Tuesday, November 28, 2006

"I wasn't gonna walk in there and say, 'Hey, I want a raise.' "

Dallas Morning news version.

Daily Campus version.

First of all, this needs to be said. This could have been handled better. This did not have to drag out until Tuesday afternoon. SMU cannot dismiss this as a routine “evaluation;” Schellas Hyndman’s review was not the same as Phil Bennett’s and we all know it.

Consider this exchange between AD and head coach sometime during five hours of talks:

Bennett: "Am I your guy?"

Orsini: "When we get through with this, I'll tell you."

I am not entirely sure of the logic for keeping Bennett. I keep looking through the articles and there really isn’t one given. The closest thing we get from Orsini is the following:

"While we did not succeed to the levels we had hoped this season, we continued to make progress," Orsini said in a statement. "We will return SMU football to national prominence."

And that is part of the problem. I can’t tell you how many “ponyfans” told me they thought that even if Bennett made a bowl, that if Orsini thought he get an upgrade, he would do it. Obviously, those people were wrong, but the sentiment is right. It doesn’t matter if Bennett went from five wins to six in 2006; what matters is whether Bennett can go from six wins to seven or eight in 2007. Stealing a bit from Bob Sturm, it is just like Jim Cramer on “Mad Money”.

“We aren’t worried about where a stock has been, we are only worried about where it is going.”

Is this football team going to be better next year than this year? And the year after? That is the only question that matters. I don’t really care about 0-12 in 2004; I just care about 7-5 (or better) in 2007.

Yesterday, I was reminded there are six Conference USA bowl tie-ins next year and not just five. With these results in 2007, SMU is a bowl team. So it very well may be that Orsini is banking on the continued parity in Conference USA. After all, Jordan Palmer is gone at UTEP; Kolb is gone at Houston.

And then there is the very real probability that it just came down to money. SMU is paying for two basketball coaches and a football coach in 2006. Maybe paying for two basketball coaches and two football coach in 2007 was too much for the athletic department to bear.

But let’s not forget that letting Bennett go was a complete crapshoot. We don't know what SMU would have gotten. Maybe SMU would have found the next Charlie Weis; maybe SMU would have found the next Mike Cavan. Decent chance SMU would have found the next Phil Bennett.

Keeping Bennett has its own risks. Anybody walking around saying they think Bennett has made the right call on even 80% of his coaching decisions is crazy. I concede that this year, the decision-making improved, but there were still numerous calls that were mindboggling, AND WE ALL KNOW IT.

And here is the other thing. This year, Bennett was given everything he ever asked for. First, contrary to popular belief, Bennett can by and large recruit who he wants. As an aside, I think it is ironic that the same people that continually rip Stallion for his negativity are using his arguments to defend Bennett. The exception is transfers, and again, I think that rule is changed now, too. Second, this is Bennett's dream schedule. Bennett has complained about the schedule since he got here. SMU scheduled NTSU! Why? For Bennett! So, he gets what he wants and he comes up short. Short against NTSU and short of a bowl bid. And on top of all that, a school with a job that before the season started every single one of us would have said was a harder job than SMU, Rice overcomes all these same things and is going to a bowl game.

There is no guarantee that a new coach has to start over from scratch the way Bennett did when he took over for Cavan. If that is the way you feel, then Bennett needed to be fired now because apparently he has already left the cupboard bare. At least, that is what I was told repeatedly by Bennett in the first three years he was here: there was no talent when Cavan left. That is why he had to start over. So if SMU has to start over again, what does that say about the job Bennett has been doing?

I will warn the fire Bennett camp, and I have warned everybody of this for three years. At some point, if Bennett no longer coaches at SMU, I guarantee you he will be in our backyard within a month recruiting the same kids as SMU. Contrary to the belief of some, Benett can recruit-he is a heck of a salesman and anybody that has met him knows it; part of his problem at SMU is he hasn't had much to sell (by and large his own fault, I should add). It should be our dream that he ends up the linebacker coach on some NFL team because we don't want him as the defensive coordinator at one of our "natural and traditional rivals."

I will also add that if Bennett were let go, those outside the SMU bubble would have thought we were nuts just as we think the NTSU'rs are nuts for canning Dickey. All they see is “bowl eligible” and more wins than last year. That is all JJT sees; that is all Norm sees. That is all freakin’ Dale Hanson sees. Yeah, Dale said keeping Bennett was the right thing to do at 10PM on Tuesday, which almost certainly means it is a mistake.

And finally, there is the fact that Bennett is a great guy. He is a great guy to us. While Cavan came here and gave the impression that he couldn't wait to get out of here, Bennett at least acts like he enjoys it. And he puts up with a lot of cr@p from us. On the other hand, he has to put up with the cr@p because he lost the benefit of the doubt a long time ago.

So put your faith in Orsini because (i) this was not an easy decision; and (ii) it was his frickin call anyway and we will have years to second guess it.

For me, this is liberating. No more mincing words. No more keeping my mouth shut because I don't want this board used against Bennett in recruiting. The current situation is obvious. This is f'ing it. Year six of the Bennett regime. Six seasons will tie Bennett with Meyer and Rossley for the 4th longest coaching tenure in SMU history. Put up or shut up time for Bennett and all of his supporters. So without further ado…

"Four years ago they were 8 and 4, when was the last time SMU has been 8 and 4?" Bennett said. "They have 11 All-American receivers. When I got here I had to move a backup tight end to starting quarterback. They have a quarterback that threw 25 touchdown passes. They've had [academic] exemptions forever. SMU never had exemptions."

"If you want to evaluate me, the only thing you have to look to is where we came from," Bennett said.

First of all, it was five years ago, not four. Second of all, that Rice season was a fluke; Rice played THREE schools that didn’t win a game that year and six of those wins were against schools with a combined six wins. Third of all, that 8-4 Rice team lost to SMU that year. Fourth of all, that was Rice’s only winning season since 1997, which is the last year SMU had a winning record as well.

I don’t even know what “11 All-American receivers” means. Surely that is some kind of misquote or typo. Rice has had one receiver in its history with receptions for 1,000 yards and his is a sophomore this year. And he is the only Rice player in the top 100 for receptions, receiving yardage or yardage per game. More on Mr. Dillard in a moment.

Rice doesn’t have a quarterback that threw 25 touchdown passes. Chase Clement through 21 in 2006 and five in 2005. Oh, and he didn’t play against SMU, don’t forget. Unless he means SMU and Justin Willis. This article is confusing. But Willis threw 26 touchdowns and ran for another three. And if we are talking about Willis, well, to suggest that Bennett isn’t at least partially responsible for SMU’s QB problems in the past is a folly.

Now, as for Mr. Dillard, if Mr. Bennett wants to suggest SMU couldn’t get Mr. Dillard or others into school at SMU, well, I’m sorry, brother, that dog don’t hunt.

Dillard was not recruited seriously for football by anybody. Dillard received his first and only offer from Rice two days before signing day. He got into Colgate and was going to go there to play basketball. Are we expected to believe that Dillard could get into Rice or Colgate but not SMU? Oh, and Bennett forgot to mention that he invited Dillard to walkon at SMU. That is kind of an important detail that Bennett has neglected to mention.

If SMU had seriously recruited him and had offered him and he had committed, his commitment would have been panned by many because he was small and he had no other offers. Truth is Dillard is the kind of lucky homerun that a school hits every now and then. Of course, you would also have to assume that a coaching staff would know what to do with the player when he got to the school.

“If 81 would have gotten hurt instead of me," he asked, referring to a player who scored three touchdowns in Rice's 31-27 win, "who'd have won that game?"

Whoa. I can’t believe somebody would even make this ridiculous argument. Rice was without its starting quarterback and now we have to wonder what would have happened if they lost their best receiver, too? Then what? Are we supposed to pray that their running back gets hurt, too? Last time I looked, Dillard wasn’t on Rice’s goal line defense.

