Five thoughts from SMU’s loss to ECU

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1) SMU found its STAR linebacker: Kyran Mitchell started at the star linebacker spot and made an early impact. He shined on East Carolina’s second and third series. He read ECU quarterback Blake Kemp perfectly on a third down and picked off his pass. On the next drive, he sniffed out a counter play and prevented ECU running back Chris Hairston from a big gain. The very next play, he recovered from a cutblock near the hash marks to assist on a tackle on a screen pass to force a fourth down. He gave up a 35-yard completion, but he also didn’t have any safety help. He’s more of a linebacker than a defensive back, which I think SMU needs given its struggles to stop the run.

2) Jeremiah Gaines is here: SMU’s tight end had three catches for 90 yards in the first half. Sixty of the yards came on a touchdown pass off a deflection, but he showed his speed as he outran ECU’s secondary to the end zone. On another catch, he came out the backfield, easily dispatched a blocker and took a short pass for 15 yards. Gaines’ play made Courtland Sutton’s quiet first half much less of an issue. SMU’s offense will be much more dangerous if it gets a consistent second threat in the passing game.

3) Read-option struggles continue: James Summers came in at quarterback in the second quarter and ran the read-option well right away, leading ECU to two touchdowns on his first two drives. He kept SMU off-balance by waiting until the last minute to keep or pull on read-options. Darrion Richardson expertly contained Summers on third and three with 20 seconds to go in the first half, but other than that, ECU ripped off big gains on the ground with Summers at quarterback, totaling 306 yards rushing.

4) Courtland Sutton is human after all: East Carolina made a point to neutralize him, and he had just four catches for 51 yards. Before a 22-yard catch in garbage time, his longest catch went for 11 yards. ECU did a great job taking away SMU’s deep passing game. Pirates free safety Travon Simmons frequently provided help from his free safety spot and showed off his range. He also broke up a would-be Xavier Castille touchdown.

5) SMU’s offensive line regressed: The line had made great progress so far this season, but fell apart by giving up seven sacks in the second half. In SMU’s first four games, a lot of the sacks were coverage sacks, sacks away from the tackle box or the result of Davis holding the ball for too long. But the line was beat a little more today and even struggled to contain four rushers on one sack. But worst of all, it failed to create holes in the running game against a stout ECU front seven. SMU manage 40 rushing yards on 29 carries. That won’t win games in Chad Morris’ power spread offense.

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