SMU Rallies to Beat Lumberjacks in Season Opener
Sept. 5, 2009
NACOGDOCHES, Texas - Despite six Stephen F. Austin turnovers, the SMU Mustangs had to rally to defeat the Lumberjacks, 31-23, Saturday night at Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas, Texas. SFA starts the season 0-1, while SMU begins 1-0. SFA has now dropped four of its last five season openers.
"I'm really proud of our guys tonight," said SFA head coach J.C. Harper. "I felt that our guys really came out prepared to play, but you can't turn the ball over. We gave SMU too many opportunities. I take my hat off to SMU, they have good coaches and players, and they did a real good job tonight."
The start of the game was a quarter of big plays for both sides. Following a Jeremy Moses interception, senior Cory Barlow returned the favor by picking off a Bo Levi Mitchell pass and returning it 75 yards to the SMU five-yard line to set up the `Jacks first score of the season. Two plays later Moses found freshman Gralyn Crawford in the middle of the end zone for the score.
After consecutive failed drives by each team, SMU tied the game when Emmanuel Sanders returned a Drew Nelson punt 79 yards for the score. Despite being intercepted three times in the first quarter, the punt return was the only SMU score in the opening 15 minutes.
SFA battled right back to reclaim a three-point advantage when Moses guided SFA on a 12-play, 61-yard drive that ended in a 47-yard field goal by Derby, Kansas, freshman Evan Engwall. The scoring drive began at the SFA two-yard line.
The Mustangs took their first lead of the game when Darius Johnson caught an 18-yard pass from Mitchell with 2:45 remaining in the half. SMU took the four-point lead into the half, 14-10.
The Lumberjacks reclaimed the lead in the second half by scoring six unanswered points off the leg of Engwall. One of two freshman kickers on the team, Engwall drilled kicks of 38 and 48 yards to give SFA a 16-14 lead. Following a Chad Haynes interception which was returned to the SMU five, Moses found senior Aaron Rhea in the corner of the end zone for the score.
SMU finally got on the scoreboard when kicker Matt Syzmanski nailed a 53-yard field goal with 14:01 remaining in the game. The field goal spark life back into the Mustang squad, forcing a turnover SMU moved the ball down the field and Mitchell capped the drive with a one-yard TD run putting the home team back in front by one, 24-23. The Mustangs closed out the game by tacking on one final score.
Moses finished the game 31-of-52 for 391 yards and two touchdowns, but also had five interceptions. Rhea was SFA's top target hauling in eight passes for 167 yards and a TD. Rhea finished the game just 10 yards shy of a career-high. SFA racked up 460 yards, while holding the Mustangs to 355. Haynes led the SFA defensive effort recording seven tackles and picking off his first pass since the 2007 season. Barlow added six stops, and an interception.
The Lumberjacks will host Texas College Saturday, Sept. 12, in Homer Bryce Stadium. The game is slated to begin at 6 p.m.