Speaking of goal line play…

Bennett said that he did not expect to make changes to his coaching staff.

But he does have a wide-ranging plan for improvement that touches on everything from the football nitty-gritty to getting the student body more involved to adding to the program's support staff. Bennett said he planned to add in-house recruiting and high school relations coordinators. Improved recruiting will continue to be a major emphasis.

Man, that is awesome. Should have been done in year one. “Better late than never,” I always say. Except how is this going to help recruiting now? It isn’t. Junior College Signing Day is in three weeks and National Signing Day is two months after that. This doesn’t even rise to the level of lipstick on a pig. It is more like … eye shadow on a bat.

I didn’t expect staff changes. Why make them now? It is pointless, borderline reckless, to make scheme changes now or put in an entirely new offensive system. Really, all that would do is provide excuses. And to be fair, total offense did increase from 104th to 79th in the country (of course, that is a difference of less than 11 yards per game).

"We're the fifth winningest team in the conference. When I first came here, we couldn't win a conference game," Bennett said. "We're recruiting a higher-caliber athlete, and I think we will be a team to be reckoned with in the conference championship."

SMU is not fifth, it is the sixth winningest team in the conference this year. At first, I thought maybe SMU was fifth in conference winning percentage, but that isn’t true either. SMU is tied with Marshall for sixth in winning percentage in conference at 4-4, which I need to point out is the same conference record as last year. I don’t need to remind anybody that if SMU were fifth, it would be bowling.

Oh, and the only year SMU couldn’t win a conference game was 2003. The reality is that post-SWC, SMU has averaged more than three conference wins a year and that includes none in 2003. SMU has finished .500 or better in conference a surprising seven out of 11 times. So, contrary to popular belief, SMU CAN win conference games.

Now that I have that off my chest, it is time to move on and gear up for 2007. Bennett's homework: figure out why SMU can't convert in short yardage or stop the other team on 3rd down; figure out how SMU lost so many 4th quarter leads; above all, make these guys better. Orsini's job is to eliminate the excuses: no more arguments that SMU is not on a level playing field in recruiting. Don't blame me, your coach said it, not me.

Me? My job? Figure out how to make a good signature drink for the boulevard. I am thinking Vodka, sweet and sour and grenadine. How about you?

Bennett stays

Bennett will return next year.

And that is why you don't believe everything you hear, and especially post it to your blog.

Lots of thoughts tomorrow.

Edit: Don't expect staff changes, either.

I swear...

I swear that ponyfans.com shuts the message board down on purpose some times.

I think Brad Sutton has a Bat Phone that he uses to call the administrators. Or it could go something like this:

Sutton: There is about to be a team meeting. No speculation! Unplug the server!

Administrator: But, sir! They don't know anything!

Sutton: Silence! No one must be allowed to guess the subject of the meeting! This comes from the Athletic Director himself.

Administrator: I tell you, this message board will be inoperable as planned.

Sutton: The Athletic Director does not share your optimistic appraisal of the situation.

Administrator: But he asks the impossible. I need more men.

Sutton: Then perhaps you can tell him when he arrives.

Administrator: The Athletic Director is coming here?

Sutton: That is correct, Commander. And he is most displeased with your apparent lack of progress.

Administrator: We shall double our efforts.

Sutton: I hope so, Commander, for your sake. The Athletic Director is not as forgiving as I am.

Still waiting

Bennett's future at SMU still up in air

Bennett and Orsini met Sunday night. They met again late on Monday. There is a team meeting this afternoon, at which, I as, all will be revealed. Will it be the Orsini-Bennett plan or the Orsini-non-Bennett plan? Will there be wholesale changes? Will there be tweaking to the staff? Time will tell.

I am mildly irritated this has dragged out until Tuesday. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. One would assume some thought was given to the current situation ahead of time. If not, then it should have been.

If I hear something I trust, I will let you know here. You can bet I won't run with anything unless I am confident.If you want my advice, ignore everything you hear until this afternoon. The chatter isn't worth listening to. The only things to get out of it are vitriolic diatribes on why Bennett must go or nonsensical, poorly reasoned and poorly supported reasons why Bennett absolutely must stay.

Monday, November 27, 2006

I got nothin'

I have stared at my computer for 20 minutes. I don't have anything to say. I am sure I should do a season recap or link to the DMN's or something, but my mind is a total blank.

Did some late night surfing. Read that TCU is going to the Poinsettia Bowl and that Rice was going to the New Orleans Bowl. Then I wandered over to the Rice message board for the first time since before the game. I just about lost it.

The Rice loss had a major impact on me.

I have avoided Bennett talk because I don't know what is going to happen. I have sources. They contradict eachother. They even know they contradict eachother. Honestly, it is just guesswork. Even for guesswork, if they all said the same thing, I would run with it. But they don't. Everything sits with a handful of people we don't get to talk to except Orsini who casually puts up with me.

I have read a hundred opinions and nobody has sold me. So, I have a homework assignment for you. Below are some shorthand notes from the eight conference games. You tell me what they mean.

Tulane: Had a 4th quarter lead, lost it, got it back

UTEP: Disaster of a first quarter, got the lead in the 4th quarter, lost it. No Willis

Marshall: Had a 4th quarter lead, lost it, got it back

ECU: Disaster of a first quarter, blown out

UAB: Had a 4th quarter lead, lost it, got it back

Houston: Disaster of a first quarter, tied at the end of the 3rd quarter, took the lead in the 4th and lost it.

Tulsa: Disaster of a first half, took the lead in the 4th quarter and kept it.

Rice: Disaster of a first quarter, tied at the end of the 3rd quarter, took the lead in the 4th and lost it.

Also, the four conference wins in 2006 are equal to, not greater or less than the number of conference wins in 2005.

Double bad

I had a family emergency over the holiday that kept me away from Houston this weekend. I won't go into detail, but I will say I have a 16 lb Thanksgiving turkey that was in the refrigerator and is now in the freezer. Hopefully it will be thawed for Christmas.

I did watch the game on Mustang All-Access (Note to self: cancel All-Access). The radio broadcast was a full 18 seconds ahead of the internet feed.

Anyway we lost. The Rice game was a microcosm of the entire season. A disaster early, followed by some excitement and then up and down and ending in disappointment.

I wish I could post more (and I will) but it is a miracle I even made it to work.

Friday, November 24, 2006

What can bowl do for SMU?

The Dallas Morning News asks, What can a bowl do for SMU?

Bennett said a bowl would mean validation.

It could also be a springboard to more consistent success.

Orsini said a bowl can influence everything, from recruiting, to more practice time, to fundraising to attendance (SMU averaged only 15,428 fans this season).

Orsini said he would love his new marketing staff to be able to run a campaign next season grounded by the statement, "come support your bowl-bound team."

A bowl would be a reward for the players, such as senior safety Joe Sturdivant, who said he bought into Bennett's recruiting promise that these Mustangs would do something special and leave something special behind.

"I think things could explode around here," Sturdivant said. "There's all the things needed for a top program."

A win today, and a bowl would reward all the long-suffering fans.

A win today, and SMU really could find new life. Coming close won't cut it.

"It's time to put all the past behind us," Orsini said. "I do believe going to a bowl this year would do that."

As Big a Game as Any

Stewart Mandel's blog devotes a column to SMU-Rice.

While Notre Dame-USC and LSU-Arkansas will surely dominate the headlines this weekend, Saturday’s SMU-Rice game carries its own significance for the participants, both of whom are 6-5. The winner will be assured a postseason berth, and it’s hard to say which will appreciate it more: The Owls, who haven’t been to a bowl game since 1961, or the Mustangs, who haven’t been since 1984 and have suffered through nearly two decades of post-NCAA death penalty misery.


Apparently, Bennett talked to Norm Hitzges on Thursday and let the cat out of the bag: If SMU loses and ECU loses, the 6-6 Conference USA team to get a bowl invite will be SMU and the invite is next to guaranteed. Presumably, that means the New Orleans Bowl. So keep an eye on that ECU-NC state score on Saturday. Incidentally, NC State is favored by three.

