Monday, October 3, 2011
J.J. McDermott, SMU offense making a charge
By Jeff Caplan
If there were doubts about the direction of the SMU offense prior to Saturday's showdown with TCU, senior quarterback J.J. McDermott and co., might have eased any concerns.
The Mustangs seem to be finding their stride and although McDermott has critics as not being the most accurate of passers, he now ranks 16th in the nation in passing yards a game at 296.4. He has completed 109 of 189 attempts for 1,482 yards, eighth-most in the nation. Coach June Jones would like to see his 57.7-percent completion rate rise, but remember McDermott was the backup starting the season.
In the 40-33 overtime win at TCU, McDermott was 23-of-45 for 349 yards. Many of his incompletions came on multiple attempts to beat TCU on deep routes. He had one interception, a poorly thrown ball, but he hit for four touchdowns, including a strike for the game-winner in overtime.
"If you ever want to be a great team," Jones said, "you’d better be able to execute, throw the ball deep and make plays in these kinds of games."
It was the third consecutive game the Ponies scored at least 40 points. The first two against Northwestern State and Memphis could be looked at with some measure of wait-and-see, but to do it against TCU, even with its struggling defense, lends a different level of credibility.
McDermott certainly seems capable of improving his throwing percentage as he gets to know a talented corps of receivers better. Even missing top target Cole Beasley Saturday, the Ponies had three receivers with 69 yards or more, led by exciting junior Darius Johnson, who put up his third consecutive 100-yard game with 12 catches for 152 yards and two touchdowns. On Monday, he was named the Conference USA Player of the Week.
Sophomore Jeremy Johnson, playing in place of Beasley, had six receptions for 69 yards and the touchdown grab in overtime. Terrance Wilkerson had three catches for 97 yards and a TD, showing his speed on a deep route for a 71-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
Darius Johnson is tied for 18th nationally in receiving yards per game at 110.0. He's 13th in receptions with 39 for 550 yards, and Beasley, in just four games, is 14th with 31 catches for 376 yards.
The SMU offense, which was being overshadowed by the an improving defense, ranks 29th in total offense (449.4 yards a game) and 15th in passing offense (326.8). Jones' run-and-shoot offense gets exactly what it needs on the ground from tough tailback Zach Line, who rushed for 120 yards against TCU and is averaging 116.6 yards a game with 11 touchdowns in five games.