A late Arkansas State rally was stopped 19 yards short as SMU held on for a 37-30 win in the season opener.
The Red Wolves cut a two-score deficit to one on a touchdown pass from Logan Bonner to Omar Bayless (more on that combo to come). The stAte defense would hold on the next possession, giving them a chance.
Bonner would help march Arkansas State down the field, including a key fourth down conversion to keep hope alive.
The Red Wolves would drive all the way into the SMU red zone where the Mustang defense solidified and forced a fourth down with seven seconds remaining. SMU's Delontae Scott sacked Bonner to end any drama.
Mustangs found responsive
Shane Buechele saw a pass on his first drive tipped into the arms of Arkansas State’s Darreon Jackson.
It could have set a tone. A very, very bad tone at that. Lesser teams have buried their collective heads in the sand for far less than this.
Give SMU credit. They didn’t flounder.
SMU responded to the adversity. A 14-play drive would get three points on the board and return some needed Mustang confidence.
It would not be the last show of resilience.
When Arkansas State retook the lead early in the third quarter, CJ Sanders found a lane and raced 98 yards for a touchdown to immediately tie the game back up.
It was a pivotal switch of momentum.
And of course, stalling the final stAte drive was a final show resilience as it looked as if the Red Wolves would storm back and potentially force overtime.
The Mustang offense saw a balanced attack with Ke’Mon Freeman accounting for 86 yards on the ground, while Xavier Jones rushed for three touchdowns on the afternoon.
B’s have something going
The loss for Arkansas State had some shiny silver linings.
New starter Logan Bonner threw for 324 yards and four touchdowns and looked solid in the pocket despite a few isolated jitters.
Bonner hooked up with Omar Bayless for FOUR touchdowns. Four. Bayless was very impressive in helping his quarterback out.
Bonner also found Brandon Bowling for 92 yards on 12 catches. With Kirk Merritt on the painful receiving end of a helmet-lead shot from SMU’s Trevor Denbow (who was ejected for targeting on the hit), others would need to step up.
Their stepping up - as well as Jonathan Adams Jr. (eight catches, 84 yards) - is a positive sign for the 2019 Red Wolves offense.
Where to go from here
For SMU, the 1-0 start can become 2-0 if they can find a way to slow down Mason Fine and North Texas next week. Buechele will need to continue his progression in the offense for the Mustangs to have a chance.
For Arkansas State, UNLV awaits in Vegas. The Red Wolves won last year’s meeting with UNLV, 27-20 in Jonesboro.