I find it very odd that Bennett would admit this to anybody. Actually, I think it is borderline insane. Don't you want the team to go all-in on Saturday? If it were me, I wouldn't tell the fans, I wouldn't tell the other coaches, I wouldn't tell the players. Heck, if I were Orsini, I wouldn't tell Bennett.

On Wednesday night, I listened to a little of the bitch-slapping SMU laid down on the University of Louisiana-Monroe (U-La-Mo?). SMU scored 99, could easily have scored 100, but Doherty (i) was playing walkons at the end; and (ii) ordered his team to dribble the clock out. SMU lost to U-La-Mo last year. The difference between last year's team and this year's team is night and day.

Thursday's DMN had a nice feature on Justin Willis and Emmanuel Sanders.

Friday's DMN column was all about the coaching job of Todd Graham at Rice. But that is OK, because we got a nice AP story on SMU being back from the dead.

The spread for the SMU-Rice game is all over the place and it apparently is all due to Chase Clement's health. It started around Rice -4, dropped to Rice -1, then the game was taken off, and now, depending on where you look is still off the board or SMU is favored by 1.

Rice is an interesting team. Much has been made about their identical record to SMU's while having a significantly more difficult nonconference schedule. The reality is much simpler. Rice has won one more conference game than SMU.

Rice has been the benefit of more than a little good fortune. If not for mental lapse, Rice would have lost its game against UAB. Rice needed double overtime to beat Tulsa. Regardless, Rice is where no one expected them to be and deserve whatever they get. Certainly, SMU has received its fair share of luck this season as well.

Statistically, Rice has a pretty average, yet balanced offense. 52nd ranked rushing offense (144.18 yds/game); 50th ranked passing offense (206.64 yds/game). Rice is 37th in scoring offense, with just over 27 points per game.

Rice does have a player that can kill just about anybody. Jarett Dillard has turned into a beast. How or why, I don't know. He ain't that fast and ain't that big, but he is that good. Dilalrd averages 1.54 touchdowns per game and has at least one touchdown reception in each of eleven games this year. THREE TIMES, DILLARD HAS CAUGHT THREE TOUCHDOWNS IN A SINGLE GAME! Bennett is right, sometimes it is better to take the interference call than allow the touchdown.

Defensively, Rice is poor. 113th ranked rushing defense, giving up an average 195.82 yards per game; the pass defense is equally poor, giving up 234.64 yards per game (101st), while also allowing opposing QB's to be pretty efficient as pass efficiency defense is ranked 112th in the country (see my earlier post on passe efficiency defense versus pass defense). Total defense is 114th in the country, giving up 430.45 yards per game, while scoring defense is also 114th in the country, giving up more than 33 points per game.

It would be easy to say that the defensive stats are skewed by Rice's nonconference schedule. Stealing some stats I found on the Rice message board, however, shows that is not the case. Only three teams have had below average output against Rice all season. UH (32.7), Army (19.8) and ECU (22.9). Tulane scored 38 against [Rice] but averages 20.1. Rice has allowed 31 points per game in seven conference games. That would rank Rice about 105th in the country in scoring defense. In other words, Rice's aggregate defensive statistical record is not attributable to the money games scheduled against UT, UCLA, and FSU.

Last year, I made the point that Rice's defense was terrible. There was much handwringing among SMU fans because SMU had never shown it could stop an option offense. The point I made was that Rice's defense was so bad, its offense didn't matter. The Rice defense is only slightly better this year. The difference is that the offense is better and Rice is protecting the football and that has saved them all season.

This isn't the game I was expecting three months ago. This is going to be a war. Still, I predicted a win and I stand by it. Mustangs win a close one.

Oh, and there will be no "scouting report" of Rice as not one attractive woman has ever attended Rice University. It is a statistical fact. That's science. And you can't argue with science.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The continuing saga of Chase Clement's health...

Will he play or won't he? Todd Graham is certainly letting it leak that Rice QB Chase Clement will play. That fact alone should make you think the guy is currently in a full body cast getting food through a tube.

Read this Q&A with Major Applewhite and tell me that there is not an underlying assumption that Clement will not play.

Q: Are you better prepared for installing a gameplan with Clement unavailable?
A: Absolutely. You've got a little history with Joel, and you know what you can and can't do. And he could do more than he couldn't do. I think your natural tendency is to just pull the reins way back and say, 'Whoa, we've got to go a totally different direction.' And in reality you don't have to depart from what you do as much as one might think. You're not going to wholesale change your offense (for Armstrong).

Q: Did the split minutes at UCLA benefit Armstrong and John Shepherd?
A: Absolutely. Both of them have learned and gotten better from that experience, and it's eased them tremendously. Playing at UCLA, Texas and Florida State will get you prepared for anything. Playing in those different places has taken the nerve off of them, and now they're able to settle in and play more comfortably.

Rumor of the day

The current rumor of the day is that Phil Bennett is in the running for the Iowa State head coaching job. Is there any truth to it? Who knows?

What we do know is that Phil shows up on a leading Iowa State's fans blog as somebody that guy is interested in.

We also know that the first spot that Phil Bennett was a defensive coordinator was . . . Iowa State (1983-1986).

we also know there is no previous connection between Bennett and Iowa State Athletic Director Jamie Pollard.

We also know that at least two people have interviewed: San Diego's Jim Harbaugh and Nebraska OC Jay Norvell. We also know that neither one of them is going to get the job. We also know that both men were interviewed by Pollard in Dallas last week. Is it possible that Pollard met with Bennett while in Dallas? Sure, it is.

Generally, however, everyone is in the dark. Both at SMU and Iowa State.

I am not surprised there are people who are disappointed that this has come up. It is a natural reaction. However, it isn't fair. Bennett is not an "SMU guy." He is here; he loves it here while he is here. But let's not kid ourselves. There are more than a few SMU fans prepared to rip Bennett's throat out with every loss.

If you want to know what I think, I'll tell you. Sure, he might be a candidate. The guy that ultimately turns SMU around is going to be a borderline folk hero in college football. If it isn't Iowa State, it will be somewhere else, eventually. I am a little irritated that he moght do it during the season (before the Tulsa game); however, that is conjecture and may not be true. I am not going to lose any sleep over it. For Bennett to be considered for a different job, he has to be successful at this one and I am far more concerned with that than anything else.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Waiting: Rice Week

Oh baby dont it feel like heaven right now
Dont it feel like somethin from a dream
Yeah I've 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 card
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

Doesn't it feel like this week is dragging? Saturday can't get here soon enough.

The DMN has its usual post-Phil press conference article. If you haven't figured it out. Katie Papadapolous shows up for the press conference and then goes looking for players to talk to. Rumor has it she watches the games, too.

Anyway, the focus is on Martin who has had a disappointing year. SMU needs a big game from Martin. Sanders is expected play (Yeah!); Haywood practiced (Yeah!), but is still questionable (boo).

Speaking of the Phil Bennett press conference, from time to time, you get priceless moments from Bennett. Such was the case when he was asked about Rice star WR Jarett Dillard. I loved the look on his face when Bennett matter of factly said it was better to interfere with the guy than let him score. Obviously, that is true, but the way he said it was great.

Things are falling apart at North Texas. I post this because SMU grad and NTSU offensive coordinator are involved.
During halftime of the game, offensive coordinator Ramon Flanagan allegedly started a physical fight with wide receivers Coach Chip Garber after being told he should play seniors because it was their final home game. The incident got so out of hand the offense received no instruction before going back out to start the third quarter.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Basketball RPI through four games

Sure it is early, but SMU's RPI is currently 31 out of 330 teams. Last year, SMU finished at 268.

Sagarin is a less generous 119. Last year, SMU finished at 198.

UNT job description

Vacancy: Head football coach

Must have a valid Texas driver's license (or ability to obtain a license) and good driving record.

Are they going to make him drive the bus?

