SMU had to weather more than one storm before they could walk out of New Orleans with their third win of the season.
Ben Hicks and company looked to be in for a rough day early when a poor snap sailed through the end zone and put the Green Wave up 2-0 early. Things didn’t get any easier when a lightning delay kept both teams off the field for over an hour later in the first quarter. When play resumed, Tulane extended their lead to nine on a Darius Bradwell touchdown run.
The Mustangs hung in strong, though, and ultimately came out on top of a back-and-forth contest against their AAC West counterparts. SMU is now halfway to bowl eligibility with the 27-23 win while Tulane is left watching yet another season’s bowl aspirations slip further and further away.
The Good: Quarterback Ben Hicks showed a tremendous amount of resiliency while being under siege for much of the afternoon. Despite tossing an interception and getting sacked three times, Hicks threw for 291 yards and three touchdowns. Of course when you have a receiver like James Proche to throw to it always helps. Proche finished with 93 yards and a score on six catches. It was Hicks’ ability to withstand adversity that rubbed off on his team though and SMU rallied in the final minutes to nab the close victory. This is what you want to see out of a leader and Hicks’ performance in New Orleans should make choosing a starter a little easier for the Mustangs moving forward.
Tulane also had certain things go their way despite the loss. They were 2-for-2 on fourth down tries and won the time of possession battle (33:09). The defense played solidly and the running game showed flashes of greatness. However, none of that really means anything if you don’t come out with a victory. Still, there were things to hang their hat on.
The Bad: Despite the win, there’s still plenty for SMU to work on. They converted only 33% of their third down attempts (6/18) and only rushed for 36 yards. 29 of those yards came on one play. The ground game left something to be desired and if they don’t fix it, they may not win another game as their schedule only gets harder from here on out.
Imagine a world where we don’t have to mention Green Wave penalties here. Can you? I certainly can’t. Once again Tulane surrendered nearly 100 yards on infractions alone. It’s sad to say but Saturday’s 10-penalty game for the Wave is pretty par for the course this season.
The Ugly: There’s no way to sugarcoat it, SMU’s O line needs some work. Hicks, as mentioned prior, was under duress for most of the game and it seemed like every other play Mustangs rushers were getting stuffed at or behind the line of scrimmage. Tulane’s defense is talented yes, but what’s going to happen when SMU faces teams like Houston and Memphis down the road?
Tulane’s record continues to spiral. It wasn’t that long ago everyone was excited about having just upset Memphis to start conference play 1-0 and 2-3 overall didn’t seem so bad. Now at 2-5 the daunting task of finishing at .500 for a bowl bid seems nearly impossible.
Tulane’s Silver Lining: As the November approaches and the losses keep piling up for the Wave, it’s getting harder and harder to find things to be hopeful about. However this game was not all bad for the olive and blue. If the Green Wave defense can continue to put up the numbers they did on Saturday, then this club can hang around in their future games. Tulane’s D recorded three more sacks and had a touchdown by way of a Donnie Lewis interception. They weren’t perfect by any stretch but that kind of defensive performance will allow the Wave to be competitive in the contests they have remaining.
Moving forward, Tulane (2-5) gears up for a road trip to Oklahoma to face a Tulsa team that is dying for a victory. The Wave themselves are obviously in must-win territory now as well so next Saturday should be interesting.
SMU (3-4) prepares for disgruntled Cincinnati. The Bearcats are coming fresh off an overtime loss to Temple in a game they let slip away. The Mustangs will need to bring their A-game next weekend.