AAC: Dykes breaks down game-ending play
By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector
Monday, November 11, 2019
SMU quarterback Shane Buechele had options on the final offensive play Saturday to finish off a 59-51 win against East Carolina.
It was fourth-and-3 with 55 seconds remaining at the Pirate 39-yard line. ECU had already taken its final timeout, and SMU then called a timeout after shifting to a pooch punt formation, which Buechele had already done seven times this year.
The QB had complete freedom after the timeout, and SMU coach Sonny Dykes wanted his team to go for the first down to end the game, but Buechele also had room and a backup option to kick if he desired. He saw 1-on-1 coverage on star receiver James Proche and completed a 4-yard slant.
"(Buechele's punting ability) allows us to check into plays if we get a certain look or matchup we like," Dykes said Monday during the American Athletic Conference coaches teleconference. "We were a little late getting the call in, so we decided to take a timeout and had a couple different things called depending on the look and what we got. We had an opportunity to throw James a slant and executed it well. It was well covered, but Shane made a good throw and James made a good play.
"At that stage of the game against East Carolina, we hadn't gotten a lot of stops and they had a lot of momentum. Our guys were a little worn down, so we felt like it was worth taking the risk."
ECU scored four touchdowns and kicked one field goal on its five offensive possessions after halftime.
To guard against the punt, ECU had receiver/return man Tyler Snead in a free safety position, where he also was able to go back and field a potential Buechele punt deep inside in Pirate territory.
"We were playing man-free coverage with (Snead) as the post safety, so if they dropped the quarterback back then we were going to drop him back," Houston said after the game. "We were prepared for him to pooch kick it and try to field it and get some field position."
Snead no snub
The American gave its offensive player of the week award to an ECU player for the first time this season when Snead earned the honor.
The redshirt freshman from Raleigh had 240 receiving yards at SMU. His 19 receptions were the most by any player in the country this season.
"He has some natural confidence in himself, and he may not be the biggest guy in the world, but he makes himself play much bigger than his stature," Houston said Monday. "I love the way he competes. He had a great Saturday, but he would rather have a win than any kind of award. ... He's a team guy."
Pirate quarterback Holton Ahlers, who last week was not named to the AAC honor roll despite a school-record 535 passing yards, made the honor roll Monday thanks to a school-record six touchdown passes in addition to 498 yards versus the Mustangs. He completed 32-of-42 passes.
Snead's 19 catches were the most by a Pirate since Zay Jones' 22 at South Carolina in 2016.
East Carolina and Tulsa have been similar this season in showing promise at times while trying to achieve a breakthrough victory in the AAC.
Tulsa captured that moment last Friday night, beating UCF 34-31 for the biggest upset in a league game this season.
"Central Florida is a great team, and I think we have a really special group here," Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery said. "Our record doesn't show it, but it's a group that has continued to get better every week."
In addition to a triple-overtime loss for the Golden Hurricane (3-7, 1-5 American) at ranked SMU, three other Tulsa games have been decided by three points or less.
For all the success UCF has enjoyed in recent years, Tulsa has been a problem for the Knights. This year’s victory gave the Hurricane an 8-3 all-time lead in the series, highlighted by a 5-0 home record.