Chad Morris likes to say the season truly starts in conference play.
Yet SMU’s conference opener, a 45-20 loss at Temple, was not the start he or anyone else envisioned.
After Jordan Wyatt’s interception return gave SMU a 7-0 lead less than a minute into the game, Temple scored 35 straight points and piled up hits on SMU Quarterback Ben Hicks.
Morris has been proud of his players’ effort in losses before. After Saturday’s game, he was anything but proud. Instead of having the satisfaction that his players displayed maximum effort, he left Philadelphia wondering what had happened to that effort.
“The definition of success in our program is your ability to be at your best every day. If that’s your best, then you were successful. And only you know that,” Morris said Tuesday. “If our best wasn’t good enough, I would have walked in that team meeting, walked in that press conference and said, ‘We’ve played our best that we’ve played to this point in the season and it wasn’t good enough.’ Some days in life, your best isn’t good enough. But I would have loved to at least seen it (on Saturday), or at least experienced it.”
SMU’s offensive output decreased for the third straight game. The Mustangs had 288 total yards and averaged only 3.8 yards per play. An offensive line missing two starters allowed consistent pressure on Hicks and provided little help in the running game.
On SMU’s third offensive play of the game, Temple rushed three defenders on third-and-10. SMU had five linemen in protection plus two other blockers assigned to chip the defensive ends. The Owls still put a hit on Hicks and forced an incompletion.
Morris said Tuesday that he’s considering burning the redshirt of two freshmen offensive linemen – Kadarius Smith and Jacob Todora – if he doesn’t see improvement and better effort. He considered making the change mid-game on Saturday, but decided not to rush them and risk hurting their confidence.
“Some of our more experienced guys on the offensive side of the ball, to be real honest, aren’t toting the mail,” Morris said. “If that’s the effort I’m going to get, I’m going to get that out of a freshman. You can call it the hot seat, putting everybody on high alert, whatever it may be. It’s the truth. To have our quarterback getting beat up like he got hit the other night was unacceptable.”
Offensive coordinator Joe Craddock didn’t like the offense’s preparation. He said Temple’s defensive tendencies on Saturday were exactly the same as ones he saw on film during the week leading up to the game. When he watched film of SMU’s loss, he discovered some players didn’t realize it because of a lack of film study.
“If we studied the film, No. 7 (Temple defensive end Haason Reddick) – same pass rush moves he showed since last Sunday when we turned the film on,” Craddock said. “Same one. That’s what’s unfortunate, that we didn’t do our part to study and know his favorite pass-rush move.”
In team meetings and film review on Sunday, Morris was upfront and critical of some players’ performance. Hicks said Morris “got after us pretty good and he should have.” With a short week and another road game vs. Tulsa on Friday, SMU knows it has to regroup and avoid an extended letdown.
“We’re going to find out what kind of men we are,” Craddock said. “Are we gonna lay down or pick ourselves back up? We gotta go up to Tulsa and fight.”