SMU, Sutton Surge Late For Comeback Win

With the 15th-ranked UCF Knights on the horizon, SMU’s matchup with a 2-6 Tulsa team was a classic “trap game”. Through two and a half quarters of play, it appeared SMU had fallen into that trap, but a late offensive surge led the Mustangs to a 38-34 victory, making the Mustangs bowl eligible for the first time since 2012.

“Coach [Chad Morris] has us focused on winning the week, winning the day and winning each play in practice and games,” SMU receiver Cortland Sutton said when asked about the mentality it takes to avoid trap games. That mentality was on display as Sutton was a major contributor in the comeback, especially in the 2nd half.

Sutton finished with six receptions for a team-high 136 yards – but contributed three receptions for 99 yards in the 2nd half, two of which were on scoring drives and for 40+ yards.

Sutton credits both head coach Chad Morris and receivers coach Justin Stepp for his ability to have the energy and conditioning to excel in late-game situations. “Our coaches do such a good job taking care of us, and making sure we take care of ourselves,” Sutton said. He credits the constant monitoring of player health and fitness combined with a schedule that allows players to have time off their feet to why SMU has consistently finished strong this season – unlike in years past.

The win not only gives Sutton his first bowl experience in his collegiate career, it showed the improvements he has made in his game throughout this season. Sutton’s breaks out of his routes and speed at the top of his routes have been a focus – both were on display for his long, 2nd-half receptions. On Sutton’s 42-yard reception to open the 4th quarter, Sutton broke free from his defender exploding out of his break on a post to the open spot and haul in a pass from Ben Hicks before taking a big shot from the safety. The explosion is something that has not always been there, but has been shown multiple times since the Bye Week for SMU.

On Sutton’s 42-yard reception late in the 4th quarter, he showed the speed at the top of his route. The play was a flea flicker that was well executed by SMU. Hick threw the pass deep for Sutton, who had to accelerate at the top of the route to make a reaching grab down the field and set up SMU for a field goal. That speed is something Sutton is not known for, but has been working on and showing throughout this season,

These improvements plus the emergence of Trey Quinn as a top receiver will be crucial this week as Sutton and the Mustangs face 15th-ranked UCF this week in a matchup with the team atop the American Athletic Conference’s East Division. The high-powered offense of SMU will be taking on the 33rd-ranked defense in the nation.