The SMU Mustangs started 2022 on a hot streak, posting 48 points in a win over North Texas and 45 points in a victory against Lamar, but have struggled since, scoring a combined 80 points against Maryland, SMU, and UCF — all losses. The Mustangs will look to get back on track on Friday when they face Navy.
Navy started the season with back-to-back losses, then rebounded to pick up wins against East Carolina and Tulsa on either side of a close loss to Air Force. Navy will be looking to capitalize on a 51-point performance last week after scoring no more than 20 points in other games this season.
In the early part of the season, SMU won on the strength of play from quarterback Tanner Mordecai who has looked out of sorts since the loss to TCU two weeks ago. In that game, Mordecai tossed four TDs and passed for 372 yards on 27 completions, but also threw two critical interceptions. Last week, he managed only 295 yards on 28 passes, did not pass for a touchdown, and threw an interception against UCF.
To beat the Midshipmen, Mordecai and receiver Rashee Rice will need to be in top form. The Navy defense has been stout all season, preventing opponents from scoring more than 21 points in all but one game this year. Navy’s pass defense is softer than the teams’ run-stopping efforts, which are holding opponents to 86.8 yards per game average on rushing attacks.
Navy has controlled games this season. Running a version of the option offense, Navy quarterback Tai Lavatai only completed one pass for nine yards in the lopsided victory last week but did catch a touchdown pass. Only three receivers have totaled more than 100 yards on the season.
Navy totaled 455 yards on the ground and ran the ball 69 times against Tulsa while controlling the ball for more than 40 minutes. The Midshipmen will look to do the same against SMU on Friday, pushing the Mustangs’ run defense to its limits. SMU is surrendering 1043 yards rushing so far this season, more than five yards per carry.
Stopping the Navy rushing attack is no easy feat. The team boasts two players with over 200 yards this season. Daba Fofana has been the go-to back, carrying 67 times for 275 yards, while speedster receiver Maquel Haywood has accumulated 203 yards on 41 carries. Haywood is averaging five yards per carry with Fofana not far behind at 4.1 yards a tote.
The greatest challenge for SMU will be getting the ball into the hands of the offense. Navy is averaging 34 minutes of possession time, using the proficient rushing attack to grind out games. SMU will look to get Mordecai and Rice in a groove early to take advantage of likely passing opportunities to force Navy out of its comfort zone.
Navy’s game plan will be to pound the rock, hoping to take advantage of the SMU defensive line and exploit a speedy secondary with power running. If the Midshipmen can control the clock and force Mordecai and the SMU offense to attempt a comeback, Navy has a good chance to win.
The current betting line has SMU as the 12.5-point favorite. The game will kick off Friday, October 14 at 7:30 p.m. from Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas.