Tap the Boulevard is an SMU Football Blog, A Beer Blog, A Baseball Blog, A Music Blog, basically a blog about everything that makes life worth living. So sit back, relax, crack a cold one and enjoy our incoherent ramblings and gratuitous movie quotes.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Short TCU recap and Tulane Preview

I am not going to write much of a recap of the TCU game because, well what is there to say about a 48-7 ass kicking where Bo Levi had, amongst other unfortunate plays, a 2 yard forward shovel pass intercepted by a TCU lineman. That play pretty much summed up the offensive futility of the game.

TCU's defense was the fastest that Bo Levi (who actually wasn't completely terrible: 20-36 218 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT) and the offensive linemen had seen to this point in the season and the experience of last saturday shows that there is still much work to do. The line, which performed well against Rice, Texas State, and decently against Texas Tech, was simply overmatched against TCU. Let's hope the offensive units gained valuable experience in this game, because there were otherwise not many positives to take away from the field.

The defense could not get pressure on the QB and Andy Dalton, consequently, had a great game (16-25, 210 yards 0 TD, 0 INT). TCU tailbacks Aaron Brown--who very conveniently had his 4 game suspension reduced to 3 by coach Gary Patterson the week before the game--Jospeh Turner, and Marcus Jackson ran through the huge gaps made by TCU's offensive line as if our defense was not even there. At one point I found myself hoping that the defense would call "All Out!" and stack the box against Dalton just to create some entertainment, but then I remembered how much that play was lampooned on Sportscenter last year.

In short, the TCU game is a game that's probably best forgotten about until the Mustangs have more success.

Moving right along. The Mustangs play Tulane in New Orleans tonight on the CBS College Sports channel. I'll be following the game online (because I'm too cheap for digital cable) once I get home from flag football. This is a very winnable game as Tulane's offense is now anemic with the loss of Mike Forté (he of the 342 yard performance against the Ponies in Dallas last season). The linebackers will have to step up to support the defensive line against the run because Tulane QB Kevin Moore (730 yards passing, 2 TD, 3 INT on the season) does not look to be passing as much. Of course Tulane did not pass much last year and they still ran over the defense, so we shall see how much of an advantage that plays out to be.

That's all for now. I'll have something about the ending of the Astros season in a day or so once they are mathematically eliminated from the Wild Card race (3.5 games back as of today). Until then, Go Mustangs and let's please God get another W.

Friday, September 19, 2008

TCU Preview

It is Family Weekend here on the Hilltop and the Ponies welcome the deformed, blood shooting lizards of TCU to Ford Stadium for the latest installment in the Battle for the Iron Skillet. SMU memorably won the Iron Skillet in 2005 by defeating TCU 21-10 at Ford Stadium just one week after TCU had garnered national headlines for upsetting Oklahoma.

The Ponies and Frogs did not meet in 2006, so SMU got to hold onto the Skillet for one extra year only to see it relinquished in a frustrating struggle in Fort Worth last season. Anyone who went to the game--which I did--remembers clearly the frustration coming from the hideously bad officiating and equally horrendous clock management by Coach Bennett and company. The game was winnable and remained close late due to several red zone stops and forced turnovers by the defense.

The defense this year has been as disappointingly painful to watch as last year's was. TCU, however, may be without the service of leading running back Aaron Brown who was suspended by Gary Pitstains, er, Patterson for the first four games of this season for violation of team rules. Coupled with the fact that Andy Dalton has not exactly been lighting the world on fire with his passing ability, the defense could catch a break finally this week and get its act together.

TCU's Offensive line is not made up of the same behemoths that Texas Tech's is (one of the starting guards on Tech was 6-7, 305 lbs....were he painted green I would've expected him to be selling canned vegetables), but they are also quicker laterally. The pass rush, which has been spearheaded mostly by Youri Yenga, will have to adjust accordingly. The linebackers will have to step up this week and provide support against the run, which TCU is sure to ram down the D's throat all game.

Bo Levi Mitchell, as Ramon Flanigan suggested this week in his column for ponyfans.com, will have to forget about his horrendous perfomance against Tech, trust his talent, and focus on TCU. Mitchell's ability to do just that takes on added importance because TCU's defense will be the best Mitchell and the young offense have faced thus far this year. In their first 3 games this season, TCU has allowed 3, 7, and 14 points. Now these are hardly BCS teams that TCU has faced so far (New Mexico, Stephen F. Austin, and Stanford), but these games show that the TCU defense has skill. Bo Levi will have to maintain his patience and not make the same terrible decisions that killed him at Rice and Texas Tech.

The battle to watch will be up front. Center Mitch Enright, who missed last week's game against Tech due to a hand injury may be out again this week. If so, freshman Blake McJunkin will be snapping the ball to Bo Levi. McJunkin acquitted himself quite well in his first NCAA game, but the front 4 of TCU will be the fastest, most talented defensive line he has faced yet. DeMyron Martin will need to continue his excellent blocking work, but also needs to be more aggressive in his runs. DeMyron: you're 6-2 and 230 lbs., stop tiptoeing around tackles and run people over.

