group of Mustangs doesn't respond to arduous situations like the "same ol' SMU."

Heading into the final four games after a discouraging 38-21 loss at East Carolina, the Mustangs (4-4, 2-2 Conference USA) have a chance to prove that they're different once and for all.

Beginning with UAB on Tuesday (6:30 p.m., ESPN2), SMU must win at least two more games to become bowl eligible. SMU has a three-game homestand, which includes league leader Tulsa, before finishing the regular season at Rice.

"The situation we're in, there's an importance on this game," Bennett said. "We control our destiny without any doubt. ... You're going to be on national TV; it's going to be the only game on that night. Let's represent SMU; let's let people know who haven't seen us, yeah, hey, they're a pretty good football team."

The Mustangs reconvene today after three days off. Bennett told the players to get away from football so they would be fully prepared for the final stretch.

"This is where the money is made," Bennett said.

Painful pass defense: Bennett said his teenage daughter watched tape with him over the weekend because she wanted to know "why we couldn't cover anybody Saturday."

That is indeed the question. SMU gave up 402 yards in the air against East Carolina. Bennett said what stuck out to him was the linebackers' inability to wrap up receivers after short completions. Safeties missed calls and the defense wasn't aligned properly.

Bennett said the blame falls on the players and the coaching staff for not being mentally prepared. That will be an area of focus this week. Redshirt freshman Bryce Hudman will start at free safety in place of senior Randall Goode.

"Communication is a big key," Bennett said. "You gotta know what the call is, you've got to repeat the call, and you've got to have a sense of urgency."

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Bennett to students: Skip Class

From the DMN College Blog:

coach Phil Bennett said Tuesday that if students happen to miss evening classes to attend next Tuesday's game vs. UAB, which is being aired on ESPN2, that's alright with him.

"I'll be you all of those students have skipped class before," Bennett said. "I don't want to get in trouble for saying this, they would have my excuse if they didn't go. I'm not sure if that's good enough."

Bennett was kind of joking, but SMU needs all the help it can get heading into its final four games. With a three-game homestand and needing two wins to get to a bowl, the Mustangs are in a rare position this late in the season to control their future.

"This is where the money is made," Bennett said.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Post-ECU thoughts

Wah! Wah! Wah! SMU sucks! Bennett sucks! Our pass defense sucks! Fire Bennett!


Johnny Fontane: Oh, Godfather, I don't know what to do. I don't know what to do.
Don Corleone: [shouts] You can act like a man!
[he slaps Johnny]
Don Corleone: What's the matter with you. Is this how you turned out? A Hollywood finocchio that cries like a woman.
[Don Corleone imitates him sobbing]
Don Corleone: What can I do?
[camera pans to Tom who is laughing]
Don Corleone: What can I do? What is that nonsense. Ridiculous.

C'mon people! Did you think this was going to be easy? I don't know what you were expecting, but newsflash: SMU lost on the road in where it was the underdog.

A reminder: I predicted SMU would lose this game two months ago. I am now 7-1 on the year and I am not even predicting these games week by week. And I predicted eight wins!!!

I am sorry, what is SMU's record again? 4-4. That is right. Last time SMU was 4-4 was November 1, 1997; SMU went 6-5 that year.

Look at the schedule. There are four games left. The next three are at home. SMU has won its last five home games. I expect SMU to be favored (though I don't care if SMU is or isn't). SMU has 10 days to prepare for UAB and get healthy (please get healthy Chase, Henderson, Martin and Muse). Then, SMU has 11 days to prepare for Houston.

Did SMU play any of these four teams last year? Yes. Did SMU beat them? Yes, it beat three of them. The one loss was by seven points.

SMU is going to beat UAB. SMU will beat UAB by double digits. Here's another: SMU will hold UAB to fewer than 225 passing yards. And then, SMU can clinch bowl eligibility at homecoming.

Back to the game. Here are the Post-game notes and the recap.

Willis played well. 22-33, 224 yds, 3 tds, no picks. Rush defense played well. Emmanuel Sanders played well; Kennedy played well. Blake Warren played well, but had his TD on a punt return called back. And that is it.

I know Bennett wants to run the ball. SMU needs to be able to run the ball. That means DeMyron Martin needs to be healthy, because nobody else is getting it done.

Sigh. We might as well talk about the quote that is in the DMN recap:
"They surprised us, I'm not going to lie to you," SMU coach Phil Bennett said. "They threw more than they ever have. We sort of loaded up for the run."

Bennett, from time to time, says things that are both perplexing and infuriating. Maybe he is covering for his players or maybe he is serious, but this quote rivals all others. First, remember that SMU has a dominant rushing defense, currently 14th; it is wishful thinking to believe ECU was going to play right into the strength of teh SMU defense. Second, as good as the SMU defense is against the run, it is equally bad against the pass, currently 116th. Third, make no mistake, ECU is a passing team. These are ECU's number of passing attempts in its seven games: 35, 38, 27, 47, 30, 28, 41 (SMU); Pinkney is tied for 13th in total pass attempts. So, no, they didn't pass more than they ever have.

