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SMU vs. Tulsa has a new staff of team correspondents this fall to help bring you, the fan, more detailed Conference USA football coverage. Today, our SMU Correspondent, Rick Atkinson, gives you a preview of the SMU Week #12 game against Tulsa.

SMU vs. Tulsa Game Info

Date: Saturday, November 18, 2006 @ 2 p.m.

Location: Gerald J. Ford Stadium, Dallas, TX (32,000) – Gotta change the name to Doak Walker Stadium, guys. Put up an exceedingly large, heavy, bronze plaque, thanking Mr. Ford for his generosity and see if he’ll go for that. I’m sorry, but people think the stadium is named for our 38th president, which is just - weird.

(Maybe a Ford statue?)

No Television

Season Records: SMU 5-5, 3-3 C-USA; Tulsa 7-3, 4-2 C-USA

All-Time Series: SMU leads, 9-4.

Injury/Personnel Report

WR Emmanuel Sanders, knee - questionable.
DT Brandon Bonds, knee - probable.
DT Adrian Haywood, shoulder - doubtful.

No report


SMU vs. Tulsa Overview

SMU has been up and down for six weeks now, like its pro counterparts, the Dallas Cowboys – winning every other game. Let’s see … OK, no other comparisons.

The Mustangs’ 37-27 loss to Houston was an oddity in the Phil Bennett era. The Mustangs hardly every lose when scoring 24 points or more. The loss ended a six-game home win streak and any chance of winning the West.

But, with two left, the 5-5 Ponies still have a shot a bowl. While technically bowl-eligible at 6-6, a 7-5 mark would be a much safer bet for selection.

Bennett’s future with the Mustangs may ride on reaching a bowl. His record is 16-40 in five years at SMU.

Tulsa owns a two-game losing streak after a tough, double-OT loss to Rice at home. They’re in good shape bowl-wise, but now can no longer repeat as C-USA champs. Steve Kragthorpe is 28-20 in his fourth season at Tulsa.

So, which team will get up? Hard to say … read on.


SMU Offense versus Tulsa Defense

Advantage: Even

SMU was held to 44 yards rushing against Houston. RB DeMyron Martin, perhaps still not 100 percent after injury, had 30 yards on 11 carries.

“I’m disappointed in our inability to run the ball better,” Bennett said. “This was probably one of the few games this year, that … we weren’t able to at least neutralize the line of scrimmage.”

SMU is eighth in C-USA in rushing, (118.4 ypg).

The passing game clicked last week as QB Justin Willis threw for 299 yards and three touchdowns, including a 37-yarder to Martin. Willis now holds the school record for touchdown passes in a season, (22), surpassing Chuck Hixson’s 1968 mark.

Willis’ quarterback rating is second in the conference, (161.11).

WR Emmanuel Sanders had nine catches against the Coogs, two for touchdowns. He injured a knee on the game’s final play - big loss, if he can’t go.

Tulsa is tops in total defense and pass defense in C-USA, running a 3-3-5 scheme.

Plugging up the middle is big NG Terrel Nemons (6-4, 345).

Nelson Coleman, from Dallas Skyline, is Tulsa’s leading tackler, with 81. Bennett said he wanted Coleman, but didn’t have a scholarship available.

“I tried to get him to walk on,” Bennett said. “After they beat us last year, he comes up to me … [and says], ‘You remember me? You remember me?’ I said, ‘Yeah, you just made 15 tackles. I know who you are.’”

“He wasn’t being smart about it,” Bennett laughed. “He’s a good player.”

LBs Nick Bunting and Chris Chamberlain are three-year starters. Bunting surpassed 300 career tackles against Rice, the ninth Tulsa player to do so. Nick Graham, Kendrick Alexander from Plano, anchor an experienced secondary.

“They’ve been together for a long time and they’re a very proud defense,” Bennett said.

SMU’s offense averages 26.4 points per game. When the season began, Bennett hoped to be in the 28-30 range.


Tulsa Offense versus SMU Defense

Advantage: Tulsa

After Houston runners sliced up SMU last week for 357 yards, now comes Tulsa – the conference leaders in rushing, (169.4 ypg). Statistically, SMU’s rushing D is still tops in C-USA (108.6 ypg.)

“Defensively, we struggled with the big play,” Bennett said. “They had three plays for over 200 yards, and that’s just totally unacceptable.”

SMU’s defense took some injury hits, too.

DTs Brandon Bonds (dislocated kneecap) and Adrian Haywood (dislocated shoulder) were knocked out for a time against Houston. Haywood did not return.

S Joe Sturdivant led the team with 12 tackles.

DE Cory Muse had three sacks and leads the conference, with .75 per game. DE Justin Rogers is second.

The Mustangs’ secondary was improved against the pass, holding Houston’s

vaunted Kevin Kolb to 147 yards.

They’ll need another fine effort against Tulsa QB Paul Smith, who’s thrown for over 2,000 yards for a second consecutive season.

Smith’s favorite targets are Idris Moss and Ryan Bugg, who’ve teamed up for 72 catches and 1,092 yards so far in 2006, after combining for just 297 yards all last season.

Bugg had a career-best seven catches for 145 yards against Rice.

Tulsa’s leading rusher, RB Courtney Tennial, has 689 yards. Against Rice, Tulsa had two 100-plus-yard rushers for the first time in six years, Tennial (109) and RB Tarrion Adams (116). Tulsa rolled up 568 yards in total offense in the loss.


Special Teams

Advantage: SMU

Bennett said kick return specialist Jessie Henderson will play. Before injury, he averaged 36.9 yards per return.

SMU punter Thomas Morstead still leads C-USA with a 44-yard average, with one block.

Morstead connected on two field goals last week, from 42 and 35 yards. He’s 9-13 for the year, with a long of 50. Tulsa’s Jarod Tracy is 9-10, with a long of 41. Tracy booted a 39-yarder in the second OT against Rice.

Chris Kindred has a 37.9-yard punting average for the Golden Hurricane, with two blocks.

Tulsa’s Moss returns punts and kickoffs, averaging 7.4 and 21.3 yards, respectively.

SMU’s Blake Warren averages 8.5 per punt return with a long of 54.

The Mustangs’ blocked a punt last week.


Advantage: SMU

With Tulsa’s conference title hopes now gone, they could sag. SMU’s are gone too, but no one expected them to win it. The Mustangs will be pumped for their last realistic shot at a bowl – their goal all season.

The Mustangs honor 20 seniors in their final home game on Saturday.


Final Prediction

Even though Tulsa stomped North Texas and East Carolina, and got by UTEP – all teams that beat SMU - the Mustangs get it done. Willis throws for two TDs – three, if Sanders plays.

The D makes a stop to ice it.

Call it, 30-26, guaranteeing the Ponies’ first .500 or better season since 1997, and setting up a bowl showdown at Rice next week. Who’da thunk it?


by Rick Atkinson - SMU Correspondent


Past SMU previews:

SMU @ East Carolina

SMU vs. Marshall

SMU @ Tulane

SMU vs. Arkansas State

SMU vs. Sam Houston

SMU @ Texas Tech

SMU @ North Texas


 - Making History. Again.
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