While the SMU Mustangs and Chad Morris have become well known throughout the years for their high powered offense, that hasn’t exactly been the case this season.
Coming into last night’s game against Tulsa, SMU averaged just 17.2 points per game in their five prior contests. While the Mustangs have had no real problems moving the football, averaging 416 yards per game in the first five games of this season, points have come at a premium. SMU has been unable to complete drives, thus forcing their defense to come up big time and time again, which isn’t a recipe for success.
That all changed against Tulsa.
The Mustangs exploded for 40 points and 458 yards of offense in their road meeting with the Golden Hurricane, producing the best offensive performance SMU fans have seen all season. SMU moved the ball quickly, and with a purpose, showcasing just how effective Morris’ power spread can be when it’s run at proper speed.
Redshirt freshman Ben Hicks had undoubtedly his best performance to date as the SMU starter. Hicks completed 29 of his 52 passes for 258 yards, including two touchdowns, and most importantly zero interceptions. Considering Hicks had nine interceptions in his first five games as a Mustang, keeping turnovers under control was clearly a focus for him. Mustang fans should certainly be encouraged that his decision making is improving, and hope that he can build on that in the second half of the season.
Of course, much of Hicks’ success can be attributed to his favorite target, sophomore Courtland Sutton, who was once again fantastic for the Mustangs. Sutton hauled in eight catches for 98 yards, including the game saving catch on fourth down that set up SMU’s game tying field goal.
Courtland is asserting himself as uncoverable in the American Athletic Conference this season, and as Hicks continues to grow, Sutton can be even more dominant for the Mustangs. His size and athletic ability make him an impossible assignment for any corner by themselves, which is why he attracted double coverage from Tulsa nearly all night on Friday.
However, the real star of the Mustangs’ offense was not Hicks or Sutton, but Braeden West, the sophomore running back out of Katy, Texas. West scampered for 124 yards on 22 carries against Tulsa, using his elusiveness to get through the line and into the Golden Hurricane secondary.
West has been very impressive in his second season with the Mustangs this year, rushing for 521 yards on 97 carries through six games. While splitting time with the other SMU backs will render West’s total yardage relatively unimpressive on the national stage, his 5.4 yards per carry average signals great things to come for the young back. West currently sits at second in the conference in rushing, and should see more carries moving forward as SMU continues to develop their young offense and build more concrete drives.
Despite the loss, SMU’s performance against Tulsa was extremely encouraging. For the first time this season, Mustang fans saw how effective this offense can be when it’s run properly. Hicks has certainly stumbled out of the gate, but if he can put on more performances like yesterday over the course of the season, SMU still has a chance to reach a bowl game this season.
As the Mustangs reach the heart of their conference schedule, they should attempt to build on this Tulsa game, and use it as a blueprint moving forward. This offense is predicated on an up tempo style, that keeps the defense off balance, and allows SMU to go over the top with their talented receivers. While we haven’t seen that through the first five games of the season, it was on full display against Tulsa.