Even the FW Star Telegram thought it was odd (and they mention SMU, like, never):

SMU coach Phil Bennett had an odd postgame assessment of his team's 38-21 loss at East Carolina. He said the Mustangs allowed 402 yards passing because they loaded up to stop the run. The Pirates entered the game 77th in I-A in rushing but 32nd in passing.

Friday, October 20, 2006


Do me a favor. Do not take ECU lightly. They have a quarterback that destroyed SMU last year. They have lost to good teams; with the exception of UAB, a team SMU hasn’t played yet, their losses don’t say much about them. They beat Virginia at home; Virginia demolished North Carolina last night (yes, I realize that UNC is awful). They have had and still have injuries, but they are healthier than they have been in weeks. The get their deep threat receiver back. Their starting running back is allegedly healthy.

ECU’s gameday crowds are consistently larger than Ford Stadium’s capacity. It is not an easy place to play.

In my season prediction, I put this game down as a loss. This is what I wrote in August:

I count the game against ECU as a loss, but I could go either way. It really comes down to the fact that ECU is playing at home. Though, it is the fifth straight home game in a weird stretch for ECU. I expect SMU to lose this game. 5-3.

Now, did I offer any real incite? No. But that "silly" (someone called it that)season prediction has been right in all but one game (damn NTSU). I'd love to change my mind and predict SMU is going to win, but I have stuck by the season prediction so far, so I might as well keep it. I will say that this is a good opportunity to make up for the NTSU loss and put SMU exactly where it wants and needs to be.

I don’t trust the SMU defense. OK. I admit it. I am sweating any 4th quarter lead of less than two scores. In order for SMU to win, SMU absolutely needs to get an early lead in this game. Take the crowd out of the game. Never let up. Don't get conservative.

Collegefootballnews.com's fearless predictions pick the ponies. However, in their staff picks, all but one picks ECU, including the guy that wrote the aforementioned fearless prediction. Also, remember that the spread is still SMU +6.

In other SMU news, read the Doherty article today. Has Doherty ever said the wrong thing since coming to SMU? Seriously. The guy is a media machine. I can’t wait to watch him coach this basketball team-this likely very bad basketball team (this year).

Thursday, October 19, 2006

No bowl talk, yet

Today's DMN has a good article on SMU's bowl chances.
"That word is illegal," linebacker Reggie Carrington said. "Well, it's not illegal. That's definitely where we want to go."

Basically, is solidifies what many already suspect. Seven wins or more and there is a good chance SMU goes to a bowl game. Six and it is still a possibility. It is nice to hear the thoughts of bowl representatives. However, despite the words of Tom Starr, executive director of the Bell Helicopter Bowl, I have my doubts that SMU will get consideration for the Fort Worth Bowl.

DeMyron is De-out, according to the paper today. Personally, I wonder how a player can go from "he could have played" to out the next week, but c'est la vie. Part of me wonders if (or hopes) this isn't true. Injury reports don't have the same meaning in college football as they do the NFL.

In ECU news, Skip Holtzes hasn't decided who will kick for ECU. Their current kicker, Robert Lee (I wonder what his middle initial is?), is 6-11 on the year on field goals. In other ECU special teams news, injured WR Bobby Good also returned punts; ECU hasn't decided on a replacement, but my guess is Corner Travis Williams as he had the job before Good.

One other note, Bennett is quoted in an article on I-A transfers to Conference USA schools. Some might find this ironic considering SMU has historically had few such transfers.

"There are some guys who go off and make a decision about where they're going to attend school based on a 48-hour visit without remembering that they're going to be there for 48 months," Kragthorpe said. "They sometimes wind up having second thoughts.

"When we recruit someone, if they choose to go somewhere else, we always tell them, 'Hey, if it doesn't work out, you're always welcome back at Tulsa.' "

That is the same open-door approach Phil Bennett has taken while rebuilding the SMU program.

"We recruit against a lot of the mid-level Big 12 and Pac-10 teams, and I think that No. 1, they find out that being that far away from home isn't as glamorous as it seems," said Bennett, who has welcomed transfers like sophomore linebacker Chase Kennemer (Texas A&M) and sophomore defensive back K.J. Ellis (Texas Tech). "And then also the opportunity to play. They don't have as many stars in their eyes when they come back and ask you about transferring."

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

One more interesting note...

...for a Wednesday.

In the last three games, SMU has trailed at some point in the fourth quarter. In each game, SMU has come back and taken a lead in the fourth quarter. In two of those games, Tulane and Marshall, SMU has held on to win.

Coincidentally, the Charleston Daily Mail says, "'All games are tight' in Conference USA."

Welcome to the wild, wacky world of Conference USA football, where most of the games are close and the winning team is often the squad that has the football last.

"It's Conference USA play," UAB Coach Watson Brown said. "It seems to be the way it is. All the games are tight. You're going to have to win close games to get to the goals you want."

Wednesday news and notes

The big news is the nice column by Tim Cowlishaw. It is nice character piece and is more about Bennett than the team.

SMU's may not be the biggest football story in this town. But for a change, it's a positive story today with a chance for even better things tomorrow.

