1. With a confidence-building 45-24 win over Tulane Saturday, SMU got its sixth win of the season to become bowl eligible for the third year in a row.
“The monkey is off our back now,” safety Chris Banjo said. “But we can’t get content and we can’t get complacent. We gotta keep fighting for it.”
2. The offense looked like it did during its five-game winning streak earlier this year before dropping two straight to Southern Miss and Tulsa. Quarterback J.J. McDermott went 29 of 40 for 322 yards and three touchdowns and the offense as a whole racked up 453 yards. It was McDermott’s fourth 300-yard game of the season.
“It’s nice to be on the right side of things again,” McDermott said. “The offensive line did a good job keeping them off me for the most part. Anytime you get time back there, it’s pretty easy going. Guys ran good routes and made good plays, so we were clicking on all cylinders.”
McDermott hardly practiced this week, nursing a handful of injuries (shoulder, foot, elbow). Yet he came out and had his best performance in three games.
“I thought he did a good job being ready to play,” coach June Jones said. “J.J.’s kind of a throwback to the NFL guys I had where they get hurt and don’t practice and then they go play. It’s the first time I’ve had a college kid hardly take a snap at practice and then go out and play like that. That tells me he studies the game and understands it.”
3. Zach Line reached the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the second year in a row after running for 143 yards and three touchdowns against Tulane. He currently has 1,089 rushing yards. Last year he finished with 1,494.
Asked what it means to accomplish such a feat, Line, who is as humble as they come, said, “It means I owe my O-line dinner.”
“No, you know, it’s one of those things that people look at, ‘Did you get to 1,000?’” he said. “It’s kind of a landmark for running backs, so it’s cool. It’s my second year doing it with the same O-line. Obviously they’re doing something right.”
Line, who hasn’t really been practicing that much as a precaution because of a few nagging injuries, said that the offense made a commitment to the running game early because 1) of the performances McDermott had the past two weeks and 2) because McDermott did not practice much this week due to his injuries.
“Coach Jones asked me yesterday if I’d be able to put up 30 run plays and I said, ‘Let’s do it,’” Line said. “So, he wasn’t kidding.”
Line had 25 carries.
4. The defense came out fast, forcing Tulane to punt on four of its five drives in the first half. SMU forced a turnover on the other drive – a forced fumble and sack by Taylor Thompson and a recovery by Marquise Frazier.
But in the second half, Tulane started to creep back into the game. The Green Wave scored 24 points in the third quarter to make the score 38-24 to start the fourth.
Line uncharacteristically fumbled on the SMU 18-yard-line to start the third and Dominique Robertson returned it for a touchdown. The Mustangs’ offense struggled to get anything going, having to punt on its first two drives of the second half when they hadn’t punted once in the first. The defense let up a bit, too.
“We’ve had some history of letting up in the second half,” Banjo said. “That’s one thing we’re still trying to fix. It’s an ongoing thing.
“For some weird reason that we can’t explain, it always seems that some momentum goes to the other side. We need to eliminate that momentum right when it starts.”
5. True freshman linebacker Stephon Sanders got his first start in place of an injured Victor Jones. June Jones has been raving about Sanders ever since fall camp and said after the game that he thinks Sanders can be like Ja’Gared Davis.
“He played really well today,” Jones said, with a heavy emphasis on the word ‘really.’ “I think he’s got a chance to be like Ja’Gared and if you have two guys outside [at linebacker] like that, that’s a game-changer.
“I told him after the game, he got through his first start and now he can get even better. He’s going to be a good player. He’s a smart kid and has lots of talent and I think he’s going to be a big-time player by the time he gets out of here.”
June Jones seemed kind of giddy after the game. With SMU being bowl eligible, he knows exactly which bowl he’d like to play in and who he’d like to play against.
“Our goal was to win the conference championship and get bowl eligible and we accomplished the bowl eligible goal,” Jones said. “Now we’re rooting for a particular team to become bowl eligible and for us to continue to win and that would be very good.”
Asked if that particular team was Hawaii, Jones’ old stomping grounds, he replied, “Well…maybe.”
Later on he admitted that team was indeed Hawaii.
“Well, I hate to say it, I don’t know who controls who goes [to which bowls], but I do know that if Hawaii is bowl eligible and we’re bowl eligible, it’s a sell-out and it really helps the state of Hawaii,” Jones said. That’s why I’d like to go.”
For more SMU coverage, follow Laken Litman on Twitter!