Matt Davis

No. 4 Baylor pulls away from SMU, 56-21

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Rare is the game with a 56-21 final score where both teams come away feeling better about themselves than when they started, but that’s what we saw Friday night in Dallas as No. 4 Baylor dominated the second half for an as-expected 35-point win.

Let’s start with the winning team. Baylor picked up exactly where it left off, needing only four plays and 50 seconds to notch its first touchdown, a three-yard Devin Chafin run. The Bears added three more scores in the first quarter, driving 75, 75 and 63 yards to get them. Baylor was shut out in the second quarter – the Bears actually posted a minus-1 total offense number in the frame – but stole momentum for good at the end of the first half, sacking SMU quarterback Matt Davis at the Bears’ 9-yard line as time expired.

Baylor thoroughly dominated the second half, owning a 28-0 scoring advantage, as Seth Russell hit Jay Lee for a pair of third quarter touchdowns and capped his night with a 57-yard catch-and-dash touchdown to Corey Coleman. True freshman Jarrett Stidham entered the game late and connected with Chris Platt for a 42-yard touchdown on his very first collegiate pass.

Overall, Russell hit 15-of-30 passes for 376 yards with five touchdowns and an interception while adding six carries for 59 yards and another score. Chafin, Shock Linwood and Terence Williams combined to rush 28 times for 219 yards and one score. Each of Baylor’s three primary wide receivers posted big numbers – Coleman snagged five passes for 178 yards and a score, Cannon snared three grabs for 104 yards and a score, and Lee compiled 70 yards while scoring on all three of his grabs.

But the night was not as easy for the two-time defending Big 12 champions as the final score indicated, as SMU played even or ahead of the Bears for all but the final play of the first half. After Baylor opened the scoring, SMU used a 49-yard Braeden West kickoff return to set Davis up for a 46-yard scoring strike to Courtland Sutton on the Ponies’ very first snap from scrimmage.

Remember, this was the same SMU team that came out the gate last season looking more lifeless than a Walking Dead casting call, needing a full 120 minutes to notch its first points of the 2014 season. But it wasn’t really the same team at all, thanks to new head coach Chad Morris.

After scoring on its first drive, SMU answered another Baylor touchdown by marching 83 yards in 12 plays to again tie the game. SMU shut Baylor out in the second quarter while mounting another long scoring drive, this time a 12-play, 78-yard, 6-minute, 22-second slog to pull within 28-21.

That was pretty much the high point for the Mustangs. Their next drive ended in an interception, and the drive after that saw SMU get only two plays off in the final 43 seconds of the first half after driving to the Baylor 3 with a chance to tie the game.

SMU did not threaten to score in the second half, punting on five straight possessions before throwing another interception, but the point had been proven. The Mustangs played a top-five team to a relative draw for 30 minutes, and showed in Davis that they have a quarterback. The junior Texas A&M transfer connected on 16-of-23 passes for 166 yards with two touchdowns and two picks while leading the club in rushing with 24 carries for 115 yards. Xavier Jones rushed 13 times for 38 yards and a score and caught four passes for 38 yards, and Sutton totaled 82 yards and two touchdowns on his three receptions.

More than the statistics, though, SMU looked different than it ever did under in 2014. The Mustangs played crisper, harder and with purpose and certainty. Credit Morris for that.

Baylor may very well go on to win a third straight Big 12 title and reach its first College Football Playoff, but here’s one thing that is absolutely certain: the days of SMU being a pushover ended the day Morris was hired.

Torn ACL could cost SMU QB Neal Burcham 2015 season

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SMU quarterback Neal Burcham just cannot catch a break it seems. The Mustangs quarterback could miss the entire 2015 season well before it kicks off due to a torn ACL injury.

The Dallas Morning News reported the injury Monday afternoon. Burcham missed the majority of the 2014 season after suffering a right elbow injury in early September. The injury forced Burcham to miss the remainder of the season after passing for 158 yards in just two games. He had won the starting job at SMU and was expected to be a leading contender for the starting job in 2015 under new head coach Chad Morris.

If Burcham is to miss the entire 2015 season, and a torn ACL injury would likely result in just that situation, then the SMU starting job at quarterback will likely be decided between Matt Davis and Garrett Krstitch. Both saw playing time last season after Burcham went down with his elbow injury. Both had similar stats with each passing for 855 yards and combining for five total touchdown passes with 12 interceptions.

SMU, Baylor QBs transfer to Sacramento State

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For the first time since Chad Morris took over as head coach last month, a player has left the SMU football program. And, as it turns out, another player from a fellow Texas FBS program is following.

In a press release Friday, Sacramento State announced that Kolney Cassel is one of three midyear transfers joining the team. Because the Hornets play at the FCS level, the quarterback will be eligible to play immediately this coming season.

“We wanted to add a transfer at quarterback and after looking at film and talking to coaches, we were fortunate to get Kolney,” head coach Jody Sears said in a statement. “He brings some experience and veteran leadership to the program. He has good size (6-foot-2, 192 pounds) and a great arm and will increase the competition at the position.”

After redshirting as a true freshman in 2013, Cassel played in five games for a Mustang squad that saw four different quarterbacks start at least one contest. Cassel was one of those, starting one game.

