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Thursday, September 21, 2023


Mustangs to refocus after near upset

The Mustangs of Southern Methodist University (1-6, 0-4 C-USA) has had very little to celebrate this season.

Saturday’s 37-31 loss to conference rival Tulsa was no exception, as head coach June Jones and his team watched their 7-point lead disintegrate in the fourth quarter, resulting in their fifth straight loss.

"It’s disappointing. We get down to the end, and we can’t win the game," Jones said in a press conference Monday.

SMU almost had Tulsa sweating its first conference loss of the season. The Mustangs came out strong in the first half, and the defense held Tulsa to only 13-points over two quarters.

"We made some plays and we hit," Jones said. "We hustled and we hit. (Tulsa) does what they did to us to pretty much everybody, and we knew we’d have to knock the ball out."

After a third-quarter shootout between quarterbacks, with both teams combining for three scores in a matter of 68 seconds, it was apparent the Mustang defense was faltering.

No opportunity was more devastating than a fourth-and-21 conversion on Tulsa senior quarterback David Johnson’s 33-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Trae Johnson that tied the game in the fourth quarter.

SMU freshman quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell provided a steady stream of offense in the first three quarters, but the Mustangs were shut out in the fourth. An interception on the Mustangs’ next drive would lead to another Tulsa score, a dropped end zone pass and a fourth-down incompletion sealing their fate.

Although disappointed in the result of Saturday’s contest, Jones expressed satisfaction with his team’s intensity and looks to duplicate that against Houston.

"We’re going to have to play that way again," Jones said. "I mean, Houston beat East Carolina. They’ve played some pretty good games down the last two weeks, and they’re going to come in here thinking they can get another win."

Jones said Houston sophomore quarterback Case Keenum, with his pinpoint control as well as the offensive scheme around him, is reason for concern.

"I like his accuracy once he throws the ball. I think he completed almost 70 percent of his passes, and that means you’re a pretty accurate passer," he said. "They have a real nice scheme. It’s tough to get to him.

The Mustangs aim to keep their quarterback on his feet and look to him to duplicate his four-touchdown passing performance in Saturday’s game.

Mitchell completed 19-of-34 passes for 318 yards and one interception against the Golden Hurricane.

"They seem to have a real good front four, and they rely on them to get to the quarterback," Jones said. "We have got to protect (Mitchell) and we got to keep them off of him."

Any other strategy the Mustangs plan to use against the Cougars derives from hard work and determination. Playing all four quarters will be equally important.

"There’s nothing that you draw up that you’re inventing to beat them. You’re going to do what you do and hope that you can find some spots where you can throw them for some loops," Jones said.

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