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Krstich gets SMU offense going, but Ponies can't keep up with Carden and ECU

SMU went on the road to Greenville in their first American Athletic Conference matchup of the season and with low expectations from the SMU faithful. They exceeded those expectations even in a 45-24 loss to East Carolina.

Krstich looks to pass against the Pirates Saturday afternoon.
Krstich looks to pass against the Pirates Saturday afternoon.
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Things weren't looking too hot for SMU after East Carolina's first three drives on Saturday, but the Mustangs behind Garrett Krstich's big second start, the Mustangs made a game out of it. Going into the game as 40+ point underdogs, SMU didn't have a shot.

The Mustangs changed that as the team clawed their way back into the game, but it wasn't enough. Here's how it happened:

Krstich Makes Statement

Walk-on senior quarterback Garrett Krstich and transfer Matt Davis have been battling it out all season since Neal Burcham went down and Kolney Cassel wasn't ready for the starting gig. Krstich made his stake to the starting job by completing 42 of 67 passes for 339 yards and two touchdowns.

Krstich's 42 completions and 67 pass attempts are second and third all-time in the SMU record books, but was more impressive was the confidence Krstich displayed.

The senior played with confidence, stepping up into the pocket and making some big time throws on 4th down especially. SMU converted 5-of-6 fourth downs including three on their 18-play, 79-yard touchdown drive. SMU's quarterback is solidified, another step in SMU head coach Tom Mason's philosophy to improve this team week-by-week.

Leave the Field Goal Unit on the Sideline

SMU was down just 11 points going into the fourth quarter and had a field goal blocked already. SMU recovered an ECU fumble and was in prime position to make it a 4-point game with a touchdown, but Cody Rademacher missed a 40-yard try. After that, the game was all East Carolina, who went on to score the final 10 points of the ball game.

SMU went for it on 4th down later in the game and for a team that had so much success on 4th down, the staff might want to think about leaving Rademacher to extra point duties. Rademacher is a short-range kicker and while the odds were stacked against SMU late in the game, SMU would have had a chance to win if not for the special teams miscues. What does SMU have to lose anyway?

Frequent Flyer Miles Cashed in by Carden

Shane Carden has had a stellar start to his senior season and today he had the Pirates operating at 110 percent early in the game, building a 21-point lead. Carden finished with 410 yards passing and four touchdowns, including three to Justin Hardy, who totaled 120 yards on eight grabs for three touchdowns, all in the first half. The SMU defense had no answer it seems for Carden and company.

SMU's secondary has been torched on several occasions this season and many thought this would be the worst game of the year for them. Eventually the team settled in, but ultimately Carden's ability to operate this offense was the difference.

Audibles: Tom Mason

SMU head coach Tom Mason sounded off after SMU's loss to East Carolina.

On the performance of the team:

"Those kids went out and they played hard. They gave us a chance to win the game. We got a chance. If we kick that field goal, it’s an eight-point ball game in the fourth quarter and you never know what would happen. From where we were at to where we are now is night and day. Going back to that North Texas game and I walked off that field; I didn’t feel too good about life. Now we have a chance. We just have to continue to go another week. We have a bye week so we have two weeks to get ready for Cincinnati so, shoot, if we continue to grow like this we have a chance."

On being able to convert on fourth downs:

"It does a lot. It shows we’ve got the confidence to do it. The other thing is that it’s a gut check time for the offense. You have a fourth down and your kid throws for a fourth down conversion, I think we were four of five on fourth down conversions today. It just shows that we have the confidence in them to do the things we ask them to do."

On the defensive effort:

"I am disappointed in the way we played defense today and that’s on me. I have been spending my time on doing other things and not focusing on defense and we just we played good at times but we had too many individual breakdowns and you can’t play that way, especially against a quarterback like that. We are going to get better at that. I am going to get back involved with defense during the bye week. Maybe a little less head coaching stuff and a little more defensive coordinator stuff."