SMU all business for trip to Tampa, USF game

SMU receiver Dylan Goffney (10) runs into space after catching a pass against Houston. (Photo: Jordan Hofeditz, 247Sports)

SMU football had one November win each of the last two seasons and two the year before. The Mustangs are seeking their second November win of the season and third straight win in Tampa on Saturday against USF.

It’s been an up and down season, but SMU is playing their best football at the best time.

“We talked about that, November is for finishers,” said SMU head coach Rhett Laslee said. “Last week against Houston was our first chance to do that. We got the first one, but we have three more tough ones ahead of us. We have three games in the next 16, 17 days but we always win bread trust.”

Not only has the recent win left the Mustangs on the brink of a three-game winning streak, but a win on Saturday could also earn bowl eligibility. Despite the recent success, work has to be done every day to prepare for the next game.

“It really started back when we played Navy, played well, obviously played very competitively against Cincinnati, just didn’t get the job done, then Tulsa and now last week,” Lashlee said. “Win three of our last four and feel like we’re playing better football and getting a little momentum. But nothing from Saturday, good or bad from either side of the ball, carries over to this Saturday. We have to.” go out and earn it again.”

The SMU offense put on a record performance in their last game. The team achieved a school record of 77 points Tanner Mordecai threw for a school record nine touchdowns and rushed for another for another record total of 10 touchdowns. They can’t take away any of those points or touchdowns, but what they can take away is preparation and execution.

“I told the coach after the game that if we get even 50 points in one of these games that’s coming up, you’re all going to be mad at us,” the SMU offensive coordinator said Casey Woods said. “I don’t know if the score necessarily reflects that, I think we’re trying to emphasize the high level of execution, we managed to do that. Even at times when we weren’t executing, it didn’t hurt us in that game, but this lack of execution can hurt us in the future… I think there’s certainly an element of confidence, Tanner brings up this whole offense, Rashee (rice) brings up this whole offense. Trust matters. If you think you are good and play well, becoming Streaky can help you. I really hope it leads to that.”

Just as the offensive cannot take any points, the defense also gets a fresh start. The 63 points allowed was the most SMU has given up since the 2016 Finals when Navy scored 75 points, but it’s all eyes ahead.

“We’re more focused on ourselves and getting better at being ourselves at this point in the season,” said SMU’s defensive coordinator Scott Symon said. “Obviously this game means a lot, that’s bowl eligibility. We have three games in 18, 19 days that we play. The whole motto since we’ve been here is that this team wanted to finish at the end of the season and win games at the track that we hadn’t done. We have an opportunity to hit the road and qualify for the bowl and that’s what we’re focused on.

Woods, who also coaches the tight ends, was particularly proud of his group’s performance. Senior Ben Redding caught four passes for 24 yards and three touchdowns and carried the ball to convert a fake punt into a true freshman RJ Maryland also caught four passes for 52 yards and two touchdowns, resulting in an eight-catch, five-TD night at the tight ends.

“I was never a part of it. These are nights I dreamed of,” Woods said. “It was fun. About halfway through the second quarter I was like, ‘I think we got three touchdowns.’ Then Ben caught another one and then the second half, it was a lot of fun, we like tight touchdowns, Ys lead the way.

Unfortunately, Redding was injured on his final touchdown catch just before halftime. The injury will end his season and his playing career.

Ben Redding will not be available this week. I’m pretty sure he won’t be coming back this year unfortunately, but what an incredible last half for him,” Lashlee said. Ben was a stallion for us. He played hard, he played hard, so I think it’s pretty cool for him to have this game in his last game. We’ll miss him, but we have guys who will step up like people have been doing all year.”

Like other veterans on the roster, Redding was on the team during Lashlee’s first stint on the SMU sidelines. But their paths crossed before Redding was officially a Mustang.

“It’s kinda cool, Ben’s the first person I’ve ok’ed here for a house call,” Lashlee said, noting he’d told the story before. “I just got hired and his home was the first home I went to. He has a great family. I don’t know, I think give him time to process it all. I have no idea what his next steps will be, but I know he will be successful.”

While Redding joins receivers Jake Bailey and Beau Corrales how it turned out for the season, the mustangs should have Camar Wheaton back this week to join Tyler Lavine in the backfield after his career day against Houston. The Mustangs also got receivers Jordan Kerley back last week and his presence on the field, along with Moochie Dixon to be healthier was perceived.

“Huge, we’ve said before, we haven’t played a single game all year with our starting receivers, who have all been healthy,” Lashlee said. “We didn’t have (Kerley), I think it was TCU and UCF, and not having that guy over Rashee is a big deal. Even Moochie was out sometimes, so he didn’t have to spell Rashee. You saw last week. To get the number of points we got, Rashee played well, had two touchdowns, still didn’t have 100 yards. Every man has strengthened. We didn’t have to go through a man, we could play good team football and we know who our type is, but when everyone shows up and does plays then Jordan gives you the opposite of him, it makes it hard to double Rashee or the coverage to shade like that because you have to care about the other. Good to have him back.”

The Mustangs face a USF team that has lost seven straight games, won no conference game and fired its head coach and defensive coordinator after last week’s 54-28 loss to Temple. SMU also has a trip to Tulane #17 coming five days later. None of those things can matter at the 11 a.m. CT kickoff.

“We have to play until Saturday. We have to find a way to beat South Florida,” Lashlee said. “Offensively, we can’t get any points from this game and take over. Same goes for the defense, they can’t get any points from this game. We have to go out and win again against a team that in turn has all fought very, very hard. Travis Trickett, you ok, is a really, really good soccer coach. I think they’ve scored over 24 points on everyone they’ve played against this year, they know what they’re doing. We have to play really well and that’s what we’re focusing on. You can never look ahead, it doesn’t matter when you play, who you play against, if you look ahead it’s going to bite you.”


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