Bennett thinks the defense is getting better. SMU leads the conference against the run; in sacks; and in tackles for loss. Other notes: starting DE Justin Rogers is probable; starting DE Cory Muse won't play. KR Jessie Henderson is probable; DeMyron Martin was downgraded to questionable, but I suspect he plays.

Despite tying UCF last week, SMU is still the number one soccer team in the nation. I mention this because they play no. 16 South Carolina tonight on campus.

On the ECU front, it appears deep threat receiver Aundrae Allison will play. Allison was out the past two weeks with a high ankle sprain. Starting corner Travis Williams will play; he was suspended last week for an "incident with school parking officials," whatever that means.

More scouting:

Hey, turns out famous and semi-famous people went to ECU! This list includes Sandra Bullock; if you look on the internet hard enough, you can find pictures where she doesn't look like a rat.

Some chick that was on Survivor named Julie Berry:

The great Emily Proctor who played Ainsley Hayes on The West Wing and is on CSI: Miami, and was apparently in Big Momma's House 2!!!!:

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

We are their **bleapin'** homecoming

It was just brought to my attention that SMU is ECU's homecoming game. I am little tired of the "SMU is everbody's homecoming opponent." Time to teach these schools a lesson.

Scouting East Carolina

We now know Marshall isn’t a very good football team. We now know this, apparently, because SMU beat Marshall. Every win gets diminished, because if SMU can beat them, then anybody can. SMU is the Groucho Marx of college football. Groucho would never join a club that would stoop so low as to have him as a member. SMU can never be a good team as long as it beats teams that are bad enough that they lose to SMU.

Now, SMU gets to find out if East Carolina is a good or bad football team. I find East Carolina strangely fascinating. No team was ranked with more disparity than ECU. I spent way too much money on College Football Preview magazines and ECU was ranked all over the place. One mag picked ECU to win C-USA. Some picked C-USA dead last. College Football News.com loved ECU. The Conference USA coaches, on the other hand, picked them dead last.

Now, ECU had a bizarre schedule. Two games on the road followed by five straight home games with SMU being the last. They beat Memphis and Virginia. They lost to West Virginia, Navy, UAB and Tulsa. West Virginia , Navy and Tulsa are good teams and losses to them doesn't say much about how ECU's team relates to SMU. UAB isn't very good, but that was a road game. As for the wins, the Memphis win means little as Memphis doesn't have a I-A victory lost to Arkansas State at home, a team SMU drilled. The Virginia, even though Virginia is down this year, is still a nice BCS conference win.

That Virginia game, too, was at home. And that fact is troubling. ECU consistently puts over 30,000 into its stadium. They have a good, vocal crowd. Tulsa took the crowd out of the game early. SMU, to win, will need to do the same.

If you are going to point to any one position at ECU, it is obviously the quarterback position. James Pinkney is good. Last year, at SMU, he completed 15-of-22 passes for 225 yards, had an 80 yard pass play and ran for three touchdowns. He can run, but he really isn't a runner. Pinkney, this year, has been hampered because he hasn't had anyone to throw to. Stopping Pinkney is key. In that regard, I think SMU benefits from having played Marshall last week. In many ways, Marshall QB Bernard Morris is a poor man's James Pinkney; they do many of the same things. The difference is Pinkney does them better.

East Carolina has some depth problems, particularly receiver. Their leading receiver broke his foot and is out. Another top receiver has a broken thumb and is out, too. ECU's deep threat has a high ankle sprain and has missed the last two weeks and is questionable for the SMU game. Add to that, ECU's starting running back is probable.

Below is a crappy looking table which shows SMU and ECU's stats, which I am posting if for no other reason than I worked really hard on it.

CategoryNational RankActualConf RankNational RankActualConf Rank
Rushing Offense 63134.43577120.678
Passing Offense 69190.43932235.676
Total Offense 74324.86853356.335
Scoring Offense 3927.714T-8620.179
Rushing Defense 1686.291110193.6710
Pass Efficiency Defense 70129.61664124.863
Total Defense 76348.14482358.006
Scoring Defense 6522.1447324.006
Net Punting 5235.8041238.862
Punt Returns 747.507956.149
Kickoff Returns 827.68110517.2411
Turnover Margin T-28.572T-33.504
Pass Defense 114261.861023164.332
Passing Efficiency 19151.48376117.219
Sacks 302.571T-1041.179
Tackles For Loss 237.0011084.179
Sacks Allowed 712.148T-161.003

Update: I forgot to mention that the spread is currently SMU +6, meaning Vegas thinks East Carolina will win by six points or somesuch (not really, but whatever). I have to admit, I was surprised when the line came out. I expected SMU to be favored, being the four win team playing the two win team. Oh, well.

Also, I have not mentioned that Zack Sledge and Duke Hasson were arrested on Saturday for, well, we don't know what. They were taken to jail; ticketed and released. Both are over 21; likely public intoxication. I mention this because I don't want anyone to accuse me of covering it up. It isn't that; it is that I don't care. Other than the fact that they are idiots. But, we knew that already. At least, that is, with regard to Hasson. Neither will play against ECU. Sledge did play some and will be missed. Hasson only saw the field as the holder; if his absense is noticed, it means something terrible will happen. Also, Hasson sent in signals in from the sideline, but he might be the decoy; we'll never know.

