Southern Methodist

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.

145 — yes, 145 — players on Lombardi Award watch list

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Most in the media, and many a fan, scoff in the general direction of preseason watch lists every time one’s released.  For those who fall into that category, here’s additional ammunition for your argument.

Tuesday morning, the Lombardi Award, handed out annually to either a lineman on either side of the ball or a linebacker who lines up no deeper than five yards off the line of scrimmage, released a watch list that includes 12 dozen, plus one football players.  That’s right, this watch list contains a whopping 145 players. Or, put another way, every one of the 26 letters of the alphabet besides “U” and “X” are represented.

Included in that rather lengthy list is the 2014 winner of the award, Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright, and another finalist for last year’s award, Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa.  Additionally, Michigan State defensive end Shilique Calhoun and Ole Miss defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, 2014 semifinalists, are in the initial grouping as well.

Below is the complete list of players on this year’s preseason Lombardi Award watch list:

OL Ramadan Ahmeti, Central Michigan
LB Dominique Alexander, Oklahoma
G Vadal Alexander, LSU
C Jack Allen Michigan, State
LB T.T. Barber, Middle Tennessee
DL Alex Barrett, San Diego State
OL Willie Beavers, Western Michigan
OT Adrian Bellard, Texas State
OL Caleb Benenoch, UCLA
G Dalton Bennett, Troy
LB Vince Biegel, Wisconsin
LB Zeek Bigger, East Carolina
DT Andrew Billings, Baylor
OL Adam Bisnpwaty, Pittsburgh
DE Ronald Blair, Appalachian State
DE Joey Bosa, Ohio State
G J.T. Boyd, East Carolina
LB Jatavis Brown, Akron
DE DeForest Buckner, Oregon
LB James Burgess, Louisville
DT Vernon Butler, Louisiana Tech
DE Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State
LB Brandon Chubb, Wake Forest
DT Kenny Clark, UCLA
OT Le’Raven Clark, Texas Tech
OL Ben Clarke, Hawaii
DT Trevon Coley, Florida Atlantic
OT Jack Conklin, Michigan State
DE Kamalei Correa, Boise State
DT Sheldon Day, Notre Dame
OT Taylor Decker, Ohio State
DE Hunter Dimick, Utah
OT Spencer Drango, Baylor
G Parker Ehinger, Cincinnati
DE Ken Ekanem, Virginia Tech
G Pat Elflein, Ohio State
G Steve Elmer, Notre Dame
LB Kyler Fackrell, Utah State
G Dan Feeney, Indiana
G Sedrick Flowers, Texas
LB Leonard Floyd, Georgia
G Isaiah Folasa-Lutui, New Mexico State
C Kyle Fuller, Baylor
G Joshua Garnett, Stanford
DE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
DT Adam Gotsis, Georgia Tech
OL Darrell Greene, San Diego State
OT Ike Harris, East Carolina
DT Tylor Harris, Wake Forest
G Marcus Henry, Boise State
LB Nick Holt, Western Kentucky
C Alex Huettel, Bowling Green
OL Matt Hugenberg, Army
LB DJ Hunter, Marshall
LB Great Ibe, Eastern Michigan
LB Myles Jack, UCLA
LB Jordan Jenkins, Georgia
G Darius Johnson, Middle Tennessee
DT Gerrand Johnson, ULM
OT Tyler Johnstone, Oregon
DT Jarron Jones, Notre Dame
DE Bronson Kaufusi, BYU
DT Kingsley Keke, Texas A&M
C Ryan Kelly, Alabama
C Kaydon Kirby, North Texas
LB Hunter Kissenger, ULM
OL Tejan Koroma, BYU
OL James Kristof, Western Michigan
LB Nick Kwiatkoski, West Virginia
DE Royce LaFrance, Tulane
OL Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky
C Taylor Lasecki, SMU
LB Darron Lee, Ohio State
DE Dadi Lhomme-Nicolas, Virginia Tech
LB Steve Longa, Rutgers
LB Alex Lyons, Rice
C Nick Martin, Notre Dame
LB Blake Martinez, Stanford
DL Praise Martin-Oguike, Temple
LB Tyler Matakevich, Temple
LB Boomer Mays, Northern Illinois
LB Cassanova McKinzy, Auburn
LB Marc Millan, Idaho
LB Mason Monheim, Illinois
OL Alfredo Morales, Texas Tech
LB Antonio Morrison, Florida
DE Silverberry Mouhon, Cincinnati
C Andrew Ness, Northern Illinois
DE Thomas Niles, UCF
DT Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
LB Reggie Northrup, Florida State
DE Shawn Oakman, Baylor
DE Pat O’Connor, Eastern Michigan
OT Rees Odhiambo, Boise State
DE Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State
DE Joe Ostman, Central Michigan
LB Montese Overton, East Carolina
DE Denzell Perine, FIU
G Caleb Peterson, North Carolina
LB Joseph Peterson, Georgia State
DT Davion Pierson, TCU
LB Manoa Pikula, BYU
G Greg Pyke, Georgia
OT Mykheal Quave, Louisiana
LB Reggie Ragland, Alabama
DE Sheldon Rankins, Louisville
OL Andrew Reue, Rice
DE Tyler Roberts, Troy
DT A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama
LB Jovan Santos-Knox, Massachusetts
C Joseph Scelfo, South Alabama
LB Joe Schmidt, Notre Dame
DE Ian Seau, Nevada
DL Blake Serpa, Central Michigan
C Isaac Seumalo, Oregon State
LB Ryan Simmons, Oklahoma State
C Matt Skura, Duke
OL Pearce Slater, San Diego State
LB Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame
LB Terrence Smith, Florida State
OT Garrett Stafford, Tulsa
OT Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame
LB Graham Stewart, Connecticut
DE Chris Stone, Arkansas State
LB Eric Striker, Oklahoma
LB Christian Tago, San Jose State
G Chris Taylor, Tulane
LB Jeremy Timpf, Army
LB Dominique Tovell, Louisiana
C Max Tuerk, USC
OT Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss
G Landon Turner, North Carolina
LB Tanner Vallejo, Boise State
OT Clint Van Horn, Marshall
DL Eddie Vanderdoes, UCLA
LB Nick Vigil, Utah State
DE Trent Voss, Toledo
DE Michael Wakefield, FIU
DT Adolphus Washington, Ohio State
OT Toby Weathersby, LSU
LB Scooby Wright III, Arizona
DE Eddie Yarbrough, Wyoming
OT Avery Young, Auburn
DT Anthony Zettel, Penn State

