Dallas Colleges: Army Black Knights
In fact, Army got 10 points off SMU turnovers. They only had one scoring drive on the defense and that was in the first half. Once SMU got a look at the triple option, they made some adjustments and gave the offense a chance to make a comeback.
"The defense was good enough to win not only this game but 11 or 12 of our games this year," Jones said. "Other than not taking the ball away, our defense played good enough at UCF and this one to win the game. I'm proud of them. They're playing hard. The one touchdown they gave up, it's always tough when early you never get used to the game speed of it. Once they settled in, they played pretty good football. If we hadn't turned the ball over, hadn't given them the seven points, it would have been obviously a lot happier locker room right now."
Army had 199 yards rushing and 229 yards of total offense. That's a pretty good showing by the SMU defense against a team that racks up yardage on the ground. Army had 122 of those rushing yards in the first half, so it shows how well the Mustangs did in adjusting to things.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas -- Give Army head coach Rich Ellerson and his staff some credit for showing plenty of guts on third down late in the fourth quarter of a 16-14 score in the Armed Forces Bowl.
Army was trying to run out the clock and prevent SMU from getting another opportunity to try to drive down and kick a last-second field goal to win. On third-and-4, with 1:18 left, SMU was expecting a run from the triple option team that had attempted just six passes (and completed one) before that play. Instead, Army calls a rollout play and completes a pass for 22 yards and a first down that ends the game.
Army had called timeout before the play to discuss things.
"We're saying, 'OK, we converted the first third down with bootleg, so keep the ball in the quarterback's hands, stay in bounds and if we could get the first down, great,'" Ellerson said.
At least that's what Ellerson thought. He then went down to talk to the defense in case a first down wasn't made and was surprised to see his quarterback, Trent Steelman, throw the ball.
"Sure enough, we come out and he throws it," Ellerson said. "My first thought was, 'oh.' So there was another discussion that took place after I switched over to the defensive side of the headset, apparently, or you never know. Again, we always tell those guys, 'If somebody is standing wide open, throw it to 'em.' We've been known to miss wide-open guys before. We always take a deep breath in that situation. That play, we've been working on that for two years. We've been developing that kind of confidence, that kind of precision, that kind of poise. That's how things like that happen."
It was a run first option, then he had a fullback he could have thrown the ball to and then the receiver that he ended up hitting for the completion. It was only the second pass completed for Army on the day. But it was a big one.
"A lot of wishbone teams wouldn't have the courage to throw that play at the end," Jones said. "Rich has always been that way. Even at Cal Poly, they would throw the ball when other wishbone teams don't do it. He has a unique style of play. He's mastered it very well. They're like us. As they get their players in place, they're going to have a good football team for years to come."
SMU was down 16-14 with, at that point, two timeouts. A strong wind was blowing against field goal kicker Matt Szymanski, who missed a 35-yard field goal kicking in that same direction in the first quarter. Jones sent out the field goal unit to attempt a 47-yarder and then took a timeout.
He said he didn't really think about going for it during the timeout and instead talked to Szymanski. Jones said Szymanski felt his range was 65 yards with the wind and 50 against it.
"In my eyes, we were only going to get one chance," Jones said. "If we didn't complete the ball for six yards than the game is over. I have a lot of confidence in Matt. I wanted him to make it and that would have been something that was unreal after a frustrating year. He had enough leg, he just didn't hit it very good. He didn't hit it good and it still had enough leg. If he had hit it good, it would have gone into the net."
Jones said he told Szymanski to relax and not rush the kick.
"It looked like he rushed it," Jones said. "That's easy to do when you're a young kid."
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.
With 4:05 left, Army takes over with a 16-14 lead at their own 30-yard line. SMU has one timeout remaining and will attempt to get a stop and give quarterback Kyle Pardon and the offense another chance to try to make a comeback.
It's been an entertaining second half. That was the first time this half that SMU didn't score on a possession.
Quarterback Kyle Padron hit receiver Darius Johnson in the corner of the end zone from 26 yards out to cut the deficit to two points. The Mustangs have run 23 plays for 166 yards and chewed up nearly 11:30 of the clock on two second-half drives.
Johnson made a great play on the ball, going up and concentrating to make the catch despite good coverage.
SMU needs another stop to have an opportunity to take the lead.
It was a 13-play, 92-yard drive that did it. SMU had the ball for six minutes and systematically moved down the field, converted a couple of key third downs along the way. Kyle Padron found senior WR Aldrick Robinson for an 8-yard touchdown to cap the drive.
Padron looked much more comfortable and didn't try to do too much. The SMU defense has played well and must continue to do so to get the ball back for the Mustangs, who are still down by two possessions.
SMU appeared poised to score just before the half, moving the ball into Army territory. But the drive stalled as Kyle Padron's pass in the end zone went just over the fingertips of Aldrick Robinson.
SMU has outgained Army 215 yards to 130 yards, but the three SMU turnovers have proved costly. If not for the SMU defense, the score would be more lopsided than it is.
A few other stats:
* Time of possession is almost exactly even: SMU -- 15:01, Army -- 14:59
* SMU is 1-for-5 on third-down conversions, while Army is 2-for-6
* SMU has three penalties for 35 yards and Army has yet to be penalized
* Army has 122 yards rushing and just eight in the air, while SMU has 166 yards passing and 49 on the ground
The SMU offense has sputtered some with quarterback Kyle Padron throwing two interceptions and fumbling the ball once. But the defense has kept it a 13-0 game.
SMU now has the ball back at its own 20-yard line after the defense forced a three-and-out following Army's drive inside SMU territory off a turnover.
SMU has moved the ball some, but hasn't been able to finish off drives.
SMU forced a punt after stopping Army on 3rd and 8 inside SMU territory. Army punter Jonathan Bulls pinned SMU deep as the punt was downed at the 2-yard line.
So with most of the 2nd quarter remaining, the Mustangs will try to put a long drive together to get on the scoreboard.
SMU couldn't stop Army's triple option attack as the Black Knights moved right down the field. SMU sophomore defensive end Margus Hunt blocked the extra point, the 10th block of his short career.
The Mustangs are back on offense looking to get on the scoreboard for the first time today.
So Army still leads 7-0, midway through the first quarter.
This is the Black Knights' first sustained drive (since they scored off the fumble recovery) and the first chance for SMU's defense to try to deal with the triple option.
It wasn't complicated. Mustangs punter Matt Szymanski took the snap, waited and then ran around left end for 18 yards and a first down.
The Mustangs' drive continues as they attempt to comeback from an early 7-0 deficit.
The windy conditions didn't help the Army flag bearers, who were really fighting it as they waved the huge West Point and Army logo flags. It will be interesting to see how that plays a part in the game. Wind shouldn't bother the triple option attack of Army, but SMU quarterback Kyle Padron will have to adjust to it.
SMU is wearing black jersey tops in honor of the Black Knights, so look for plenty of black-colored SMU and Army shirts in the seats today.
We'll be here all game long with updates and notes for you as SMU takes on Army. BTW, the teams have met just twice with Army winning both games in 1928 and 1967.
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