Rice QB will play

According to the Rice message board, Rice QB Chase Clement will play. I personally find it odd that a kid goes from possible broken collarbone with his arm in a sling to "cleared to play and is ready to go."

Monday, November 20, 2006

Almost bowling time

At half time, the conversation was about two things. One the obvious question, but the second was one of urgency. Where was the urgency? This game was of paramount importance and it sure looked like only the fans in the stand knew it. This game was important for the team, the coach, the seniors, the fans and it sure didn’t look that way on the field.

And that is why you don’t judge SMU until the game is over. I have learned my lesson. I won’t make that mistake again.


It is easy to malign the offense in the first half, but Tulsa simply devoured the clock on its first drive, taking more than nine minutes and fifteen playes, netting a fieldgoal. SMU followed that up with Willis regressing to Weeks 1 and 2: a nice completion to Chase for sixteen yards, followed up with three tuck and runs at the first sign of pressure.

On SMU’s second drive, however, SMU did seem to figure it out. After a very efficient touchdown drive, SMU moved 80 yards in eight plays for its first touchdown.

Unfortunately, from that point on, it was all Tulsa in the first half: all SMU could muster was a three and out bookended by two efficient Tulsa touchdown drives.

The second half was actually rather remarkable. In the third quarter alone: Defense: Tulsa had one first down in the third quarter. Special teams: Zack Sledge recovered a fumble on a kickoff following a fieldgoal. Offense, after going three and out in its first drive of the second half, cut the seventeen point lead to five by the end of the third.

In the fourth quarter, again, just three Tulsa first downs. Tulsa never got into SMU territory in the second half. The offense had two TD very effective drives in the 4th to cement the win.

And yeah, Willis just put the team on his back and went in the second half. Here are Willis’s second half numbers: 10 for 14 for 137 yards and one touchdown passing; 12 carries for 94 yards and a touchdown rushing (includes one sack).

All and all, it was a good football weekend in my household. SMU won. I got tickets to the Cowboys-Colts game; I got to see Tony Romo take one more step towards sainthood. My wife’s cousin, an Ohio State grad, went with me went to; he was pleased.

I forgot who I picked to win the Tulsa-SMU game. I mean, it was so long ago, all the way back in August. Oh, yes, I picked SMU to win. Again, I did it in August. This brings my season record to 10-1. Not bad. That freakin’ NTSU game is killing me. I blame the injury to Martin in that game. Well, yeah, that and Phil Bennett. It completely ruined my trip to Vegas.

One thing I wills ay about my season prediction: Nearly every team is about as good as I expected. Maybe UTEP is a little worse than I thought; I kind of expected them to play better down the stretch. There is one true exception, however. One team is much better than I expected. Rice. Conveniently, SMU gets to find out how much better Rice is on Saturday.

And so, for the third straight week, SMU will play its most important game in twenty years. This time against a resurgent Rice team.

As luck would have it, Saturday night my wife and I went to dinner and a movie with another couple and one was a Rice grad who had listened to his game on the internet. Who would have thought a bowl game would go to the winner of this battle of the titans? And then, he frustratingly added, “Well, it is going to be hard without our starting quarterback.” “Huh?” I asked. “Broken freakin’ collarbone.” “Oh, that is too bad.” I said as I gave the ever most subtle fist pump. Is that what we have come to? Mentally high-fiving injuries to Rice players? This football obsession is not healthy.

Oh, and “Borat” is overrated.

On the injury front, Henderson is expected back again; I think that is four weeks running. And Haywood is questionable. SMU needs Haywood back in a big way.

After the euphoria of bowl eligibility subsided, Kate Papadapolous now reports that the winner of SMU-Rice goes bowling, the “loser's bowl drought could be extended, even though the team is bowl eligible.” I would replace “could” with “will likely.” With two weeks to go, there are already more eligible teams than spots. About the only conference not to fill its spots will be the Big Ten. When both Kansas and SMU are on the outside looking in, things are not good for SMU getting an at-large invitation.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Living on Tulsa Time

Livin' on Tulsa time
Livin' on Tulsa time
Gonna set my watch back to it
Cause you know I've been through it
Livin' on Tulsa time

-Don Williams

I can't decide, who is the bigger star out of the University of Tulsa. Is it Jeanne Tripplehorn, star of "The Firm," "Basic Instinct" and "Waterworld":

Or is it "Golden Girls'" Rue McClanahan:

I hate the redesigned Dallas Morning News Website. I just wanted to get that out of the way. Belo is lucky its biggest competition for local sports coverage is the Star Telegram and their website hasn’t been redesigned since 1993. Above all, the internet is about convenience. It takes twice as long to get to the SMU page as it used to.

Jean-Jacques Taylor has a column on SMU and Willis in particular .
The future of an entire program and its coach rests with the slender redshirt freshman quarterback from Denton Ryan.

Lead SMU to victories in its final two games against Tulsa and Rice, and SMU will play in a bowl for the first time since 1984. Maybe it's the New Orleans Bowl. Or the Fort Worth Bowl.

It really doesn't matter.

Not when you consider the level of SMU football since the program was eliminated for two years following the 1986 season because of the NCAA death penalty, a punishment so severe it will never be used again – no matter how little institutional control an institution demonstrates.

Winning the next two games will also save Phil Bennett's job.

Perhaps one win will get SMU to a bowl and keep Bennett around for at least another season, but there are no guarantees, especially since Jim Copeland is gone. Like a general manager in pro sports, college athletic directors prefer to hire their own coaches, especially in a revenue-producing sport such as football. New AD Steve Orsini is no different.

Surprisingly, this is the first hint I have seen in print that Phil Bennett’s job might be in jeopardy. I decided in August, I was not going to speculate about Bennett’s job during the season. Sorry.

Bonds and Henderson are probable; Sanders and Haywood are out. Haywood is probably out for the Rice game, too.

I have not talked too much about Tulsa. You can look at their stats forever and you can’t point to any one reason for their success. They do nothing great, nothing bad, they just do it all well and avoid mistakes. It is when they make mistakes that they lose-four turnovers against Rice, for example.

I am still 9-1 on my season predictions. I predicted SMU to win this game, so I am sticking with it. Bennett performs when his back is against the wall and I expect this week to be no exception. The key, Mr. Bennett is to try and score on every possession. You are going to need at least 30 to win, you had better try and get 35.

If it is me, I try not to schedule SMU football and SMU men’s basketball for the same night, but SMU did that. I sure hope Moody is packed. Doherty can do something with this team. SMU is not expected to win Saturday night, but if there is a coach that can pull it off, it is Doherty.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Hoosiers Speech

Hoosiers Speech

Thanks to Jesuit Pony for the link.

McNews McMust McRead

There is a must read in today's USA Today on college football coach's salaries. But that is not the half of it. Online they have a sortable list of all NCAA coach's salaries, including bonuses and other income. But wait, there is more! Through the joy of Freedom of Information, for the state schools, they have copies of every contract! Who doesn't want to read Art Briles' contract!

Brace yourself SMU fans. Many of you will be surprised to know on salary alone, Phil Bennett is the highest paid coach in Conference USA. Now, when you include bonuses and other income, Bennett drops to a humble fifth.

Edit: Another thing that should come as no surprise is the disparity between the compensation of coaches in BCS conferences and coaches in non-BCS conferences. Not just at the higher levels, but on down the line. The lowest paid coaches in BCS conferences make substantially more than most non-BCS conferences.

Futball loses and football must win

In quite an upset, SMU men's soccer lost to the University of California-Santa Barbara 3-1. Very disappointing as SMU was ranked no. 1 in some polls and no. 2 in others; UCSB was unranked. This may very well be Schellas Hyndman's last game at SMU; he is once again being considered for the FC Dallas job and it is probably (once again) his if he wants it.

