Thursday, December 30, 2010
Rapid Reax: SMU comeback falls short
By Richard Durrett
UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas -- SMU fell behind 16-0 and scored twice in the second half to make it 16-14, but couldn't quite come all the way back.
A few random thoughts from today's Armed Forces Bowl:
* SMU's Kyle Padron looked like a different quarterback in the second half. He struggled in the first half with two interceptions and a lost fumble. He seemed a bit out of sync and had some overthrows and tried to throw the ball into some tight spots. That wasn't the case in the second half. He was much more comfortable and led the Mustangs on a 92-yard drive in the third quarter and a 74-yard drive in the fourth quarter to alter the momentum. He made some smart decisions and helped lead his team back into the game.
* SMU started the game with a huge play as Padron threw deep to Aldrick Robinson for 45 yards to put SMU at the Army 35-yard line. Padron threw the ball against the wind and it was underthrown, but Robinson made a nice play on the ball to snatch it.
* Army's Josh McNary made a nice play on that first drive, sacking Padron and forcing a fumble. Chad Littlejohn picked it up and showed good speed, scampering 55 yards to the end zone to give Army the 7-0 lead. Padron got turned around and didn't secure the ball well enough.
* Wind didn't make things easy on kickers, either. Matt Szymanski missed a 35-yard field goal into the wind in the first quarter as he moved to his right. He missed a 47-yarder with 4:05 left in the fourth quarter (against the wind again) that would have given SMU the lead.
* SMU sophomore defensive end Margus Hunt blocked a PAT on Army's second score. It was Hunt's third blocked kick in 2010 and the 10th of his career. He had seven blocked kicks in 2009 as a freshman, a SMU record and tied for second-most in a season in NCAA history.
* Army's triple option gave the SMU defense fits in its first two drives, but the Mustangs adjusted. It was SMU's defensive unit that kept the Mustangs in the game despite the offensive struggles. Give defensive coordinator Tom Mason some credit for finding a way to slow down Army enough to keep the Mustangs around.
* Army quarterback Trent Steelman, a sophomore, ran the triple option well and made smart decisions. The Black Knights weren't afraid to roll him out on run-pass options and he was able to make some key plays. When Army needed a first down late in the fourth quarter after SMU used its final timeout, Steelman rolled out and ran for six yards to get the first down by a yard.
* SMU attempted its second fake punt of the season as Szymanski took the snap and didn't have anyone coming across the line to his left, so he tucked and ran for 18 yards to convert a first down. SMU ended up missing the field goal on that drive in the first quarter.
* SMU attempted to get its inside running game going with Zach Line, who had more success doing that in the second half. He also did a nice job of picking up blocks on Army blitzes. Line is a very good inside runner and he showed that best with an 8-yard carry when he shed a tackler at the line of scrimmage and kept churning his legs despite three tacklers on him to get a first down in the fourth quarter. Line found a lot more room in the late stages of the game as Army's defense got tired.
* Line had more than 100 yards rushing for the seventh game this season.
* SMU sophomore WR Darius Johnson made a great catch in the corner of the end zone, concentrating to make the play despite good coverage. The TD made it a 16-14 game and got the crowd fully into the game.
* Army linebacker Stephen Anderson had a memorable game. The senior had an interception and made some great tackles, including one on Zach Line inside the 10-yard line in the third quarter (SMU did score on the drive).
* Army fullback Jared Hassin was a load to bring down for SMU. He had plenty of carries and got some tough yards as the Black Knights ran out the clock.
* Great call by the Army offensive coaches on 3rd-and-5 with just over a minute left. Needing a first down to seal the game, Army called a rollout pass and completed it to win the game.
* SMU receiver Keenan Holman, a freshman, made a nice catch across the middle on third down to move the chains on a SMU drive early in the fourth quarter. He did it again on a third-and-5 in the fourth quarter. Holman had a solid game that should give him some confidence.
* Both schools sold out their allotment of tickets to the game and a nice walkup crowd made for a nearly completely full stadium. A Ford Stadium record of 36,000-plus attended the game.
* I liked the SMU touch of wearing black jerseys in honor of the Black Knights. The Mustangs still had their traditional home pants with the stripes and the white SMU helmet with the red Mustang. But, as it should, the whole bowl had a military feel to it.