Bright Spots from Southern Methodist University’s Devastating Week 1 Loss

Southern Methodist University Mustangs football versus Baylor University Bears at McLean Stadium in Waco, Texas.

Southern Methodist University Mustangs football versus Baylor University Bears at McLean Stadium in Waco, Texas.

In spite of the 45-0 shellacking they took at the hands of Baylor University on Sunday, there were a few bright spots from Southern Methodist University’s devastating week 1 loss to the Bears. If you’re asking yourself “how in the world can anyone glean anything positive from a 45 point shutout?” just follow along with me for a bit, and at the end you can decide whether or not I’m completely crazy.

Before I go too deep into the positives, a word on SMU head coach June Jones’ offensive scheme. If you’ve watched Jones operate at SMU over the past seven seasons you are likely very familiar with his style of Spread Offense, also known as the Run-and-Shoot. The originator of the Run-and-Shoot was former Middletown, Ohio high school football coach Glenn “Tiger” Ellison.

SMU redshirt freshman quarterback Kolney Cassel.

SMU redshirt freshman quarterback Kolney Cassel.

While coaching at Portland State University, coach Darrell “Mouse” Davis took Ellison’s offense, perfected it, and revolutionized college football during the 60’s and 70’s. One Portland State quarterback in particular learned the system so well from Davis that he unleashed 5,798 passing yards with 50 touchdowns and 20 interceptions in just two seasons; that quarterback was June Jones.

The Run-and-Shoot was taught to Jones as a player, and then mastered as a coach with great success throughout his professional career. It’s important to understand June’s dogged dedication to the spread offense because it wasn’t until the fourth quarter of the SMU versus Baylor game when he finally moved away from his favorite scheme, which leads me to the first bright spot.

For the first three quarters during the Baylor vs. SMU game, the Bears defensive line had its way with the Mustang’s offensive line. The Baylor defense tallied eight sacks on the game led by junior defensive end Shawn Oakman who at 6’9” 290 pounds is a beast of a man.

Both SMU starting quarterback Neal Burcham and backup QB Matt Davis were under constant duress and never looked poised in the pocket. Jones switched to a maximum protection scheme where he surrounded his quarterbacks with two tailbacks on either side of the QB in the fourth quarter. Because an extra runner was in the backfield, this minimized the quarterback’s throwing options and negated the benefits of the spread offense, but Jones’ adjustment also finally gave his quarterbacks time to throw the ball.

In my opinion, SMU’s best drive of the game came with 12:38 seconds in the fourth going 22 yards on 10 plays. The Mustangs didn’t score, and it was only 22 yards, but that segment led by redshirt freshman quarterback Kolney Cassel highlights my second bright spot.

I want to be cautious, because Cassel was brought in late, and by his raw numbers (3 of 8 passing for 20 yards) he definitely did not shine, but Cassel was the best quarterback on the day. Whereas both Burcham and Davis looked confused and at times even panicked, Cassel was calm, cool, and collected. Some of Cassel’s poise might be directly attributed to the aforementioned offensive scheme shift to max-protect, but the offense seemed to settle down under his leadership.  As Jones relayed the plays, the young QB

SMU sophomore wide receiver Deion Sanders Junior.

SMU sophomore wide receiver Deion Sanders Junior.

comprehended what his coach wanted immediately, and for the most part executed the plays correctly. I don’t want to crown the freshman the starter, but I think Mustangs fans have something to look forward to when Cassel is ready to take the helm.

The final, and most favorable outcome from the game was the kick return prowess demonstrated by sophomore wide receiver Deion Sanders Junior. Sanders is the son of NFL Hall of Famer Deion “Prime Time” Sanders, and for those of us who were lucky enough to watch Prime play, the younger Sanders showed flashes of his father’s other-worldly return abilities. Against Baylor, Sanders returned five kicks for 131 yards and a 26.2 average. Once Deion fielded the ball, he was decisive running up the field looking particularly explosive during one 58-yard return in the first quarter.

It’s hard to find too many positives in a 45-point shutout loss, but the offensive adjustments coach June Jones made in the fourth, the confident play of freshman quarterback Kolney Cassel, and the impressive kick returns of WR Deion Sanders Jr. should give SMU’s fans something good to look forward to heading into the team’s matchup against the University of North Texas this Saturday.

Follow Matt Thornton on Twitter: @MattsCowboys