In other news, to get to a bowl, SMU probably needs to win out. NCAA rules say a conference bowl tie-in must take an above-.500 team over a .500 team. This is not news to those that have been paying attention. The situation is this: Conference USA has five bowl tie-ins and two seven win teams and two six win teams that are likely going to get to seven wins. There are three teams that can get to seven wins by winning out: UTEP, Rice and SMU. UTEP has the easiest shot at seven wins and since Rice and SMU play each other, only one of them can get to seven.

To guarantee a bowl, SMU needs to win out and UTEP needs to lose. If SMU and UTEP win out, then the bowls can pick between the two. This is where SMU's losses to NTSU and UTEP (without Willis) sting. If everybody (Rice, UTEP, SMU and add Marshall, too) finish with six wins, then the bowls get to pick. And this is where SMU's attendance woes come back to haunt SMU.

If SMU finishes with six wins and there are five seven-win Conference USA teams, it is bowl eligible and can take an at-large spots. There is one at large spot (the Poinsettia Bowl). As most conferences will meet all of their bowl tie-ins, there are unlikely to be many other at-large spots. The Big 10 may not fill all of its spots and if things fall right, the ACC may not either. But now you are talking about SMU rooting for Iowa to beat Minnesota; Purdue to beat Indiana; Virginia to beat Miami; Western Michigan to beat Florida State; Arizona State to beat UCLA. I am not making any of these games up, SMU fans have to actually hope these things happen-and that is just this Saturday.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Hi, kids. What did we learn today? (updated)

This is the SMU football blog. While I could have called it the SMU sports blog, I didn't want to listen to complaints that I did not mention the women's rowing team (yes, JT, I know that is redundant). I choose to write about non-football sports at the time and place of my choosing.

So, today's lead is....


Yeah, it was suggested that I not swear on here anymore, but I don't know how else to put it. I think you should be impressed with a 2-1 record in Florida State's home tournament and the fact that SMU nearly pulled off the upset against Florida State. Yeah, they didn't win, but I wasn't holding out much hope for this season of SMU men's hoops. Last year, SMU's RPI after the season was over was 269 and SMU lost its best player. Add to that a near complete lack of depth and, well, the fact that last year they didn't look very good individually. I was hoping SMU would flirt with .500. Now, I actually have have a mind to suggest this team is going to be pretty good.

Wow. That is some endorsement.

Well, considering I audibly groaned and felt ill when I learned the last guy was hired, that is high praise.

Update: Here is the Dallas Morning News' version.

Palm Beach Post

Tallahassee Democrat

Orlando Sentinel

Jacksonville Times-Union

Texoma Herald-Democrat(?)

The reason I posted these articles is that everybody walked away impressed with SMU.

Also, this very important announcement: SMU Men's Soccer plays an NCAA Tournament game Wednesday night at SMU.

Time to get up for Tulsa

Look, I understand losing to Houston stunk. I go back to what I said after the ECU game. "C'mon people! Did you think this was going to be easy?"

As long as SMU has control of its own destiny, everybody needs to remain focused on the task at hand: winning these next two games. And make no mistake, SMU needs to win these two games to go to a bowl. There will be in article in tomorrow or Thursday's DMN saying as much. NCAA rules specify that all teams with seven or more victories must fill out conference's contracted bowl agreements prior to placing any six win teams in bowls.

"We're still going to get to a bowl, I have no doubt about that," said Willis, and Bennett said "there's still a lot to play for."

It isn't my job to psyche everybody up. It is my job to, well, I don't know what my job is here. I do know one thing: I am content to let this season play itself out.

Looking ahead to Tulsa, they are interesting team. Very balanced offensively. 29th ranked rushing offense (169 yds/game); 33rd ranked passing offense (228 yds/game); 21st in total offense; 32nd in scoring offense. Defensively, they are OK against the run and above-average against the pass. Tulsa doesn't get a lot of big plays on defense: not a lot of sacks or tackles for loss, not a lot of turnovers.

On the inury front, Haywood is questionable; Bonds is questionable; Sanders is questionable.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Well, that sucked

Well, that sucked

Since it is now Tuesday, rather than discuss the game in detail anymore, I am just going to get some pressing things out of the way.

First of all, thanks to Brad Sutton for helping BrianTinBigD get his Pop Warner football team into the game. That was great.

Second, nice crowd. Announced attendance of 20,350. The boulevard rocked. Dare to dream that SMU can pull that off every week.

I have to say that going for it on 4th down was the right call in my opinion. Wrong play. A sweep? Discussed it with people ahead of time. I wanted to go for it; we talked about the play to call. There was some debate on what to call but we all agreed on what not to call. Don’t run a sweep. Did you not think Houston could score touchdowns? SMU needed touchdowns.

That play didn’t lose the game. What lost the game was Willis holding the ball like a loaf of bread; Kolb escaping the endzone on 3rd down and forever and getting the first; and losing Haywood.

Good job on pass defense. 12 yards in first half and a fumble. Losing Haywood killed the run defense so running was easy and no doubt contributed to the poor passing numbers.

SMU cannot run the ball.

Did you feel like SMU left it all on the field? No. Move the ball down the field. Was their creative playcalling? No. Did they throw downfield? Very disappointed.

Where was the killer instinct? Uberconservative playcalling until the game was tied.

It is amazing to me that SMU can’t get a break or any help from the rest of C-USA. Nobody is losing. Not ECU, not Rice, not UTEP, not Southern Mississippi.

Pick yourself up and get ready for Tulsa.

I just lost everything

I just lost everything I wrote this morning. I am pissed, but I also have a job.

Edit: By job, I mean one that pays the bills and that is not writing this blog. Something later.

What I wrote was really level-headed and fair.

Friday, November 10, 2006



Yes, it is homecoming. Woohoo.

The fact that the DMN doesn't have a single article on SMU a day before it embarks on the most important three game stretch in recent memory is just sorry. I am not normally one to criticize SMU coverage, but even I admit this is pretty lame. Borderline pathetic. Especially on a week where the marquee matchup in the Big XII is A&M versus Nebraska. Very week, dmn. Obviously, the business strategy of "getting local" doesn't spill over to the sports page.

Well, at least the Daily Campus has a preview.

Speaking of homecoming, the SMU Daily Campus Editorial Board says, "Come for the halftime, stay for game."

Speaking of the SMU Daily Campus and editorials, Katie Gibbens doesn't like Pimps and Ho's. But I digress.

The spread opened up at Houston -5.5; it has now dropped to three. Given the traditional three point advantage for the home team, is this really a pick 'em between even teams?

Edit: Forgot to mention that GMAC Bowl and New Orleans Bowl reps will be in attendance.

Without question, folks, the game of the week in Conference USA is Houston-SMU. College Football News says as much, so it has to be true. USA Today says:

In the West, Houston is in control after beating Tulsa. The Cougars look to protect their position at Southern Methodist, which is just a game behind. Houston QB Kevin Kolb will look to take advantage of the Mustangs' leaky pass defense. Some good runs from RB Jackie Battle could set things up for a high score. SMU QB Justin Willis will have to keep pace. He'll need RB DeMyron Martin, still working his way back from various injuries, to handle more work.

Scott Ferrell wrote a good write up on the game.

Time for a confession. In my Season Prediction, I had this game as a loss. I also had the Tulsa game as a win. As someone pointed out to me, I listed the Houston game as a win and Tulsa as a loss under the Best Case Scenario and both as losses under the Worst Case Scenario. How could I pick a win over Tulsa when I didn't think SMU would win under the Best Case Scenario? The confession is that the best case scenario is based on the idea of winning every "winnable" game and the Tulsa game doesn't fit my definition of a "winnable" game before the season- better record and beat SMU head to head. Effectively, in the official prediction I was picking SMU to win five conference games and I needed SMU to win one of UTEP, Houston or Tulsa. I wasn't going to pick UTEP because it was on the road and I basically picked Tulsa because I thought Houston would be jacked up for revenge and I thought Tulsa might have a relatively down year (looks like I was wrong on that). Long story short, I absolutely believe SMU can win this game. Besides, I am going to be there and SMU hasn't lost with me in attendance this year.

