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Sunday, March 24, 2019

Football

The Other Side: Former UH commit looks to lead SMU’s charge


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SMU sophomore running back Braeden West (6) was a UH commit before deciding to join the Mustangs and looks to make a statement against the team that could’ve been. | Courtesy of The Daily Campus

Southern Methodist University and Houston aren’t exactly fond of each other, and the Cougars haven’t been shy about expressing it.

They put SMU jerseys on the floor of their team facility before last year’s matchup. Head coach Tom Herman suggested that SMU is thrilled with seven-win seasons. The Mustangs have yet to reciprocate, but they’re aware of Houston’s dislike for them.

“I think this game is going to carry a little more.” said SMU sophomore running back Braeden West. “There’s the tension that has built up between the two teams. We see this as a big game because of everything that’s happened in the past. We see this as a time to take some respect back from a lot of people that haven’t given us respect that we feel that we should have.”

Beside the fuel that the Cougars have added to the rivalry, there’s extra meaning in this year’s game for West. In last season’s 49-28 loss at Houston, he returned to his hometown for the first time as a college player. He lost two fumbles in Houston territory in the second quarter — one with the score tied at 14 and one with SMU leading 21-14.

“Of course I want to win, especially since I didn’t have my best game last year,” West said. “So I feel like I have something to prove.”

West may be a familiar name for Houston fans — because he was nearly a Cougar. He was one of three members of SMU’s 2015 recruiting class who flipped from Houston to SMU, along with quarterback Ben Hicks and offensive tackle Bryce Wilds. All are expected to play on Saturday, although West was the only one of the three to play in last year’s loss.

In August 2014, West committed to then-Houston coach Tony Levine as a two-star recruit whose only other offer came from Brigham Young University. He stuck with his pledge after Herman was hired, but SMU identified him as a top running back target soon after it hired head coach Chad Morris.

One week before signing day, West flipped his commitment from Houston to SMU.

He said the main reason was Morris.

“When I was going through the recruiting process, I was told you have to go to somebody that’s gonna make you go run through this wall right here,” West said. “That’s how much he motivates you and that’s something that coach Morris instills in me. I trust coach Morris fully and I love him to death.”

After struggling in his first game against the Cougars, West will look to redeem himself versus the hometown team that he almost joined.

Patrick Engel is the associate sports editor at SMU’s The Daily Campus.

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