More scouting:

Monday, October 16, 2006

Marshall coach melted down

Marshall coach Mark Snyder melted down after the loss to SMU.
Imagine a human volcano erupting in frustration, spewing incendiary words like so much molten lava.

Mount St. Marshall's, perhaps?

That's what occurred the instant Marshall Coach Mark Snyder set foot in the visiting locker room after the Herd's 31-21 football loss to SMU here Saturday.

Snyder erupted.

He ranted. He raved. He yelled. He threatened. He vented. He exploded. He erupted. He went off.

The only thing that kept Snyder from going postal was the lack of a mailbag.


SMU and Willis over Marshall 31-21

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.

Friday, October 13, 2006


I haven't been doing much predicting. I haven't really been breaking down the matchups or anything. To date, all of my predictions have gone along with my season prediction.

Here is what I said about Marshall:

I count the game against Marshall as a win. I don’t think the CUSA East is substantially better than the West. I think Marshall is treading water. The game was close last year on the road. I expect SMU will bounce back at home. I expect SMU to win this game.

I pretty much stand by it. Through, six games the prediction I made before the season has been wrong only once. Freakin' NTSU.

OK, yes, I do have more to say

I mentioned this to someone in the athletic department. If you ask me, SMU dodged a bullet. The "hate crime" story never got picked up outside of Dallas, rarely was mentioned on D/FW radio, never made the Star-Telegram. The wire report got picked up initially in some online editions, including ESPN.com, but generally, nobody noticed.

I say this because, in my experience, there are a number of sports people out there that look for reasons to move beyond sports and to bring other issues into sports. I really feared that this was going to be a biger story than it was.

The college wires today run the following:

...SMU reinstated quarterback Justin Willis a week after the redshirt freshman was suspended for fighting at an off-campus party. . . .

If you have been reading this blog this week, this is essentially what I have been saying throughout this mess. Two SMU students got into a fight at an off-campus party. No one was badly hurt. No charges have been filed. One student happened to be a football player.

Oh, yeah. Marshall.

Here is the DMN article on the Willis reinstatement. I can’t find another story to link to on it. It is good that Willis is back on the team. Willis has some obligations to meet on the student affairs end of things, but I don’t know what those are. And the truth is, it doesn’t really matter.

Some are commending the University’s handling of this. I am not one of them. SMU took 12 hours shy of a week to resolve this. That is inexcusable. Fall break is not an excuse. The administrative process is not an excuse. It should have been resolved by the end of the day Monday at the absolute latest. In my opinion, and you can disagree, had SMU not done anything, this would have never come to light. Then, when all the facts were known, SMU could have punished him appropriately.

I could talk about this more, but I am tired of thinking about it.

I realize I never mentioned the UTEP game. SMU lost, going 0-11 on third down and completing one first down in the first half. The running game wasn’t up to par. I think most of the offensive woes were due to the Willis suspension. Suspending the starting quarterback the day before a game wrecks the offense; there was little that Slater could do. The offensive woes spurred the defensive woes as they couldn’t keep the UTEP offense off the field. That being said, the defense played well, holding the NCAA’s 6th best offense to 24 points and scoring a touchdown. And SMU did it with injuries to Justin Rogers and Cory Muse. I thought going into the game that SMU needed a 10 point lead in the 4th quarter to win; they didn’t and lost. However, considering the spread opened at 10 points and shot up with the Willis announcement, I would call the game a moral victory. Unfortunately, I don’t see moral victories listed in the standings.

Also, take a look at MustangManiacs’ mid-season grades. They sum up the positions pretty well, but if it is me, I ratchet down everybody’s grade one level (ex: “B-“ to a “B”)

Scouting Marshall:

Lost in the hubbub of this week is the fact that there is a football game on Saturday.

Marshall is a hard team to get a read on. Marshall is 1-4. Marshall’s only victory is against Hofstra. Losses were to West Virginia, Tennessee, Kansas State and UCF. Where SMU would be with that schedule is up to debate. I did watch some of the UCF game and thought that Marshall looked to be the worst of two bad football teams; of course, as soon as I turned it off, they outscored UCF in the second half.

Marshall has a good running back in Ahmad Bradshaw. Other than that, however, they rank in the bottom half to bottom third of every statistical category.

As for SMU injuries, Cory Muse and Justin Rogers are doubtful; DeMyron Martin is questionable. Sigh.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

This just in...

Willis to rejoin team.

Update: I am taking the siren down because the Daily Campus dropped their story and there has been complete silence since around 1:15 this afternoon and now (3:45). Not sure what the deal is.

I'll be very disappointed if I look like a moron (more so) because of this.

Update II: He is there and is practicing. Kate Papadapolous confirms.