Anyway, I think Houston is good. I don't think they are great. I don't even think Houston is significantly better than last year. Defensively and on special teams, that is true. Even running the ball, that is true. Where they have improved is "Heisman candidate" Kevin Kolb. Their only significant improvements statistically are in pass efficiency, scoring offense and turnovers. Honestly, that is almost entirely due to Kolb making better decisions from a year ago. A year ago, Kolb threw 15 interceptions; this year, he has only thrown three. And that fact pretty much explains every other statistical improvement: scoring, turnover ration, pass efficiency.

Obviously, there is some concern with the 116th rated pass defense going against the 6th best pass offense in the country. Yes, it is a legitimate concern. Ther are two things that get lost in the overall picture of the SMU defense. First, SMU has already played the 3rd, 9th, 11th and 28th ranked passing offenses (You realized Tulane had the 9th ranked passing offense, right?). The other thing is the pass efficiency defense is actually a pretty average 129.54; not good, but not particularly bad. Pass efficiency defense takes into account scoring, interceptions and completion percentage. As Dave Hersh said, "... pass defense yardage is important, but not as important as pass efficiency defense and run stopping efforts in producing both total defense and wins. If your opponent can run all over you, then your pass defense number/ranking can be low yet you still lose."

First thing to grasp is how the pass "efficiency" defense is different from just pass defense. Pass defense is based solely on a team's yardage totals. The pass defense ranking is figured for how many yards per game are allowed through opponents' passing efforts. Pass efficiency defense takes not only their yardage, but pass completion percentages, both INT total and percentage of INTs thrown, TD total and rate, yards per attempt and yards per completion into account to then give an overall rating. Just like yardage, the lower your opponent's pass efficiency number, the better you are doing. But unlike stopping just yardage, if the other guy is mistake-free and can score via aerial assault, you are likely going to lose. Really, you can survive a 50-yard pass play that only gets them to your 35, but there is no "recovery room" from an 11-yard scoring strike set up by 12 good runs. It is good when your opponents are less efficient, even if they get a few extra yards.

The keys to beating Houston is consistent pressure on Kolb and forcing Kolb to make mistakes (which, admittedly, will be hard to do). With a healthy defensive line that leads the conference in sacks and a good blitzing scheme, SMU has a decent shot at this. The run defense needs to live up to its reputation. Offensively, SMU needs to pick its spots to be aggressive while at the same time run the ball effectively. After rewatching the UAB game, I have a suspicion that Martin and Mapps are going to blow up tomorrow.

Finally, there is a nice little AP story on the SMU revival: SMU back from dead, pushing for bowl bid. Here's to many more of these stories in the weeks ahead.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Clip: The Warriors

Memorial Fund for Lieutenant Colonel Eric Kruger's children

Attached is a statement from the family of Lt. Col. Eric Kruger, Deputy Commanding Officer, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, who died Nov. 2 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, in Baghdad, Iraq, of injuries sustained when an IED detonated near his HMMWV.

"We are still reeling from the sudden loss of this father, husband and friend. Eric was a passionate man who poured himself into every task, no matter how small, who found a way to laugh in every situation, no matter how difficult, and who strove to do what was right, no matter the cost.

His energetic drive and deep patriotism led him to the Army. It was a deep and natural bond for him—a second family and he gave it all the loyalty and devotion he gave to his natural kin. Eric enlisted in the Army in 1986 while attending SMU. His first assignment after Active Duty commissioning was with the 2nd Brigade, 2ID, and in an amazing symmetry, he ends it, seventeen years later, with the same unit, now 2nd BCT, 2ID. We are comforted to know that Eric loved every minute of his job, and that he died doing something he fiercely believed in -- working to make the world a better place.

Eric was a true patriot who died serving his country and protecting our freedom. He was a loving husband and father, a devoted son and brother. He was the best of the best our country had to offer.

We would like to thank the Fort Carson community for all their support at this difficult time. We would also like to thank Eric and all the men and women who have given their lives for the cause of freedom.

Eric is survived by his wife Sara and their four children: Caitlin (12), Joshua (9), Christian (4) and Elise (16 months), his father Lawrence, mother Carol, brother Douglas, sister Kristy and grandmother Agnes."

We are grateful to Don Addy of Colorado Springs, who has graciously established a memorial fund to benefit Eric's children. Donations can be sent to:

The Memorial Fund for Children of LTC Eric Kruger

4850 Langdale Way

Colorado Springs, CO 80906

Puttin' a little class in this joint

Per the request of Thad, I present...

Henry the Fifth?

Thursday: Houston Week

Man, talk about a nothing day. The DMN forgot that SMU football existed today and instead focused on Houston's "Heisman candidate" Kevin Kolb.

North Texas fired HC Darrell Dickey, the former SMU offensive coordinator. It almost certainly means former SMU QB Ramon Flanigan is out of a job as well. A second consecutive losing season, I guess is just too much for UNT to bear. I am not saying it is a good or bad decision, but NTSU has been to five bowls since 1953 and Dickey coached NTSU to four of them. Anyway, for comedy, head on over here to find out who the NTSU fans think they are going to get.

SMU hires Richard Sweet, an executive at Southwest Airlines as Associate A.D. For Marketing & Public Relations. Here is his bio from blogsouthwest.com, a blog for Southwest employees.

Additionally, despite blowing off numerous classes in the early 1980’s, Richard was able to eek out a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from Southern Methodist University while attending on an athletic scholarship. (Yes, those were the days that SMU athletes were paid but also the days the Ponies kicked the butts of the best paid athletes UT and Texas A&M could afford.)

My initial reaction is, holy cow, SMU hired somebody with a sense of humor. Others are excited because Sweet went to SMU, which makes him an "SMU guy" (whatever that means). Personally, I always thought keeping things in the family, especially one as disfunctional as SMU athletics, was overrated.

Sweet's official title at Southwest is Senior Director of Marketing and Sales, which sounds awfully important. "As senior director, Sweet’s responsibilities include sales, field marketing, sports marketing and other promotional activities throughout the United States. Sweet also serves on the Marketing Planning Committee for Southwest Airlines." Southwest Airlines is certainly a marketing machine. No clear indication whether SMU will officially adopt first comer-first serve seating or giving away free 1/5th's of liquor to season ticket holders.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Ignore the spanish subtitles.

Three weeks from now, I will be harvesting my crops. Imagine where you will be, and it will be so. Hold the line! Stay with me! If you find yourself alone, riding in the green fields with the sun on your face, do not be troubled. For you are in Elysium, and you're already dead!
[Cavalry laughs]
Brothers, what we do in life... echoes in eternity.

Wednesday news and notes: Houston Week

So, I was totally planning on adding another motivation clip last night. First idea failed because I can't find Gene Hackman's Hoosiers speech online. The second idea failed because I couldn't find Russell Crowe's speech to the roman army in Germania from the beginning of Gladiator. Then I was going to post one of two speeches from "The Warriors," the underrated gang movie from 1979. Then, I was talked out of those because as my buddy said of the first speech ("Can you dig it?!"): "Doesn't that guy get shot to death at the end of that speech?" And then I nixed "The Warriors" altogether because my friend said, "Doesn't nearly everybody in "The Warriors" die at the end?" I'll be back tomorrow with a vengeance.

The DMN on the next three games:

"I would venture to say it's been maybe 22 years since November has been this important to SMU's football program," Bennett said. "I told them on Sunday, 'Let's have fun with this.' To have fun is to accept the challenge, prepare yourself both mentally and physically, and take your best shot."
Not that anybody's saying it's going to be easy. If Houston wins out, it's headed for the championship game. Tulsa has lost two games all season. Rice has won three straight. But SMU's thrilled it has a chance.

Also, the DMN says Mapps to see his role increased; Martin has a bruised shoulder, but will play.