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.

Chad Morris begins mission to reunite SMU football family

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Any time a new head coach takes over a college football program, one of the first items on the agenda is to smooth things over with the former players that have played for the program. Sometimes a coaching change comes about under a stressful situation with the removal of a beloved head coach. Other times the program has sunk so low that even former players are blasting it from afar. Chad Morris is no idiot, and he knows the rebuilding of SMU is going to take all the help it can get, so why not extend a hand to those who came before him at SMU?

Morris attended a recent SMU basketball game with former SMU defensive back Sterling Moore, now in his fourth season with the Dallas Cowboys, according to The Dallas Morning News. Morris has also reached out to former SMU receiver Cole Beasley, in his third season with the Cowboys. Beasley told the Dallas newspaper he intends to stop by the SMU program at some point in the future to talk to the team and meet the new SMU head coach.

It always helps having the support of the former players behind you when you are a football coach. Not that their opinions ultimately sway the decision-making, but it makes for an easier time moving forward when the support is there. Now, if Morris can smooth things over with one of the greatest players to come out of SMU, Eric Dickerson, then Morris will be in business.

In early September, Dickerson took a flame thrower to his former program, taking aim at the state of the program, the potentially missed opportunity to find a spot in a power conference and more. Odds are when Morris does eventually get a chance to talk things over with Dickerson and chat about the plans for the future of the program, Morris will receive the support of Dickerson. Dickerson’s heated comments came from frustration with the state of his once-proud program. He, like any loyal SMU Mustang, just wants to see the Pony Express ride again.