2011 Southern Methodist Mustangs Football Preview
The most recent year of SMU football was in many ways a head-scratcher, but for all the bouts with inconsistency that emerged last fall, it still has to be said that – on balance – a program emerging from the shadows continued to make forward strides.
While no one can question coach June Jones’ ability to turn a program around, the 2010 season had to feel like a slight disappointment for the new look Southern Methodist Mustangs, at least on some fronts. Just a year removed from back-to-back one-win seasons in 2007 and 2008, Jones had led the Mustangs to a bowl game and a bowl victory in 2009. In 2010, the Mustangs won their first Conference USA Western Division title and appeared in their first C-USA Championship Game. After falling to Central Florida in the title game, the Mustangs were unable to come away with a postseason win.
A horrible performance against Army in the Armed Forces Bowl took a lot of the shine off the 2010 season as a whole. SMU was a solid favorite to win that game and was playing on its home field because of a logistical change brought about by the renovation of the Armed Forces Bowl’s normal stadium. However, a pancake-flat performance by SMU’s offense allowed Army to steal a 16-14 win. The Mustangs continued to give the ball away, just enough for the West Pointers to leave Texas with an upset win. Few people expected SMU to upset UCF in the C-USA title tilt, but when the Armed Forces Bowl slipped out of the Ponies’ grasp, the 2010 season ended with a 7-7 record. For many people, that bottom-line fact represents pronounced slippage, but a more mixed verdict is in order for this program.
Yes, SMU gacked in its bowl game, and yes, the Ponies also humiliated themselves by losing to Houston – and the Cougars’ third-string quarterback – by 25 points at home. However, Southern Methodist also won at East Carolina on the final weekend of the regular season to capture the West, validating and affirming the program on a powerful level. SMU ambushed a lot of opponents in the 2009 joyride, but in 2010, the Mustangs received everyone’s best shot in the conference. The fact that SMU was able to win the division made 2010 another season defined by a landmark achievement. The 7-7 record hurt, but the West banner represented a strong counterbalance to the Ponies’ pains. Last year wasn’t as bad as the win-loss tally might initially suggest.
With 18 returning starters, including 10 from an offense which set at least seven SMU single-season records, the time is now for the Ponies. Quarterback Kyle Padron threw for nearly 4,000 yards and 31 touchdowns last season. Padron returns for his junior season with senior running back Zach Line in tow. Line rushed for 1,494 yards last season. Surprisingly, it was the offense that struggled; it failed to score with the consistency most pundits expected. Moving up and down the field wasn’t a problem, but putting points on the board was. If SMU can improve in red zone situations and cut down on turnovers this season, it could be a very dangerous squad.
The Mustangs are set to play two non-conference games against in-state rivals. The Ponies open at Kyle Field in week one to take on the Texas A&M Aggies. Four weeks later, SMU must travel across the Metroplex to take on rival and defending Rose Bowl champion TCU. SMU will get another chance at a service academy when Navy comes to town in November.
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