Update III: Yes. I stole the Drudge Report flashing light thingy.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

"The Waiting"

Oh baby dont it feel like heaven right now
Dont it feel like somethin from a dream
Yeah Ive never known nothing quite like this
Dont it feel like tonight might never be again
We know better than to try and pretend
Baby no one could have ever told me bout this

The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you see one more card
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part

Well yeah I might have chased a couple of women around
All it ever got me was down
Then there were those that made me feel good
But never as good as I feel right now
Baby youre the only one thats ever known how
To make me wanna live like I wanna live now

The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you see one more ca rd
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part

Dont let it kill you baby, dont let it get to you
Dont let em kill you baby, dont let em get to you
Ill be your breathin heart, Ill be your cryin fool
Dont let this go to far, dont let it get to you

SMU Daily Campus

Dallas Morning News

SMU Daily Campus Editorial

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Willis Links

WFAA (interview with Willis)

Channell 11: SMU Quarterback Justin Willis Suspended

Nothing on Channel 5 or Channel 4.

SMU's Willis disputes hate crime

DPD report says Willis incident is hate crime

Stunned there is nothing in the Fort Worth Star Telegram.

Also discussed on the Mike Gallagher show. Also discussed on the Ticket.

Now for me. The Channel 11 piece is an unmitigated disaster for Willis and SMU. The Channel 8 piece is much better. Willis comes across OK, not great, not terrible. Martin came across better after the Tazer incident months ago.

Don't ask me what is going to happen because I don't know. I made my opinions known Sunday night. They haven't changed.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

"Snakebit" and "cursed" & What I would do.

In my e-mail and SMU-related conversations, there seems to be a common them the past few days. “Jinxed.” “Snakebit.” “Cursed.”

That last one led me back to every other sports-related curse. Like most sports fans of my generation trapped in the internet age, I read Bill Simmons a k a the Sports Guy on ESPN.com. Pretty sure I have read every sentence of his the past five years. I saw all the stupid cartoons they ran on the ESPN website. (Actually, I have to concede that I hadn’t read this weeks NFL column, so I quickly read it and didn’t see one 90210 reference. I was disappointed.)

In October 2004, the lifetime Red Sox fan wrote:

“How will your life change if the Red Sox win the World Series?”

My wife asked me that question last night, minutes before Faulke clinched Boston’s third straight win over the Cardinals. Let’s just say that it’s a best of seven series and Game Four happens tonight. Seemed like a relevant question.

“That’s easy, “I told her. “Everything would get wiped away. No more baggage. No more Babe Ruth pictures, Buckner highlights, fans walking around with Curse signs, 1918 chants, announcers hinting at doom around every corner. Everyone would just leave us alone. We’d be just another baseball team.”

Local sports host Bob Sturm once said he agreed with 90% of Simmons sports opinions and 75% of his cultural opinions. It has always been about 90%-90% for me.

There is, however, one area in which I have a giant, enormous, mammoth difference of opinion with Bill Simmons.


The sad fact is the Red Sox rarely spent money until this decade. Between 2003 and 2004, the year they won the World Series, the Red Sox payroll jumped $20,000,000.00. The Cubs suck, not because of a goat, but because the Tribune Company refuses to spend money and know they don’t have to in order to sell out every game. The Rangers suck because they are run by idiots. I will say this, however, believing in a curse is just as bad as there actually being a curse. See Steve Bartman, the poor bastard who had the best seats of his life at Wrigley Field for the worst day of his life.

Which brings us to my beloved SMU Mustangs.

The death penalty was 20 years ago. Yes, it is true that this University made numerous terrible errors in its reaction to the death penalty and some of those changes are still in place to day. And the result of those reactions has been year after year of bad football and bad basketball. And a graduation rate for athletes that dramatically exceeds the regular student population as a whole (and I will be happy to name my next child after the first person that can explain to me why that makes any sense at all).

SMU football has stunk for 20 years because it hasn’t spent as much money as its competitors. It has been poorly managed and made bad decisions. The money that was spent was spent poorly. The athletes recruited more often than not did not measure up to the competition. Fundraising lagged. The losses mounted. The number of fans dwindled and nobody seemed to care and those that remained noticed that nobody in charge seemed to care.

But when people at SMU point out that a certain kid got arrested; left SMU for another school or a job or a band or suffered a freak injury or flunked out of school, they fail to realize that it happens at every school. Every school. Every year. The difference is SMU policies prevent SMU from having the quality depth that can absorb those losses. When a player fumbled on the goal line, it had far more to do with the player than anything that took place 20 years ago.

Get over the “SMU is snakebit” mentality.

Even Jim Copeland, in one the rare reasonably intelligent things I ever read from him, made a similar point in one of his last “AD Notepads:”

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.

Everyone, from the people on the boulevard, to the athletes, the coaches and the administration, needs to exorcise their demons.

Which brings me to this year’s team. Most of the kids playing for SMU today were not alive when it was handed down and none of them were alive when SMU was any good.

We are six games into this season and I have reached one conclusion about this team. It is pretty darn good. Good enough to win Conference USA, or if you are a cynic, Conference USA is bad enough that SMU can win it.

In order to win, SMU needs to start today. And it starts with resolving the current mess. Unfortunately, that also means SMU needs to start running the athletic department like an offshoot of the “Model United Nations”.

