UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas – Thanks to a gallant effort by the defense, SMU kept Texas A&M off the scoreboard until the middle of the second quarter Saturday.
The problem was, the SMU offense never came close to getting into the end zone. Eventually the SMU defense buckled and Texas A&M ran away with a 48-3 win at Ford Stadium.
“If we had answered anything early offensively when the defense stopped them the first five or six times, I think that everybody kind of would have rallied up,” SMU coach June Jones said. “But we just couldn’t get anything going.”
It’s hard to get anything going when an offense converts just 3-of-18 third downs.
SMU’s deepest penetration was the Texas A&M 8-yard line, when the Mustangs settled for a 25-yard field goal to make it 27-3 in midway through the third quarter.
Other than that, SMU never got closer to the goal line than the A&M 20.
“For whatever reason we weren’t able to get into a rhythm,” SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert said. “Once again we had some missed opportunities, especially in the first half. Our defense played exceptional, they did a great job. We’ve got to do a better job.”
Gilbert was 23-of-49 passing for 203 yards. He threw just one interception, but missed several chances for big plays with throws that were either behind or just out of the reach of receivers.
Gilbert, a transfer from Texas, did not go through spring practices with SMU. He also had shoulder surgery in the offseason, but did not use that as a reason for his accuracy issues.
“[It’s] not mechanical. It’s just a matter of I’ve got to make the play and put it where our guy needs it to make the catch,” Gilbert said.
“Our receivers did a good job. Obviously in the second half when the game was out of reach, we put a couple of drives together off our own goal line, but we’ve got to be able to do that earlier in the game. That’s on me as a quarterback.”
SMU forced Texas A&M to punt on its first three possessions. The fourth possession resulted in a failed fourth-down try, and the fifth ended in a missed field goal.
But with each stop, the SMU defense soon found itself back on the field thanks to a sluggish offense.
“You feel like you just got back on the bench, but it’s our job to go back out there and stop them,” linebacker Taylor Reed said. “Our job is to stop them no matter what.”
But by the time the Aggies started their fifth drive, freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel began making more plays with his feet. The pressure SMU’s defense was putting on Manziel early in the game was resulting in breakaway scrambles for big throws.
“I thought the defense did well,” Jones said. “If the offense had been able to answer the call in the first 15-17 minutes of the game, it might have been a little different game. I don’t think their quarterback would have played with as much confidence because he was certainly, a little bit, not himself early. We just never got going on offense.”
SMU now has two weeks to figure out how to get its offense going. The Mustangs have a bye next week before facing rival TCU at home.
Jones answered with an emphatic “No” when asked if he saw any improvement in the offense this week.
“There’s a lot of reasons,” Jones said of the offense’s struggles. “Number one, we’ve got a lot of new guys in there, a new quarterback learning the system. We just haven’t done as good a job as we need to do.”