Coming off a disappointing 41-23 loss to Texas Tech last weekend in a primetime matchup, SMU will again be matched up in a primetime game against Football Championship Subdivision level team Montana State at 7 p.m. CT at Ford Stadium.
After the loss to Texas Tech, there were plenty of questions to be answered for SMU fans as to why the Mustangs fell apart in the fourth quarter against the Red Raiders.
No matter how disappointing the loss to the Red Raiders is, SMU must be focused for this game, as Montana State is no slouch.
“It’s tougher to make sure you do everything, but when you’re 0-1 it’s easier to get up for the next opponent so I expect that we’ll play hard and we’re going to have to play hard,” SMU head coach June Jones said.
Montana State went 11-2 last season and is coming off a 42-24 win over Monmouth. Quarterback DeNarius McGhee, a former Euless Trinity High School star, who threw for 240 yards and completed 19-of-24 passes in last week’s win, leads the Bobcats on offense.
After watching the Mustangs give up 413 yards passing to Baker Mayfield, a walk-on true first-year, the SMU secondary has to improve this week. SMU cannot get into a shootout with Montana State, who could give SMU plenty of trouble if the pass defense doesn’t help.
Montana State also has a solid running back with Shawn Johnson, who rushed for 109 yards and a touchdown on five carries last week, but SMU’s run defense gave up just 48 yards to Texas Tech.
SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert will have a lot more of the load on his shoulders with starting running back Traylon Shead sidelined for this week’s game with a knee injury.
Gilbert could use some help from the running game though, which was non-existent against Texas Tech.
Insert Prescott Line, the younger brother of former SMU star Zach Line, who will make his first start as an SMU player this weekend. Line ran for 20 yards on six carries in place of Shead last week, but will be the featured back this week and have a full week of practice with the first team.
“He got thrown into action and he blocked well. He did his job that’s for sure,” Jones said. “He’s just like his brother. He’s a good inside runner and once he gets a feel for what we’re doing run wise, I think he’ll look just like Zach did.”
The SMU offensive line gave up five sacks and Gilbert was under pressure all night against Texas Tech. Gilbert still had a solid performance, but will need to convert redzone trips to touchdowns instead of field goals.
Last year, SMU ranked 109th in the country in redzone conversion percentage and struggled against Texas Tech in that department. SMU must capitalize on redzone trips this week and cannot settle for field goals.
“You’re always striving for efficiency in that situation. I thought we had a couple good ones and then some other ones that we didn’t convert that we had opportunities to, but you can’t worry about what transpired last week,” Jones said.
“You have to get on to the next one and execute those ones when you have the chance to.”
While many may view this game as a tuneup going into SMU’s matchup against Texas A&M; in two weeks, Montana State must be treated as a solid opponent who can sneak up on SMU and beat them at home, which would spell trouble for the rest of SMU’s season already.