First, everyone needs to realize the facts are not going to change. They are not going to get better; they are not going to get worse. Not for SMU; not for Turner; not for Orsini; not for Bennett; not for Willis. If you take all the noise away and strip it down to what it really is, Justin Willis got in a fight with another guy. The other guy filed a police report. He didn’t go to the hospital. He is OK (“not severely hurt”-his words). This is a serious incident, but it isn’t the end of the world. Strip away all of the politically sensitive BS; it is irrelevant and from what I have heard from people close to the situation, not a

Turner, Orsini and Bennett need to make a decision. The “indefinite” suspension has to be cleared up. Nothing is going to change what has already happened. Everyone has the facts. Pick a punishment and move on. They cannot leave Willis twisting in the wind.

Do you think Willis is a good kid or a bad seed? I think the answer is Willis is a good kid who screwed up. And I think everyone involved agrees with that assessment. So stand behind it.

Are they worried SMU is going to get sued? If that is their concern and they are considering letting him play at any time over the next six games, then just play him now. It isn’t going to make a difference is Willis is suspended one or two weeks or three weeks. Again, this is a fight and nobody was badly hurt. This kid is not going to get millions from the University.

Whatever the University is afraid of, it is going to have to face it sooner or later. The idea that it can hide behind the poor coverage of SMU athletics and lack of interest is a fallacy. This is not going to go away. If SMU is even thinking of letting Willis play again, ever, they are going to have to face this. Everyone, including Wills, is going to have to answer the questions. If you ask me, it is better to do it now.

He hasn’t been arrested. Charges are not likely to follow. Even if they did, it isn’t the sort of thing that would result in jail time. Go through your Code of Conduct, review past incidents of students fighting one another, and realize that people have done far worse and not been kicked out of school. You have your precedent. Act on it.

Forget what I said about Turner and Orsini. This is Bennett’s call and Turner and Orsini need to let Bennett make it. If Bennett doesn’t produce this year, there is going to be a demand for his head. It isn’t fair to judge his record if others are going to make his personnel decisions, particularly whether or not Bennett can play the best SMU quarterback in a decade (statistically). And yet, there is a good chance Turner and Orsini are going to have to do that.

If SMU wants my advice, I say reinstate Willis today. You issue a simple statement: “There was a fight between students and one of them happened to be a football player. No charges have been filed nor are they expected. SMU is taking this matter very seriously.” Then you put Willis in front of somebody from the Dallas Morning News and let him answer questions (for God’s sake, coach him first!). If you don’t trust Kate Hairopoulos yet, then insist Keith Whitmire do it or Calvin Watkins. They know Willis better anyway.

Finally, I want everyone to know how long I thought about this. I agonized over this. I don’t put anything on this blog without giving it a lot of thought (Well, nearly anything). If Willis is a bad seed, I don’t want him around the football program. I don’t want a football team of choir boys, but I can do without people seeking out fellow students to belittle, antagonize and assault. In speaking with several people, I have satisfied myself that that is not what happened here. Willis is responsible for his own actions, but just because this is SMU and just because Willis is a football player, doesn’t mean he deserves a death sentence. This isn't about me being selfish and wanting three or four more wins so I can follow SMU to some bowl game that will be shown on ESPN 8.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Willis supended, update

Well, there is basically one version of the story out there and it goes like this. A guy has had what I will call an "emotional infatuation" with Willis for some time. He showed up at a team party on Thursday night and Willis, having had enough, whooped him. The guy left. Firday morning, the cops showed up to talk to Willis at Ford Stadium, not long before the team left for El Paso.

That is the version on the message board before it mysteriously had technical problems and that is the version I have heard from a couple of different people today.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Willis suspended

So some schlub over at mustangmaniacs.com posts:

I don't want to start any rumors, but it deals with our starting quarterback and our receiver, lets hope nothing bad comes out of this...

Some immediately cried “BS” but something didn’t sit well with me. For once, my gut was right. Willis has been suspended indefinitely for a “violation of team rules.”

The news elicited a groan from me. My wife came running into our study and she read over my shoulder. She really knows nothing about football and generally could care less. Even she understood the gravity of this.

On a side note, I used to watch a lot of reality TV. I got really caught up in it. When somebody would get “voted off” or “fired,” it always hit me the same way. Like a shotgun blast to the chest in some gangster movie. The victim looks up and falls back in his chair. That is what it felt like to me, and that is what it felt like to read that Willis was suspended. I feel physically ill.

They aren’t saying what the violation is, but I hope to know something soon. How long is the suspension? One hopes “indefinitely” means until SMU “definitely” needs him.

My mind flashes back to November 1997 when 6-4 SMU went to face winless TCU in the last game of the year. Only to learn shortly before the game that starting running back Donte Womack was suspended for the game. One can debate whether a victory would have gotten SMU a bowl invite (it wouldn’t), but that game was important. Yes, discipline is important, too. But, man. How does it come to this? It better be a serious violation as opposed to “I am going to show what a hard-@$$ I can be.” I am at a loss for words. More accurately, I am crestfallen (see what an SMU education gets you?).

