By: Richard W. Humphrey
SMU Mustangs Contributor
The SMU Mustangs went on the road this Saturday and brought home a 55-31 road win over the East Carolina Pirates. The Mustangs rode a big first half to a mild upset, as ECU was favored by seven points coming into the game. SMU took charge with 38 first half points. For the game, the Ponies grabbed five takeaways, including three interceptions that were returned for touchdown. SMU evened their record at 5-5 for the season and 3-3 in conference play. East Carolina was eliminated from bowl consideration as their record fell to 3-7 overall and 1-5 in conference.
Head Coach Chad Morris was obviously ebullient after the game. He literally bubbled over saying, “I’m so proud of those guys right now, and I’m so proud of our coaching staff. We had a great week of practice, and I knew we would respond.”
Both offenses had little trouble moving the ball. SMU racked up 477 yards of total offense while East Carolina managed 466. The difference was the turnovers, as SMU intercepted three passes and recovered two fumbles.
Morris was particularly pleased with the running game. “When you’re able to run the football, good things happen.” SMU had two 100 yard rushers in a game for the first time this season. Ke’Mon Freeman rushed for 111 on 18 carries, while Braedon West added 109 on 18 carries. Freeman scored on a 39 yard touchdown run, his career longest. The Mustangs are 5-1 this year when they have a 100 yard rusher.
Courtland Sutton had a HUGE day. He’s on the Biletnikoff Award watch list for the best receiver in the nation and advanced his All-American credentials by catching 12 passes for 166 yards and two touchdowns. Both receptions and yards are career highs. He has four games this season with 100 receiving yards.
Horace Richardson was the defensive standout of the day. He intercepted two passes and ran them back for 70 and 80 yard touchdowns. He’s likely to be the conference defensive player of the week.
The tone was set early in this one. Both teams scored quickly. East Carolina took the early lead with a touchdown in the first three minutes. SMU answered with a field goal on their second possession after an impressive drive was halted at the ECU three. However, the Mustangs completed the first quarter scoring with a touchdown for their first lead of the game at 10-7.
East Carolina scored on the first play of the second quarter to retake the lead at 14-10. Ke’Mon Freeman put the Mustangs back in front when he answered with his 39 yard touchdown run. ECU never led again. They tied the game three minutes later with a field goal, but SMU answered with 21 unanswered points to take full charge of the game. The Pirates scrambled for a late touchdown on the final play of the half to cut the lead to 14 at 38-24.
The Mustangs did all the third quarter scoring with a touchdown on an interception and a field goal that extended the lead to 48-24. Both teams tallied a TD in the fourth quarter for the final 55-31 score.
The 55 points scored are the most in a game since Chad Morris became the head coach. The Mustangs were clearly energetic from the beginning. It was a strange turnaround from a week earlier when they lost 51-7, their worst game of the year.
This was the final road game of the year for SMU. They play South Florida and Navy at home on the next two Saturdays needing to win one to be bowl eligible. The time and television arrangement for next Saturday’s game has not been decided. KTCK in Dallas (1310 AM and FM 96.7) will broadcast the game on the radio.
Morris reiterated in summation of the day, “I just think our program is on the rise. I’ve said this all year long. We’re moving in the right direction. We control our own destiny getting into a bowl game.”
* Sean Tuohy, Jr. was one of the captains. Tuohy is best known as the real life little brother of the family portrayed in the movie “The Blind Side”.
* This was SMU’s third road win of the year, and it has been six years since the Ponies have taken three road wins.
* Courtland Sutton now has 16 touchdowns in his career, which ranks seventh in SMU history.
* Defensive back Kevin Johnson had an interesting statistical line. He made four tackles, and forced a fumble for the first time in his career. He also ran the ball twice on offense gaining 17 yards and scoring a touchdown.