SMU’s first bowl game since 2012 was an exercise in Murphy’s Law. Everything that could go wrong, did. The Mustangs (7-6) fell 51-10 to the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (7-6) in the DXL Frisco Bowl Wednesday night.
The game was a disaster from the start for SMU. Xavier Jones coughed up a fumble on the first play from scrimmage, and Louisiana Tech fell on the ball.
The Bulldogs missed a field goal on their first possession, but Ben Hicks gave the ball right back with an interception. Louisiana Tech capitalized its second time around, as J’Mar Smith punched in a touchdown. After the score, Hicks threw a pick-six. SMU finished the game with six turnovers, five of which came in the first half.
“You can’t win games having six turnovers,” Hicks said.
The Bulldogs scored the game’s first six touchdowns before SMU got into the end zone for the first time when Ben Hicks connected with Trey Quinn in the end zone with 21 seconds remaining in the half. Louisiana Tech led 42-10 at halftime.
After an impressive regular season that included 3,442 yards, 32 touchdowns and just nine interceptions, Hicks could not find his footing Wednesday night. The sophomore threw three interceptions, two of which were taken back for touchdowns by Louisiana Tech defenders. He also lost a fumble.
The game came at a time of flux for SMU. Chad Morris left SMU for Arkansas two weeks before the game, and new head coach Sonny Dykes had just nine days to prepare after his hire. Dykes had to balance bowl game prep with hiring a new staff and recruiting.
“Between taking the job and trying to go recruiting and signing the recruits today before our bowl game, it’s just been such a whirlwind,” Dykes said.
Defenseive end Justin Lawler admitted the coaching change played a role in the sloppy performance.
“I think it had a little bit to do with it,” Lawler said of the quick turnaround. “With everybody’s head kind of spinning and emotions flying it was kind of hard to walk in and know what you’re supposed to do.”
This is the final collegiate game for Lawler, standout center Evan Brown, wide receiver Courtland Sutton and others.
While the loss hurt, Lawler will not let it taint how he looks back at his SMU career.
“I take pride in what I’ve done here, what I’ve gone through and one loss isn’t gonna change that,” he said.
In his last outing as a Mustang, Sutton made six catches and gained 68 yards. He racked up 3,220 yards on his career. Sutton will forgo his final year of eligibility to go to the NFL next season, where he is projected to be a first round draft pick.
On defense, SMU did not play well, but the unit was put in tough positions. Louisiana Tech began each of its first four possessions in SMU territory. The Mustangs actually outgained the Bulldogs 203-193 in the first half, but were doomed by turnovers.
In the second half, SMU showed no more fight. The Mustangs held Louisiana Tech to nine points, but were shut out on offense.
The Sonny Dykes era at SMU certainly did not get off to a promising start, but he is confident that the program is still in good shape going forward.
“It’s a great group of young men to work with. I’m excited about being here at SMU,” he said. “I think we have a very, very bright future and this game I hope is just one of those things that happens sometimes.”