The three-star member of SMU’s 2013 recruiting class completed 15-of-37 passes (40.5 percent) for 156 yards and a touchdown for the one-win Mustangs. He has three years of eligibility remaining.

Matt Davis, a Texas A&M transfer who started the majority of the games the last month of the season; Garrett Krstich, who started from mid-September until Davis essentially took over; and Neal Burcham, the starter at the beginning of the season until being sidelined by a season-ending injury, will head into spring practice as the three favorites for the job, with that logjam factoring into Cassel’s decision.  Of the three that remain, Davis would likely be considered the front-runner.

As for the other FBS transfer, the Hornets also announced the addition of Alexis Robinson. Robinson signed a track scholarship with Baylor last year and was also a preferred walk-on to the Bears football team, where he redshirted for the 2014 season.

“We didn’t sign a quarterback last season so Alexis will step in and fill that role for that class,” Sears said. “He is a world-class sprinter that is a football player. He’s a phenomenal athlete that we are lucky to have in our program.”

Robinson will have four years of eligibility remaining and, like Cassel, will be eligible immediately.

The Fifth Quarter: Week 5 Rewind

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As is the case each and every season, each and every week, any omission below is not on purpose, it’s merely intentional.

THUMBS UP

Exorcising the Raleigh ghosts
When it comes Raleigh, NC, that college town has served as Florida State’s kryptonite over the past couple of decades.  Six times since 1998 a ranked FSU squad lost to North Carolina State, the most recent coming in 2012.  The Wolfpack were looking to continue that rather bizarre run of success, jumping out to a 24-7 first-quarter lead and holding a 10-point lead with just over six minutes remaining in the third quarter.

The reigning Heisman winner and one of his backfield sidekicks, however, weren’t having any of that.

In his first game since a one-game suspension, Winston tossed a pair of third-quarter touchdown passes to give the ‘Noles their first lead of the game at 42-38.  A Karlos Williams one-yard touchdown run three minutes into the fourth quarter essentially put the game away — Winston’s inexplicable interception, which had Jimbo Fisher downright irate, notwithstanding — while Williams’ 12-yard scamper with just over two minutes remaining put the exclamation point on the closer-than-it-looked 56-41 win.  Winston wound up completing 26-of-38 passes for 365 yards and four touchdowns while Williams added 126 yards and three touchdowns to stave off the upset bid.

The win kept FSU’s winning streak alive, extending its school record to 20 straight.  However, the Seminoles have already seen its stranglehold on the top spot in the Top 25 rankings loosened over the past couple of weeks; it’s highly likely that support will weaken yet again when the polls are released Sunday afternoon.  Will it be enough to knock them off the perch?  Probably not this week, but it certainly wouldn’t be surprising if a team like Oklahoma or Alabama leapfrogged the defending BCS champions.

Good gawd Gurley
You would have to do a pretty damn good job to convince me that Todd Gurley is not the best football player in the country this year.  In Georgia’s nail-biting  35-32 win over Tennessee Between the Hedges, the junior running back rushed for a career-high 208 yards and a pair of touchdowns; 129 of those yards came in the pivotal fourth quarter.  One of the scores was a 51-yard thing of beauty that put the back’s exceptional vision and cutting ability on full display.   On his next run after that, he hurdled a Vols defender on his way to a 26-yard gain midway through the fourth quarter.  Provided he stays healthy the remainder of the season, there’s simply no way Gurley won’t at least receive a mid-December invitation to New York City for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.  If Mark Richt & Company continues to feed the beast, that is.

Elementary, my dear Watson
Against North Carolina Saturday, Deshaun Watson became the first true freshman to start at quarterback for Clemson in 20 years (Nealon Greene, 1994 vs. South Carolina). Watson’s debut as a starter was a monster one as the five-star 2014 signee completed 27-of-36 passes for 434 yards and six touchdowns.  The scoring tosses are a school record for a freshman, or for any other class for that matter, as well as an ACC record for a frosh. According to a note from the school, the Tigers are now 5-12 all-time in games started by first-year freshman quarterbacks; three of those five wins have come at the expense of the Tar Heels.  Based on Watson’s play in his first outing, it appears likely he’ll get the opportunity to add to that overall win total as, barring injury, there’s little doubt it’s his job moving forward.

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A day after coach resigns, SMU loses starting QB

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It has been quite a 24-hour span for the SMU Mustangs. A day after the announcement of June Jones resigning as head coach, SMU loses starting quarterback Neal Burcham. Burcham suffered a right elbow injury that will require medical treatment that removes him from being able to play for the remainder of the season. Bill Nichols of The Dallas Morning News reported the injury news via Twitter.

The sophomore led the Mustangs in passing with 158 passing yards in his time on the field each of the first two games of the season for SMU. Burcham, along with the rest of the Mustangs, struggled to do much of anything in the first two brutal games. With Burcham now unavailable, it is likely Kolney Cassel will take over as the starter over Matt Davis. A redshirt freshman, Cassel has already nearly equaled Burcham’s passing total (154 yards) and has thrown a touchdown pass.

SMU is off this week to regroup during a coaching change following two brutal losses. SMU will open their home schedule next week when Texas A&M comes to Dallas.