Bennett also correctly diagnoses SMU's offensive problems. Against UAB there were a lot of third-and-shorts that ended drives. If SMu had done better, that game would have been a blowout early.

"[We haven't] put the ball in the hands of the guy that I wanted it in," Bennett said, "and we're going to change that."

The SMU Daily Campus discusses the bowl picture as well.

The Memphis Commercial Appeal looks at the befuddling question of who will play in the Conference USA championship game.

With back-to-back home games against West leaders Houston and Tulsa over the next two weeks, perhaps no team is better placed to make a late title push than SMU. The Mustangs have won five of their past seven after an 0-2 start.

"One of the things we wanted to do is be in control of our own destiny," SMU coach Phil Bennett said. "Our goal was to be in position to win the West Division. We've got three games to go and we're in that position. We don't have to depend on anybody else."

SMU student section is being expanded. One has to wonder if this is being done with a wink and a nod. The first fifteen rows behind the visitor's bench are supposed to be reserved for season ticket holders. I guess they don't want the students taunting and flinging little plastic red footballs at the visiting team, not that SMU students ever did that to Houston. But are there actually season ticket holders there? Will the yellowshirts keep the students out of the first few rows? And if the SMU response to Conference USA is anything other than "We will try to keep the students out of those rows in the future and are looking at things to implement next season to fix the problem," I am going to be very upset.

It doesn't look like there will be a "Scouting Houston" post this week. I can't find anything online worth looking at. If any Houston fans want to make a recommendation, feel free-Look through the earlier "scouting" posts, to see what I am talking about.

A battle of Dallas and Fort Worth institutions is being waged in Southlake: Snuffers vs. Kincaid's. Whose cuisine will reign supreme?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Pat Forde mentions Mustangs.

Pat Forde's Forde Yard Dash gives the Mustangs some love.

A Bowl Team? Us? Louisville and Rutgers aren't the only up-from-the-bootstraps teams making moves in college football. Look at some of the strangers to postseason play who could wind up going bowling this winter:

Southern Methodist (11). Record: 5-4. Last bowl appearance: 1984. Chance of getting there: Good, if the Mustangs can get a sixth win during a tough closing run against Houston (7-3), Tulsa (7-2) and Rice (4-5 but hot). Conference USA has five bowl tie-ins and just two bowl-eligible teams so far. If there is any justice, the only football program ever shut down by the death penalty will complete a 20-year comeback with a bowl bid.

Non-sports: SMU alum dies in Iraq

Not trying to bring the room down, but an SMU alum died in Iraq last week. Thought and prayers go out to his family.

A graduate of North Garland High School was killed in Baghdad when an improvised explosive device detonated near the military vehicle he was riding in, the Defense Department announced Monday.

It appears that Army Lt. Col. Eric Kruger had been in Baghdad only days before he was killed Thursday. Military officials said the 40-year-old's mission was training Iraqi civilians and police and working on reconstruction efforts in Baghdad.

Two other soldiers, Lt. Col. Paul J. Finken of Mason City, Iowa, and Staff Sgt. Joseph A. Gage of Modesto, Calif., were also killed in the explosion.

Col. Kruger's unit had been sent to replace the one that Col. Finken was leading, and the two were riding together in preparation for the transfer of duties when the bomb detonated.

Col. Kruger grew up in Garland and graduated from North Garland High in 1984. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees from Southern Methodist University before taking a commission in the Army in 1989.

His Army unit was based at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, Colo., and news reports have said he was the highest-ranking officer from Fort Carson to be killed in the war.

Col. Kruger was serving his third tour of duty in the Middle East. He had served in Bahrain in 1997 and 1998 and had been deployed to Afghanistan before his assignment in Iraq. He earned several honors, including the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Awards and an Army Commendation medal. Army officials said it wasn't clear whether any of those awards were presented after his death.

Family members couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

Today is also election day, and I don't say that in this thread because I have any sort of political bent. Just go vote.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Kolb makes me giggle

Kolb for Heisman

Distributed to the media:

Saturday University of Houston quarterback Kevin Kolb will try to lead the Cougars to an 8-3 record with a win over SMU. Houston is currently 7-3 and atop the West Division in Conference USA with a 5-1 conference record after beating Tulsa, 27-10, on Nov. 4. Houston’s three losses this season were by a combined eight points against Miami, Louisiana-Lafayette, and Southern Miss. The Cougars are now receiving votes in the polls after winning three straight.

Kolb currently holds Houston records in completions, attempts, plays, touchdowns responsible for, total offense, and touchdowns to different receivers. Kolb and senior wide receiver Vincent Marshall have connected for a Houston career record 22 touchdowns. He also leads current D-IA quarterbacks in completions, plays, total offense, touchdowns responsible for and starts. Kolb also is one of five finalists for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm award.

Be sure to watch Kolb on Cold Pizza Wednesday, Nov. 8 on ESPN2.

Kolb also has a weekly teleconference to tout his greatness. This week, Kate Hairopoulos was the only one that bothered to dial in.


Houston Week: Monday

If you haven’t heard, Houston beat Tulsa 27-10 on Saturday. Now, you may ask, “Why should I care?” It is really simple. SMU plays Houston at home on Saturday. If SMU wins, SMU is 4-2 in conference; Houston has conference losses. Then, the next Saturday, SMU plays Tulsa at home. If SMU wins again, SMU is 5-2 in conference; Tulsa has conference losses. Then, SMU plays Rice. If SMU beats Rice, nothing else matters and SMU wins Conference USA-West.

Put another way, SMU controls its own destiny.

SMU ended last season with a three-game winning streak. Obviously, SMU would like to end this season with a four game winning streak. Each one of these games will be the biggest games in post-death penalty SMU football history.

Now, a fair question is to ask when has SMU ever won a game with some importance? Most of SMU’s victories have come with nothing on the line. And when there is a big game, SMU has historically folded. Yes, I remember a six win SMU team losing to a winless TCU in 1997 on ESPN2.

I also remember SMU beating UAB on ESPN2 on Tuesday night. And that encourages me. That was a big game. It was on national TV and the loser of that SMU-UAB game was likely done for the season. Funny how games lose their importance after they have been played. I went back and watched the game and came away with one conclusion: SMU played better than I thought. SMU was not going to lose that game.

I keep thinking about the SMU playbook. And I until I put this thought in the blog, I won't be able to get it out of my head. So, here goes. I don't know how may pages are in Rusty Burns' playbook, but if a single play goes unused in the next three weeks, I am going to be ticked. Except the freeze play and the swinging gate, that is, I never want to see those again.

SMU’s is completely healthy for the first time since Week 2. The only injury is KR Jessie Henderson, who has a sprained ankle, and he is listed as probable.

If I lament anything about SMU playing Houston, it is that I now have to read the Houston Chronicle for a week.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Friday, November 03, 2006

Attendance starts with you

The announced crowd at the SMU-UAB game was 13,125. More than one coworker commented on the empty seats they saw on TV.

I dunno how many people were at the Marshall-SMU game. I know it wasn't as many as announced. Not that that particular fact bothers me; if every fraudulent attendee at every school that fudged its attendance jumped up and down at once, the Earth would come off its axis. Or would it? Think about it.

I do know SMU's attendance could be better. There are plenty of seats to go around.

No one is going to dispute that SMU's attendance problems are largely its own creation. You can count off the reasons: mismanagement; lack of support; losing, missed opportunities. It all boils down to the fact that people that ought to be going, that should want to be going, to SMU games are not.

I get the sense that the SMU fans I know are waiting. Some are waiting for some proof that SMU isn't going to stink every year-they don't go to the games. Others, that do go to the games, are also waiting. They are waiting for the administration to do something. "It is always marketing man. If SMU could market itself better, there would be 25,000 people every week."

Take, for example, this quote from the message board:

Snooze... another attendance thread.

Why do you guys think this will change in the near future? Students may get a little more excited but SMU alums are pathetic. Unless there is a SERIOUS effort to uncover the apathetic alums or somehow add a casual Dallas fan, it won't change.

