Through six games in 2014, the SMU Mustangs were in dire straights. They sat at 0-6, cracking double digits for points just once over that six game stretch, with 24 points against East Carolina. June Jones, their head coach of five years, resigned after just two weeks, leaving defensive coordinator Tom Mason to take over a team that he was completely unprepared to coach.
The results wouldn’t improve much over the course of the season, and SMU football would finish a disappointing 1-11, securing their only victory on the last day of the season against UConn.
In 2015, the story has been a little different. Though the Mustangs are just 1-5, with their lone victory coming against North Texas, they have been far more competitive in their losses than they were in 2014.
SMU has cracked double digit point totals in every game this season, refusing to settle for the undeniably poor offensive numbers they put up just a season ago. In fact, through three quarters of football, they hung extremely tight with top 5 teams Baylor and TCU, and put in solid performances against Houston and East Carolina, two of their longtime conference rivals.
However, the biggest thing that has changed about SMU is the return of optimism surrounding the Mustangs’ football program, brought on by Chad Morris and his staff.
I entered my freshman year at SMU in 2010, the year following June Jones miracle season, where he led the Mustangs to a 45-10 victory over Nevada in the Hawaii Bowl, their first bowl victory since the vaunted Death Penalty of the 1980s.
Heading into that next season, expectations were sky high for the Mustangs, and though June Jones would bring the Mustangs to three more bowl games and a conference championship, ultimately SMU plateaued under Jones, and even seemed to regress at times.
By the time conference realignment moved the Mustangs to the AAC for the 2013 season, all sense of hope and excitement around the team was totally lost.
After last season’s 1-11 finish, many SMU fans wondered if Mustang football could ever return to the consistent bowl team of the June Jones era, let alone the glory days of the 1980s. Under Chad Morris, all doubts of SMU’s future have been virtually erased.
Morris’ offensive mind has created a system that not only thrives with the limited talent of the SMU Mustangs, but appeals to the rich tradition of college football in Texas. Quarterback Matt Davis frequently runs hurry up sets, keeping opposing defenses off balance, and unleashing his amazing speed and athletic ability to make defenders miss and move the ball downfield. Morris’ chemistry with Davis is evident, and will likely only get better as the season goes on.
While Davis is certainly the focal point of the offense, the greatest talent on Morris’ team is undoubtedly redshirt freshman Courtland Sutton. Sutton has been the go to receiver for Davis all season long, and it has become a weekly ritual for SMU fans to watch their star freshman make highlight reel catches against any and all defenders. The potential that Sutton has demonstrated over the first half of the season certainly gives the Mustangs hope for the future.
In Davis and Sutton, as well as Morris, SMU fans finally have something to look forward to. They can look forward to seeing their team in action week after week, knowing that while they may not win, it will certainly be a chance to watch the future of their program develop. In the final years of June Jones, that sense of optimism was decidedly absent, but under Chad Morris, it is back, and SMU fans can’t wait to watch their team rise through the ranks of college football.