Earlier in the week, SMU head coach Sonny Dykes said he hoped to be able to open up the offense a little more than in week one. Mission accomplished. The Mustangs rolled to a 65-35 victory at North Texas Saturday night. In the process they put up 710 yards of total offense. Senior quarterback Shane Buechele finished the game with 344 yards passing and four touchdowns on 24 of 33 throwing. He also ran for a touchdown. He completed passes to eight different receivers; nine if you include him as he caught one that was batted back in the air by a UNT defensive lineman. All that while playing just over three quarters of the blowout.
The onslaught started early and happened quickly. After North Texas was stopped on three and out on its first drive, Buechele wasted little time. He hit Rashee Rice on a play action pass for 51 yards to the Mean Green 23-yard line. Buechele then found Reggie Roberson, Jr. with a screen pass in the flat and the receiver went 15 yards untouched into the end zone for the score. The entire drive went 73 yards in just four plays and took all of 1:04.
Another UNT three and out sent SMU’s offense off to the races. Buechele found Danny Gray wide open along the left sideline. After the catch, Gray made a sharp cut to the middle of the field to stroll into the end zone. This drive was quicker than the first one; three plays, for 74 yards in :56 seconds.
SMU was up 14-0 in the first quarter and had exactly two minutes in time of possession. The game was never close after that.
It didn’t help that UNT went into the game without starting linebackers Tyreke Davis and KD Davis. During the game they also lost defensive backs Keelan Crosby and Jaxon Gibbs. Dyke and offensive coordinator Garrett Riley took full advantage of the holes. First it was through the air and then in the second quarter and beyond pushing the running game. Ulysses Bentley IV rushed for 227 yards on 19 carries. That included an 84-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter when the game was well out of reach. As a team, the Mustangs put up 366 yards of rushing.
SMU put the game well out of reach with it still being the first quarter. Buechele led a nine-play, 80-yard drive. It featured Bentley with three straight runs for 44-yards. Buechele then found tight end Kylen Granson in the back of the end zone for an easy touchdown throw and a 21-0 lead.
Chris Naggar added field goals of 37 and 22 yards in the second quarter. Buechele capped off the SMU first half scoring when he faked the hand-off to Tyler LaVine, bobbled the ball, but held on to it long enough to carry it in from two yards. The Mustangs had a commanding 34-7 lead at halftime.
UNT’s quarterback rotation with Jason Bean and Austin Aune worked only in small spurts early on. The Mean Green’s lone scoring drive in the first half ended with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Bean to Jaelon Darden.
But the halftime stats said everything about the first two quarters that anyone would need to know. Total yards on offense were 381 for SMU and only 169 for UNT. Buechele was 15 of 22 for 255 yards with three touchdown passes and one touchdown run, and it was only halftime.
The Mustangs gave UNT a short field to open the second half. On fourth and one at their own 34-yard line, Dykes opted to go for it. Running back TJ McDaniel was stuffed for no gain and UNT had a brief ray of hope. DeAndre Torrey bounced into the line and then out to the right side for a seven-yard touchdown run and the SMU lead was “cut” to 34-14. Dykes said after the game, “I probably made a bad decision. It gave them a short field and they scored and gave them a little momentum.”
The Mean Green momentum didn’t last long. Gray took the kick two yards deep in the end zone and returned it 64 yards to the UNT 36-yard line. Buechele scrambled for 22 yards and UNT got flagged for a late hit penalty. From there, Bentley carried it the last four yards for the score. The Mustangs had used just four plays, (after the kick return), to go 36-yards for the score in just 1:09 to make it 41-14.
Aune added a five-yard touchdown run. Buechele connected with Roberson on a two-yard touchdown pass to end the third quarter and Bentley added a nine-yard touchdown run to cap the third quarter scoring and give SMU a 55-21 lead.
UNT outscored SMU 14-10 in the fourth quarter and outgained the Mustangs 233 yards to 144. But by then the game was out of reach and frankly got a little ugly. All four of SMU’s penalties came late in the game, (late in the third quarter, into the fourth). Dykes said, “Sometimes when games are like this, they have a tendency to get a little sloppy. And there was certainly some sloppy play at times from us. But I thought overall, especially to have a game like this, I thought our guys did pretty well.”
Going into the game Dykes said the Mustangs needed to do a better job defending against the run. They gave up 189 against Texas State in week one. Saturday, it was 212 yards on the ground for the Mean Green. Half of that was in “garbage time” late in the game. “There were times when I thought we did a really good job of tackling,” Dykes said. “We didn’t give up a lot of big plays in the run game. But we gave up more yards and consistent yards than we wanted to.”
In addition to the passing yards, Buechele kept a few plays alive with his scrambling. He had five carries for 29 yards and the one touchdown on a designed quarterback keeper. Dykes gets a little uneasy when Buechele takes off. While giving Buechele credit for the rushing performance, he added, “You know I don’t like to watch him run much, honestly. That’s not good for any of us when he is running around. But he was making some plays and kept some drives alive.”
Roberson gave his assessment of Buechele’s running. “It’s great when he can scramble and get down and get the first down. But I just want to keep my QB safe. So if he can just sit back there in the pocket and tear it up, I’d rather he do that. But whatever he has to do to get us the win, then I’m cool with it.”