Could this come at a worse time? On Friday frackin’ afternoon? Slater has shown me nothing in his limited appearances. The thought of him starting with little preparation brings no comfort. Maybe he will surprise me, but if I could get to Vegas ahead of this news, I am throwing money at UTEP.

I am going to go throw up now. See ya tomorrow.


Martin to play.

"He looked good, no pain," Bennett said. "There's a reason he's our first-team back."

If Martin is practicing, they have known he was going to play all week.

There seems to be some debate about this as some suggest we should be redshirting Martin. I disagree. Completely. If Demyron Martin can play without risking injury, he needs to play. DeMyron Martin is SMU's best back. Against Tulane, SMU had 98 rushing yards on 38 carries; QB Justin Willis accounted for 2/3 of that. SMU has scored only one rushing touchdown with a running back.

I will remind that there are seven games left. Four of those seven are at home. As it stands now, SMU will be favored in three of them (Marshall, UAB and Rice). SMU is 1-0 in conference. After this week, four of the next six will be at home. No matter what happens Saturday, SMU will be no worse than .500. If SMU were 0-5 instead of 3-2, I might agree. However, SMU is absolutely in this thing. Martin is the best back=Martin plays.

Beating UTEP will be hard, even with Martin. UTEP is pretty darn good. UTEP has the 6th ranked passing offense. UTEP's offensive weakness is its running game, while stopping the run is what SMU does best. SMU can completely take away their running game and they won't notice.

The key to beating UTEP, as I see it, is to get consistent pressure on Palmer. The interesting thing about Palmer is he forces things. Palmer is rarely sacked, which is odd for a guy considered a pocket passer. He'll throw into coverage to avoid a sack.

New Mexico got good pressure on Palmer for five sacks. Interestingly, Palmer had no interceptions in that game. Reminder, New Mexico won that game.

So, the trick is to get to Palmer without leaving our secondary to hang in the wind. In short, SMU faces a nearly identical problem to the one it faced against Texas Tech. Frankly, our secondary stands a good chance of being exposed.

With or without Martin, SMU will be able run on UTEP pretty easily. I predict they will give up more running yards to SMU than they any of their four previous games. In order to win, SMU will have to grind out yards on the ground and eat up time on the clock. It can be done, but it will be hard.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

UTEP Scouting

OK. I looked. I got nothing. When all else fails, I go to the IMDB and try to find talented alumni. I got bubkis. The best I could come up with is Jessica Drake, who apparently did take some classes at UTEP before being discovered in an El Paso strip club. No word on whether Mike Price was involved in that scouting trip.

I did find photos of Ms. Drake on the internet, but I am choosing not to post them and I don't recommend you go a hunting for them at work, if you know what I mean. Among her film credits are: "Hi Infidelity," "Trailer Trash Nurses 2" and "Toe Story."

Don't worry, next week will be better. I promise.

Mike Price on SMU

Much has been made about Price’s comments on SMU’s media guide that are (a) off-base; and (b) perhaps the ramblings of an alcoholic with a stripper addiction. But I would also like to point out these comments from the same press conference:
“We are embarrassed by what we did last year. There’s no question about that. This is not a revenge game or anything else. We have not, and will not, express that to any team member. There’s no revenge. They beat us solid. We gave them the ball seven times and played very poorly and embarrassed ourselves with our play. Right now they’re strong. They’ve scored 100 points the last two games. They have a freshman quarterback who was 16 for 18 passing in one game. They have a great running back who played last year. I don’t know if he’s back for our game or not. So they kind of have a running back by committee. Their offensive line is big, solid, real good. Their defensive line is solid. They beat us to the punch and outplayed us last year, no question about it. Justin Rogers went on the Mike Price diet when he got to college, and put on 40 pounds like I did when I came here. Another tremendous defensive lineman just ate us up and we made him look like an All-American last year. It’s going to be a competitive game.

"The last three games, SMU has been in control. Their confidence level is very, very high. Their quarterback is a freshman. I think we can disct him with the 12th man. Wouldn’t it be great to have three sellouts in a row. Why can’t we? We can do it. Our football team can do it, our fans can do it. For the third time I’m asking, let’s pack this stadium. Wasn’t it fun? Pack the stadium. Stay to the end. Hear Chris Marrow sing the song Shout. Sing it with him. Have fun. Bring your guests, bring your families. It’s really going to be important for this quarterback, who is a freshman, who has never been in a situation like this in his entire life. Let’s fill it up."

The big un-easy

I know some of you have been wondering when, if ever, anything would be posted on the blog after the Tulane game. Well, without going into details, this blog doesn’t pay the bills and sometimes the things that do take priority over the blog. And again, without going into detail, some days (or weeks) are better than others. This week began trending downward sometime Sunday afternoon.

Without further ado, I would like to point out the following:

SMU has won three straight;
SMU has won its last four conference games;
SMU has won its last four home games;
SMU won its first conference game of the season for the first time since 2004;
SMU has won six of its last eight games;
SMU has scored 30+ points for three consecutive weeks for first time since 1984;
SMU is 3-2 for first time since 1992;
SMU has a winning record for the first time since it was 1-0 in 2000;
SMU, along with Tulsa and Houston, are the only Conference USA teams with winning records (since Southern Miss lost on Tuesday);

I did review the game on CSTV’s All Access.