Bottom line, it is on you to get more people to the game. There is only one way for the attendance to rise for SMU athletics and it is for SMU grads to be proud to be SMU alumni. Everybody knows the guy they went to school with: their good friend or fraternity brother that lives less than ten minutes away from the SMU campus and hasn't been to an SMU game in two years. Sure, he has his reasons-"kid's soccer game;" "work;" "just have to get stuff done around the house." But if you dangle free Stars tickets in front of him on a Wednesday night, he can get away. Hell, maybe he goes to UT home games with his father in law.


You need to pick up the phone and call him. You need to get him to the game. If you think you can pull it off, you need to get him to drag his wife and/or girlfriend with him. Kids, too. I am sure Orsini cringes when he hears this, but tell him to buy endzone tickets and sit wherever he wants.

Here are some talking points:

  • SMU won a football game on ESPN2 on Tuesday night and have five wins with three games to play.

  • SMU controls its own destiny as far as postseason play is concerned.

  • SMU has two games at home against the University of Houston and Tulsa before finishing with Rice in Houston.

  • SMU hasn't lost at home in over a year.

  • SMU beat both Houston and Rice last year and lost to Tulsa by a 4th quarter touchdown.

  • For the first time in seemingly forever, SMU has a quarterback. Fr Justin Willis already holds every SMU passing record for a freshman and will likely finish the year holding every single season quarterback record SMU has. Willis is ranked 8th in the country as far as passing efficiency.

  • To paraphrase Matthew Mcconaughey, "You still love SMU sorority chicks. The older you get, they stay the same age."

We (you and me) need to hype up SMU football. We are just as responsible as anyone else. This isn't sunshine rah rah talk. This is serious business. Attendance is important. Attendance affects the team on the field; attendance improves the atmosphere at the game; attendance affects SMU's ability to recruit; attendance affects whether or not SMU goes to a bowl game.

Consider this point: SMU may get a bowl invitation this year. The chances of someone that hasn't gone to an SMU game all year paying to go to a bowl game are remote.

SMU needs to engage the SMU alums that don't go to games over the next two weeks. Nobody knows these people better than you. Nobody knows the names of the people that once had season tickets better than you. Nobody knows the people that bought tickets for the opening of Ford better than you.

In an ideal world, I'd encourage you to tailgate before the Houston game and invite your friends and family. If you have the means to do that, then by all means, do that. I will settle for one e-mail sent or phone call to a few people that you know have attended football games in the past encouraging them to go. I am not asking you to cold call people or try and get your coworkers that went to Lehigh to go the game. I am asking you to mention it to the people that in the back of your mind should be going to the game anyway.

This is homecoming. The students will show up just to see if the Tri Delt wins homecoming queen. The question is whether the alumni will show? There is no better person to recruit alumni to the game than you. One e-mail or one phone call. That is all I ask.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Investigative reporting

The SMU Football Blog goes deep undercover to reveal to you the secrets of the University of Houston's controversial weight training and conditioning techniques. See the video.

Letter to the editor

Orsini Letter to the Daily Campus

To all the SMU students that came out to our football game on Halloween-

On behalf of the entire athletic department, I want to thank each and every one of you for coming out to the game in your festive Halloween costumes on Tuesday. The Boulevard was buzzing before the game and I think we had the best student turnout we've ever had in Ford Stadium. You did an outstanding job in supporting your Mustangs and we cannot thank you enough. You represented SMU well on national TV and created a true home-field advantage.

Student support is the key element that makes SMU athletics a unique entertainment experience in our market.

Show your SMU pride by supporting your football team next Saturday during our Homecoming festivities on our beautiful campus. See you at Ford Stadium Saturday, Nov. 11, at 2 p.m. as we take on Houston and continue our march toward our first bowl berth in 22 years.

Thanks again for all your support.


Steve Orsini

Director of Athletics

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Style points

I'd rather win ugly than lose pretty. Last night's game was an ugly win. But it was a win nonetheless. Repeat after me: A win is a win is a win is a win.

I maintain that most SMU fans have forgotten what winning football feels like. SMU has gone from losing every game to relishing a win like this one for its rarity to winning occasionally to actually expecting a win every now and then. The SMU fan has forgotten that when a team wins more often than not, that not all the wins are pretty. In fact, nearly every team has a win that is downright ugly.

And this win was certainly of the ugly variety. But style points only count in the sports where you wear leotards or swim suits and not the sports where the other team tries to punch you in the mouth. Accordingly, when the season is over and people are looking at SMU's record, they won't recall that SMU and UAB stunk it up for almost all of three quarters on the Ocho.

Did SMU look good on national TV? Well, some of the students looked good, but overall the crowd was as sparse as the action on the field. Not that there wasn't excitement, but I prefer exciting plays that don't involve turnovers.

Hats off to the defense. SMU held at team that runs 144.13 yards per game to 89 yards. SMU held at team that passes 171.38 yards per game to 133 yards. It held a team that scores 19 points per game to 9. UAB averages 315 yards and was held to 122. That is solid. SMU's defense is far more effective with Muse and Rogers at the ends and it showed all night. Watching the game, I knew it was a matter of time before SMU ran a pass back for a touchdown; the five yard out cannot be a team's bread and butter play.

Offensively, SMU struggled without question until the 4th quarter. If you are looking for a bright spot, then look to teh fact that there were zero sacks. I thought the offensive playcalling was too conservative. Looking at the play by play online, it stems from an effort to establish Martin, which never really happened, compounded by turnovers and SMU never seemed to throw the ball downfield. Second, it strikes me that the offense is more conservative against teams that SMU "should beat" In other words, Bennett isn't willing to let the offense lose the game. While I don't agree with that strategy at all, I suspect that conservative playcalling won't be an issue in the next two games.

Special teams were a mixed bag. I am going to say something harsh. I had a real nice conversation with Kellis Cunningham's family. He seems like a great kid with great support. But he needs more length on his kicks. I am inclined to say we need to go back to Morestead doing triple duty of punting, kickoffs and fieldgoals. Yes, I realize SMU can't afford to have Morestead's leg get tired, but last night I believe UAB started after kickoffs on their 35, 50, 23 and the SMU 45. SMU can't afford that kind of starting position every series.

Other notes:
  • Please, for the love of all that is holy, stop running the freeze play!!! Like most trick plays, it worked once. In the words of Joe Piscapo in Johnny Dangerously, "You hung me from a hook. My mother hung me from a hook once. Once." Everybody as seen the film. They know to be ready for it. Time to put that play to rest.

  • If I had my way, I'd shatter the glass in the club seats. And that is the tamest of thoughts in my head (I am afraid to add what I would really like to do). Seriously, there isn't a more bored looking (or boring) group of people on the planet. Can they not figure out that a third down play is important?!?! They were even sitting on 4th down!

  • I would love to comment on Craig James, but I didn't hear much of what he said because I was either listening to the radio broadcast or at the game. I have the game tivo'd and will get to it when I can.

  • For the fourth time in five games, SMU had a lead in the 4th quarter and lost it. In three of those games, SMU wound up winning (against Tulane, Marshall and UAB); only once did SMU lose the game (UTEP). I find that fascinating.

  • SMU: 5-0 when the Blog attends; 0-4 when the Blog misses the game.

  • Clock management is a work in progress. Good use of the clock at the end of the game, but a poor use of timeouts. Using a timeout on the 2 point conversion is hard to justify, even if it did work.

  • I have an attendance post in draft mode; I will talk about it then.

Finally, lets check the ol' blog predictions for the SMU-UAB game:

SMU will beat UAB...CHECK;

SMU will beat UAB by double digits...CHECK;

SMU will hold UAB to under 225 passing yards...CHECK.

Wow. This brings the Blog to 8-1 for predicting the winner (damn NTSU). Again, I made these predictions in August.

One last note, word on the street is that conditioning shouldn't be a problem for the men's basketball team.

SMU beats UAB

Update later today.