Mustangs look for 2-0 C-USA start
Published: Thursday, October 11, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 17:11
SMU is coming off its first conference victory of the year against UTEP and now goes on the road again to New Orleans to face another Conference USA foe in the Tulane Green Wave.
The game starts at noon in the Mercedes Benz Superdome, the site of last year’s Bowl Championship Series (BCS) National Championship Game and this year’s Super Bowl. If the team are going to move to 2-0 in C-USA play, the Mustangs cannot be blinded by the specter of the stadium.
The Green Wave is in bad shape this season starting 0-5, including big losses to Louisiana-Monroe, 63-10, and Louisiana-Lafayette, 43-10.
Offensively, the Green Wave has played three quarterbacks this year due to injury, and that has not helped the team at all.
Senior quarterback Ryan Griffin is expected to be back after a shoulder injury that kept him out a few weeks this season. Griffin had two somewhat successful outings to start the season even though Tulane lost.
What hasn’t been very successful at all for the Green Wave is the running game. The Green Wave ranks 124th in the country in rushing yardage per game at a dismal 14.6 yards per game.
Defensively, the Green Wave has some talented defensive linemen that can create havoc in the backfield including senior defensive end Austen Jacks.
“They got a couple really good pass-rush guys. They have played pretty well on defense. They battled Tulsa until turnovers killed them. They’re learning a new system too,” SMU head coach June Jones said.
“We’ve got to execute against them because they’re no different than any other team we play.”
For the Mustangs defensively, the team pitched another shutout: its second of the season against UTEP. Junior linebacker Randall Joyner was a big reason why.
Joyner had two interceptions and 14 tackles on his way to being named the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Week.
“Cameron Rogers has been hurt for the past couple of weeks with a minor injury and Randall Joyner came out with 14 tackles and two interceptions so he really has stepped up big for us,” SMU senior linebacker Ja’Gared Davis said.
The Mustangs will look to build off of last week’s stifling performance in El Paso by shutting down a struggling Tulane offense.
On the other side of the ball for the Mustangs, the offense has also struggled mightily this season, but two bright spots from last weekend in El Paso was the play of senior wide receiver Darius Johnson and junior wide receiver Jeremy Johnson.
The two Johnsons had over 150 yards receiving on 13 catches and a touchdown by Darius Johnson. While without the touchdown catch Darius Johnson would have had an average day, it was a moment for him since he has struggled a majority of the year.
Senior running back Zach Line got close to 100 yards with 84 yards against UTEP and will need a better performance to get into mid-season form as the Mustangs move into the tougher part of its conference schedule after Tulane.
What was impressive was the 25 carries Line was given, which has to be encouraging for the Mustangs’ fans.
Getting Line the ball early and often against conference opponents will be key for the Mustangs to get to the conference championship game.
If games start coming down to the wire, the Mustangs will need more from kicker Chase Hover, who went 1 for 4 against UTEP on field goals and is just 1 of 7 on kicks longer than 30 yards this season.
“Just like a golfer whose got the shanks, you get the mental stress so you got to see it feel it, trust it. You’ve got to fight through it,” Jones said.
The Mustangs have the chance to put some serious points on the board against Tulane and get the offense into a groove that fans have not seen yet this season.
The defense has carried the team so far this season, but the offense will need to step up for the Mustangs to be successful.
This Saturday against Tulane, SMU has the chance to gain a great deal of confidence against a struggling team and ride the ship for a run at the conference title.