History has already been made for the Southern Methodist University football team. With the Mustangs' 35-33 victory over Alabama-Birmingham, SMU has notched their first 2-0 start to a football season in 13 years. That win came on the road, which also ended a long losing streak, and if the Ponies can get another road win this week in Pullman against Washington State University [and they are favored to do so by 4.5 points] they will be 3-0 for the first time since 1984. On top of that accomplishment, SMU has not beaten a team from a BCS conference since 2000, when they defeated Kansas. Many carrots lie on the end of many sticks for second-year head football coach June Jones who came to SMU from Hawai'i - Wazzu's last opponent last week.
While Jones did come from Hawai'i, he did not coach against the Cougars and this will be the first-ever meeting between the schools, so there will be some unfamiliar territory on both sides of the ball. Jones, however, has been a head coach for 10 years and his high yardage and points-producing offensive system is well known in college football. This year is no different as, a mere two games into the young season, the Ponies are already the 21st-ranked passing offense in the land - averaging 278 yards per game.
Leading that offensive juggernaut are sophomore quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, senior receiver Emmanuel Sanders and junior running back Shawnbrey Mitchell. That trio is either directly or indirectly responsible for approximately 90% of their total offense. Quarterback Mitchell averages 272 yards per game passing, running back Mitchell averages 113 yards per game rushing and Sanders averages nine receptions for 107 yards per game. If they do have to depend on anybody else, offensively, it will be junior receiver Aldrick Robinson, who averages five receptions for 63 yards per game.
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Defensively, SMU is not as productive across the board but the Ponies have made significant impressions in pass defense where the defensive secondary has picked off nine passes in two games, led by senior defensive back Rock Dennis, who is personally responsible for three of those interceptions. Not to be overshadowed, senior linebacker Chase Kennemer has racked up 21 tackles and a sack in the first two games of the year for the Mustangs. All those interceptions have vaulted the Ponies to the top of the NCAA ratings, where they are currently fourth in the land in turnover margin - potentially not a good sign for a Cougar team which just committed seven turnovers last week against Hawai'i.
Special teams also holds a few bright spots for SMU as both their punt return and kick return units - another potentially good match-up against the Cougars' struggling kick coverage units - are both producing good numbers. In fact, the Ponies are third in the nation in punt returns with Sanders handling those duties and returning kicks a whopping 37 yards per punt. On kickoff returns, senior defensive back Bryan McCann does not have the same eye-popping numerals as Sanders but is pulling in a not-too-shabby 29 yard per kick average.
In the big picture, the most glaring battles will take place with SMU's 53rd-ranked offense going against Wazzu's 118th-ranked defense - more specifically, the Ponies' passing offense against the Cougars' 116th-ranked pass efficiency defense - and kick coverage on special teams. Conversely, the Mustangs' 102nd-ranked defense [and 113th-ranked pass defense] will also be challenged by Wazzu's 65th-ranked offense [and 45th-ranked passing offense].
All-in-all, the game has the surface appearance of being a draw - when it is factored in that it will be the second consecutive road game for SMU - and that the Cougars are not likely to give up seven turnovers in two consecutive games. So, on Saturday, it will come down to the Ponies trying to make history and the Cougars possibly trying to avoid making history.
WSU continues their football season against SMU at 2 p.m. on Saturday, September 19 at Martin Stadium in Pullman.
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Summer is almost over…and you know what that means…It's time for a whole new season of Cougar Athletics! Football, soccer, volleyball, men's & women's basketball, baseball, track & field and tennis, just to name a few, are coming up right around the corner. If you need "game action" photographs for your newspaper, magazine, web site, blog, etc., then Greg Davis Sports Photography should be your choice for all things "Cougar" and "Pac-10 Conference"! Coverage for specific athletes or upcoming events is also available. Check out the images from games, practices and events from last season, and be sure to come back often for uploads from all of this season's action.