From the press box: SMU, TCU play for 100th Battle for Iron Skillet

Courtesy of TCU Football Twitter

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SMU knocked off TCU in Fort Worth for the second time in three years when the Mustangs outraced the Horned Frogs to a 42-34 win on Saturday afternoon. The win marked the 42nd for SMU in the 100 meetings between the two schools for the Battle of the Iron Skillet. SMU head coach Sonny Dykes moved to 2-1 in rivalry games between TCU and SMU. It was only the third win for SMU in the last 14 meetings between the two rivals. SMU accounted for 595 offensive yards. 

Three things I know

SMU isn’t one-dimensional offensively: Most of the headlines for SMU football in 2021 paid attention to the passing success of the Mustangs, and for good reason. Tanner Mordecai, a Waco Midway product who began his collegiate career at Oklahoma, entered the game against TCU as the nation’s leader in passing touchdowns. Yet, it was the running game that gave the Mustangs an advantage over the Horned Frogs defense. The SMU offensive line opened holes all game and kept Mordecai relatively safe in the pocket. 

The running back trio of Ulysses Bentley, Tre Siggers and Tyler Lavine wore down the Horned Frogs in the second half. Bentley gave the Mustangs a 28-21 lead wih 14:19 left in the third quarter and TCU never recovered. The touchdown run came directly after the SMU defense forced a fumble. SMU ran for 350 yards and two touchdowns on 52 carries for an average of 6.7 yards a rush. TCU only ran 58 plays total. 

The TCU defense isn’t elite: We tend to assume Gary Patterson defenses will replace whatever holes exist from the previous year to field a stout defense. That doesn’t look true in 2021. TCU gave up more than 30 points against Cal and were ripped apart at home again on Saturday against the Mustangs. SMU accounted for 350 yards in the first half alone, including 182 on the ground. The middle of the TCU defense was pushed around by the interior offensive linemen of SMU. 

Big plays ignite the SMU offense: It didn’t take long for SMU to announce its offensive intentions in the win over TCU. Mordecai found Danny Gray for a 68-yard touchdown pass within a minute of the opening drive. Reggie Roberson Jr. added a 29-yard catch and running back Tre Siggers’ long rush of 46 yards was the longest of the game for either team. SMU proved capable of patience offensively at times, but it is the big-play ability in the passing and rushing game that set this offense apart from most in the country. 

Three things I think I know

Build the offense around Zach Evans: The former five-star recruit is the best player on TCU’s offense, and probably the best player currently in the program. He entered the game as the team’s leading rusher and made an impact as a runner and a receiver for the Horned Frogs throughout the contest, but the sophomore needs more touches. He should be the clear focal point of the offense in the same way Bijan Robinson is utilized by Steve Sarkisian at Texas. Evans finished the game with 113 yards rushing and 15 carries and 70 yards receiving on three catches. He needed at least five more touches in the game. 

SMU can compete for a conference title: The Mustangs exit the weekend 4-0 with American Athletic Conference play starting next week at home against South Florida. SMU’s first three conference games are against teams (South Florida, Navy, and Tulane) that held a combined 2-6 record heading into Week 4. The Mustangs should be able to build momentum, and a 7-0 record, by the time SMU heads to Houston on Oct. 30. That’ll start a four-game stretch of Houston, Memphis, UCF and Cincinnati.   

SMU was the more talented team: The Mustangs' win wasn't a fluke or the result of exotic schemes or TCU mistakes. SMU was simply the better team, and that points to the success Dykes is enjoying at keeping DFW talent at SMU. That is creating a loss of that talent at TCU, and it was evident in the game on Saturday. The Mustangs were the better team on both sides of the ball in a win that was signals a shift of power in the metroplex. SMU's stock is rising, while the Horned Frogs look like a team lacking an identity. 

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