SMU defeated Louisiana Tech Bulldogs at home, 38-14.
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Preston Stone – 23/37 (62.1%), 248 yards, 6.7 Y/A, 3 TD, 0 INT, 67.0 QBR
LJ Johnson, Jr. – 14 carries, 128 yards, 9.1 avg, 1 TD, 67 long
Jaylan Knighton – 17 carries, 64 yards, 3.8 avg, 0 TD, 12 long
Jordan Hudson – 2 catches, 72 yards, 36.0 avg, 1 TD, 67 long
RJ Maryland – 5 catches, 58 yards, 11.6 avg, 1 TD, 25 long
Isaiah Nwokobia – 6 tackles
Bryan Massey – 5 tackles
Elijah Roberts – 4 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFL
Alexander Kilgore – 3 tackles, 2 sack, 2 TFL
JaQwondis Burns – 3 tackles, 1 sack, TFL
Kori Robertson – 2 tackles, 1 INT, 1 TD
After jumping out to a quick 14-0 lead and then building to a 31-0 halftime score, SMU took the foot off the gas and settled for a 38-14 victory over the Bulldogs of Louisiana Tech in the I-20 cross-border matchup.
While the box score may look like a total beatdown, when taking a deeper look, the perception of the game changes a bit.
Fueled by three big offensive plays, including a 67 yard run and a 67 yard catch, and a big man pick-6 by former Sooner Kori Roberson, SMU lived by the explosive play and not the consistent play. The three offensive plays of 67, 67, and 43 yards together accounted for 39% of the entire offensive production for the day.
It’s difficult to play this game because it can be used against you too. But in some fun with those numbers… if you remove the one long run by LJ Johnson, Jr. for 67 yards, SMU tallied 40 carries for 142 yards at a suboptimal 3.5 yards per carry. And if you take out Jordan Hudson’s long haul, Preston Stone’s performance drops to 22/36 (61%) and 181 yards, leading to a very poor 5.0 yards per attempt.
Preston Stone is talented (#111 overall, #15 QB in the 2021 composite) but has not played a lot in his career before this season. He may not be above-average in height (6’1″), but the 219 pound QB from Dallas is sturdy and has some athletic ability. While not as fast or as talented as a runner, his build isn’t all that different from Jackson Arnold. He added 2 rushing touchdowns to his 2 passing touchdowns in limited action in 2022 as a redshirt freshman.
Stone clearly has arm talent, as shown by his recruiting ranking coming out of Parish Episcopal. But his inexperience so far did show some limitations last week. His footwork could use some work, something that somewhat limited his efficiency. But he does like to throw the ball downfield, as evidenced by a few deep balls, including a successful 67 yard linkup with Hudson for a touchdown. If you give him some space, he has the arm to make you pay.
However, SMU’s offensive tackles are a weak link. Expect a big game from the defensive ends tomorrow. If not, there may be more questions at DL than previously thought. They expect to hit Stone early and often, generating multiple sacks and tackles for loss.
OU’s defense generated 16 pressures on 27 passes against Arkansas State. On those 16 pressures, they were credited with 12 hurries and 3 QBH along with the lone sack from Ethan Downs. Those are some productive numbers even without a lot of sacks, and the play itself looked better player by player after further review. But we will need to see more tomorrow against an overmatched SMU offensive line group.
The receivers at SMU have historically been pretty good for a mid-major program, a roster that includes current pros Courtland Sutton, Cole Beasley, and rookie Rashee Rice, who flashed in his first action in Kansas City last night. But the WR talent on this roster does not jump off the screen outside of former Sooner commit Jordan Hudson.
Hudson, the former #92 overall recruit in the 2022 class out of Garland, was committed to Lincoln Riley’s Sooner program for nearly a year, and then went on a bit of a ride before arriving on the Hilltop. Heavily recruited by Ra’Shaad Samples when Samples was coaching for SMU, Hudson committed to SMU and looked to sign originally. But when Samples left Dallas for Fort Worth with Sonny Dykes, Hudson soon followed, signing with TCU. Lasting only one season, Hudson transferred to SMU and entered the season top on the depth chart.
