Finally. Even though we played Florida to the wire, it felt good to see the team get out there and erase that frustration with a lopsided win. Sumlin got his first victory in emphatic fashion, and the defense continued to show a marked improvement. In short, we did a great many things very well. But, being the discerning football clientele that we are, we also noticed areas that will need work before we get into the slugfest of the SEC conference schedule. In the end, though, we won by 45 points and were able to get reps for much of the three deep on offense, which is never a bad thing, but in a bizarre flip, it was the first half that was the more nerve-racking of the two.
FIRST QUARTER. Ooof. In a departure from recent trends, we sputtered coming out of the gate on offense. A 3-and-out was followed by one first down on the next drive that only went five plays after a false start on 3rd down. SMU put together a couple of first downs on their second drive, and we were saved from giving up a huge gain on a bad overthrow by Garrett Gilbert. We go 3-and-out again on our third drive after a sack by That Guy Margus Hunt. SMU gets great field position after a mediocre punt, but we hold them on 3rd down when Julien Obioha doesn’t give up on the play and sacks Gilbert. We get a nice long pickup from Mike Evans, but the drive hits a wall just outside the SMU 30 and we fail to convert on 4th and short on a great pass breakup by SMU linebacker Taylor Reed.
SECOND QUARTER. Another long gain to Mike Evans sets up a short field goal, which is missed. There’s a little bit of frustration beginning to show. There are a couple more scrambles from Manziel to keep a drive alive, then six and a half minutes into the second he finds Swope on a slant route where he beats the safety to the middle of the field and scores his first touchdown of the season. The next drive features more scrambling by Manziel before we have to punt again, pinning SMU at the 10. We force a punt and get the ball at the 48 with 3:40 left. This is the point where the offense seems to wake up: a one-play, 48 yard touchdown drive on a scramble by Johnny Manziel. After a slight setback on the extra point (blocked by That Guy Margus Hunt), Tramain Jacobs picks off Gilbert on SMU’s next drive and we capitalize right before halftime when Manziel finds EZ Uzoma Nwachukwu off the scramble in the seam for his first catch and touchdown of the season.
LATER.The second half is the antithesis of so many second halves we’ve endured recently: we scored on our first four possessions, and didn’t need to punt until halfway through the fourth quarter with the score already at 48-3. The defense did not allow a touchdown in a game for the first time since Nebraska 2010.
It’s difficult at this point to say whether or not Manziel is looking to run too early without waiting to establish a pocket, but for now it’s working so well that Kingsbury is probably content to let him make plays with his feet. This won’t be as easy to pull off once we face speedy defenses that plan specifically for this, like Florida did in the second half last week. Hopefully next week will be helpful in fostering a little more patience in the passing game. On the other hand, he looked much more confident in throwing the ball downfield yesterday, particularly to Mike Evans. Really looking forward to watching these two play pitch and catch for the next four years. There were also a couple of sloppy drops on vertical passes that should have been big gains.
The other question mark seems to be the offensive line, which is bothersome considering their reputation for being one of the most established and veteran units in the SEC. Apart from Manziel, there wasn’t much of a cohesive rushing attack on Saturday. Granted, the "line up and pound it" approach is not exactly Kingsbury’s style, and Christine Michael was suspended, but Ben Malena is more than capable of being an every-down back. Fortunately, we have four more games for the OL to really gel before we face LSU. On a positive note, we did not commit a turnover for the second straight week.
Although it improved since last week, the one thing that seemed to stand out was poor tackling in the secondary. Zach Line was able to keep a couple drives alive by running through arm tackles. We’ll need to see more physicality against the run, especially from the corners, by the time October rolls around. Apart from that, the linebackers managed to stay in decent position for most of the game, while the front four played extremely well again.
Dustin Harris had a few good punt returns, and CJ Jones made a great heads-up play in the second quarter in picking up Harris’ fumble and continuing the return. But Dustin…you can’t get tackled by the punter, man.
Trey Williams will probably need to start kneeling the ball on kickoff returns when it’s kicked into the end zone once we get into the meat of the SEC schedule. Those ten yards could make a huge difference in close games. There’s no doubt he’s an electric player, though, and for now the coaches seem okay with him bringing the ball out so he can get a feel for the speed of the college game.
Placekicking will need to improve, especially at close range. Margus Hunt is going to block some kicks for SMU, but we won’t be able to afford a missed FG from 23 yards out against SEC West schools.
After a shaky start, Ryan Epperson finished with five punts for a nearly 45 yard average, including a 58-yarder. We continue to punt extremely well.
|Johnny Manziel TD pass
|Trey WIlliams TD run
|Mike Evans 100 yard game
|Forced turnover on the year
|Kevin Sumlin win
|SEC game with Penn Wagers
|Playing time for Matt Joeckel
|2012 TDs for senior WRs
GBH Banner Performers
YESSIR Award (Offensive standout)
Hard not to go with Johnny Manziel here. Six total touchdowns and 418 yards of offense.
HATE BARN Award (Defensive standout)
Damontre Moore. Two more sacks bring his total to 5 on the year, which is second in the nation (with one fewer game under his belt than the frontrunner). Once again, the entire defensive line turned in a great performance.