First, the All Access feed needs a fast forward and rewind feature. Tried re-watching the fake punt a half dozen times and it was a complete pain in the butt. Finally, like the announcers, I concluded the guy was falling short of the first down marker and even if he caught it, he was going to be down short of the first down marker.

I don’t mind fake punts, but the key is to use them in spots where you can minimize risk. That means you don’t run the fake punt out of your own endzone. Granted, it completely fooled SMU and almost worked (and hey, the fake field goal did work). However, SMU got the ball on the six. Sefko absolutely surrendered the lead at that moment; the only question was whether it would be by three or seven? But that is not the end of the fake punt story:

At this time, I would like to raise the special teams flag for the second time this season. From Tuesday’s New Orleans paper:

Scelfo said the plan to call for the pass on the fake punt was made last week when the coaching staff viewed the SMU film and noticed a flaw in how the Mustangs rushed the punter. After SMU repeated that mistake on Tulane's first punt, the Wave didn't waste time allowing punter Chris Beckman, a former high school quarterback, to throw the pass from punt formation on the next opportunity despite the pass being thrown from the end zone. A wide-open Batiste dropped the ball.

During the North Texas broadcast of the SMU-UNT game, George Dunham said the UNT special teams coach thought they could block a punt against SMU. He said they saw something on the film. Dunham said this 15 seconds before they did it.

So now we have the second instance where a coach has said they saw something on film that they thought they could exploit on special teams. Also, don’t forget that Tulane also ran a fake field goal and that, for all practical purposes, worked.

Put aside the ridiculous swinging gate for a moment; there is a problem on special teams. It is not enough to pat each other on the back when Hendersop or Warren gets a good return or Morstead kicks a long fieldgoal (yes, I know he missed one, too). Someone needs to be accountable for its performance. Someone needs to watch the film with an eye towards improvement. SMU cannot afford to wait until after another screw up to address it. The next special teams mistake may very well cost SMU a game that it cannot afford to lose.

The second thing I noticed in reviewing the game was how much time Ricard (pronounced “Ree-card,” apparently) had to throw the ball. SMU dominated the line of scrimmage, as evidenced by the -33 rushing yards, but more often then not, Ricard had time to throw the ball. Yes, at times in the first half, coverage was blown and Ricard couldn’t connect with his receivers, but, dare I say it, maybe SMU’s coverage in the first half wasn’t terrible.

The second half was something else entirely. That hurry up just destroyed the SMU defense. It wasn’t just the secondary, it was the linebackers and the linemen too. I think it was equal parts inexperience, conditioning, shock and coaching. Hopefully, this is a lesson learned by the defense and not the opposing teams.

Another thing I noticed, is that Tulane did have a spy on Willis much of the game. The spy just didn’t do a good job. I think you have to say Willis is responsible for that. The kid is all right. He has an uncanny ability to make the first rush miss. This is good, because the SMU offensive line needs to play better.

Has everyone learned not to kick the ball to Jessie Henderson? He was averaging 34 yards per return before. Surprisingly, after a 100 yard return, it is only up to 38 yards now. Also surprising, averaging 38 yards per return only gets you to second in the NCAA behind Marcus Thigpen of Indiana even though they both beat last year’s leader by five yards.

Thoughts on Tulane and the crowd:

On Friday, I saw the following evidence in New Orleans that Tulane existed: Moving on…

On Saturday, before heading to the game, I read the paper and a nice full page preview, complete with rosters of both teams, which I think is a waste of space; unless you are going to the game, do you need to know who #63 for SMU is? I saw two Tulane shirts and a weird golf cart thing driving through the quarter playing the Tulane fight song. For the record, I saw them once. While I am aware the Quarter is not the place to look for the Tulane crowd, Tulane ain’t that big a city these days.

I basically got into arguments with people over the Tulane attendance prediction. I am just amazed at the number of people who thought there were going to be 50,000 people there screaming for Tulane. There was nothing to support it. All you had to do was look. But that is not to say there shouldn't have been.

One of the great errors in the game was committed by Tulane when they were not selling tickets to the game for $10, or just giving them away. Seriously. There may have been 21,000 tickets sold, but there were not 21,000 people there. You can sell beer at the Superdome, won’t most people buy at least one beer or the proverbial hot dog?

BTW, I thought there crowd noise was "suspect." I'll leave it at that.

Random thoughts on New Orleans:

I would absolutely encourage everyone to go to New Orleans for the weekend. If you stick to the Quarter, you had to struggle to find signs that there was a Hurricane, except, of course, for the books, signs and t-shirts.

And the “Help wanted” signs that were everywhere.

Five years ago, my wife and I went and we couldn’t even get reservations to the places we wanted to go. Now, we didn’t even need reservations.

And the “For lease” signs were everywhere, too. I think the places that were making it before the hurricane are coming back. The places that were barely making it are gone or going.

Interesting to note that the half-drunk, half-employed, half-crazy people made it back to New Orleans, if they had ever left. Now, they just make up a greater percentage of the whole.