Kelvontay Dixon added 3 catches last Saturday to his career totals, which include 12 catches in 15 games for the Texas Longhorns and another 26 for 377 yards and 3 touchdowns in his first season as a Pony in 2022.
Keyshawn Smith added a 43 yard catch last week, but managed only one other grab for one yard. Smith spend three seasons in Coral Gables, hauling in 41 catches for 589 yards and 5 touchdowns over 19 games with Miami. He had a career high 26 catches as a sophomore in 2021, but followed up that campaign with only 13 catches in 2022 before heading to Dallas.
Tight end RJ Maryland came into the season with 28 career catches, all with SMU, and paced the team last week with 5 hauls, including one for a TD. The 6’4″, 233 pound tight end played high school ball at Southlake Carroll, alongside now-Sooner Blake Smith. Smith should be able to help the OU defense with some pointers.
OU should match up pretty well against the receivers of SMU, with most contributors standing 6’1″ and under with limited big-play potential. Look for some extra attention on Hudson, but with the defensive line teeing off against the SMU offensive line, it’s likely that SMU will have to run a lot of max protect, limiting the explosive plays.
Just looking at the roster, you’ll easily realize the running back room is talented, with several former high profile recruits in the depth chart. LJ Johnson, Jr. from Cypress, TX was a former top 100 back (#53 overall in 2021) that left College Station for Dallas after only getting 21 career carries in two seasons with the Aggies, all touches coming in 2021. Jaylan Knighton is also on the team, leaving Miami after committing to the Canes in the 2020 class as the #10 running back (#106 overall). After 145 rushing attempts and 20 catches in 2021, Knighton’s reps dropped in 2022, only totaling 78 carries and 9 receptions.
It’s likely that SMU was prepping for this game long before this week. But outside of a few explosive plays last weekend, the Pony offense was statistically mediocre, and completely lacked any consistency in the 2nd half.
Defensively, the overall storyline is not all that different than the offensive skill positions. 12 of the 22 players in the two-deep are transfers, including former Sooner defensive tackle Kori Roberson, who showed up big last week with a 20 yard pick-6 and a sack.
True freshman Alex Kilgore made his presence made last week, picking up 2 sacks from the linebacker position. The former Katy Paetow teammate of David Hicks may not have received as much recruiting hype, but Kilgore was still a solid prospect, ranking as high as #38 LB with an 89 grade from 247sports.
Safeties Bryan Massey and Isaiah Nwokobia paced the team in tackles last week with 11 total between them. Both Massey (SR) and Nwokobia (JR) have spent their whole career at SMU and present the most experience for the Ponies on the back end.
Former Miami Hurricane Elijah Roberts added 2 sacks and 2 TFL of his own from his defensive end spot against the Bulldogs last week. Roberts failed to find any sort of consistent playing time in Miami, wrapping up his 3 seasons with 21 tackles, 0.5 sacks, and 1.5 TFL in 16 games of action.
Perhaps the highlight for SMU last week was the run defense, holding LA Tech to only 28 total yards on 24 carries, a stout 1.2 yards per rush against.
While the defense made plays last week, the Oklahoma offensive line presents a much bigger test for the band of transfers, especially across the front. SMU should struggle to find any sort of pass rush, which may limit their impact on the OU passing attack. LA Tech found some success in the air with 241 yards on 33 attempts and a 63.5% completion percentage, but also gave up 7 sacks and an interception.
It is difficult to imagine SMU can generate anything close to that against Bill Bedenbaugh’s unit.
Official predictions from the staff will come out tomorrow, but OU covering the -16.5 spread will likely be a unanimous prediction.
Image courtesy of Fox 4 DFW.