This game could truly go either way. If the defense is able to get key stops, force a few turnovers and otherwise get Bo Levi and the offense back on the field, then the Mustangs could pull off the victory. But if the defense falters again and Bo Levi isn't able to get into a rhythm, then it will be a long night of staring at ugly purple people.

Ty and I will be on the Boulevard once again, drinking the High Life and sitting in the shade at our shared tailgating spot by Cockrell. Come by and have a beer with us.

Go Mustangs, fry the froggies!

Astros Baseball, feel the Excitement...

Sweet Christ it happened again: http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/recap?gameId=280918128.

Since Hurricane Ike, the Astros are now 0-5, have not scored more than 2 runs in a game (and they only did that once) and have been no-hit.

Please God make it stop.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Baseball: Hurricane Ike screws over the Astros

As most of you know by now, Hurricane Ike slammed into the Texas coastline near Houston last Friday night/Saturday morning (Houston residents Mother and Brother Fletch are ok). The night before, Roy Oswalt had continued his scoreless innings streak and the Stros smacked Pittsburgh 6-0. Then Ike hit Houston like he thought it was Tina.

The Astros cancelled Friday and Saturday night games against the Cubs and then moved up to Milwauke--where the crowd was decidedly partisan for the 'Away' team. (Milwaukee is only an hour and a half away from Chicago dontcha know: http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&tab=wl)--to get the series completed at a 'neutral' site. The result of this quick two game series? The Astros were no hit by internet porn addict Carlos Zambrano in the first game and nearly no-hit by Ted Lilly in the second game (both losses).

The Astros are now in Miami for a three game series with the Marlins. How have the first two games gone you ask? Losses of 5-1 and 14-2.

I think it is quite clear that the Astros--winners of 14 of their last 15 prior to Ike, 0-4 since--tightened up over the two day break. Baseball players hardly ever get two days off in the midst of the season. This unscheduled short vacation caused late season muscles to tighten up and hitters' timing to go AWOL.

Our offense has been good, if inconsistent, over the course of the season and our pitching has never been great. Even Roy Oswalt started slowly before he reeled off 33 1/3 scoreless innings just before the two day Ike instituted vacation (breaking J.R. Richard's record from 1980). So the very last thing the Astros needed was a couple of days to realize that they were playing above their abilities, that they were overachieving.

In short I blame you Ike! Je accuse!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Tech Recap: It could have been much worse

For those of you who do not think that that game could have easily been a much bigger blowout, I submit to you the fact that despite handing Tech the ball twice in a row in the first quarter, Harrell and company were only able to muster a field goal. The Ponies' defense held back the tide as long as they could, but in the end Mike Leach's offense and the Mustangs' continued inability to complete tackles led to the game becoming a rout.

Some positives to ponder over this week as the Mustangs prepare to play TCU: Derrius Bell looked good covering the Raiders uber receiver Michael Crabtree for awhile. Bell is not on the same talent level as McCann, but he has learned to reduce the cushion he gives receivers and has improved his timing on hits. The other item of note on defense was how often the lineman--led as usual by Youri Yenga--got to Graham Harrell. Even Patrick Fleming, who doesn't play often, managed to slip past one of Tech's ginormous (and slow) O linemen...that is before he inadvertantly but brutally facemasked Harrell. That bodes well for the TCU game.

On offense there were actually positive aspects too. Yes, there were. You just have to look real hard. As far as Bo Levi goes, it bears repeating that he is a true freshman who was only playing his 3rd collegiate game. He will grow and he will learn. I like to think that, in two years when Bo Levi is featured in some nationally televised game where SMU is winning by 5 touchdowns, that the camera will pan in on him and the announcer will talk about how far Bo Levi has come since he threw 5 interceptions in one game two years prior. One can hope.

The Offense line has continued to excel. It's time to heap praise on Dennis McKnight. He has done an outstanding job of molding a young, inexperienced unit into a cohesive, effective protection front. In case you had not noticed, true freshman Blake McJunkin started in place of junior Mitch Enright (for reasons I still have not heard) and performed admirably, with the exception of two poor snaps that caused Bo Levi to fumble with the ball rather than look downfield for his receivers. Tennyson and Beachum have continued to improve and Vincent Chase has transitioned well from tight end to right tackle. The quarterbacks and receivers will eventually get on the same page, but it will help them get there much faster with a solid line protecting Bo Levi and giving him time to make reads. The future is bright for the Ponies' front 5.

The Mustangs face TCU this Saturday at Ford Stadium. Ty and I will be out on the Boulevard in our usual spot in front of Cockrell-McIntosh (or Cocomo to those in the know) tailgating and drinking the Champagne of Beers. If anyone outside our immediate circle of friends reads this blog, feel free to stop by our tent. It's the huge white one that looks like it could double as a carport.

And no, I do not want to talk about the Astros being forced to postpone Friday and Saturday's games against the Cubs only to go to Milwaukee (a neutral site? fuck that, it might as well have been played in Wrigley. A truly neutral site would've been Seattle) and be no-hit by Carlos "I swear I got tendinitis in my elbow from emailing my brother and not looking at internet porn" Zambrano.

Until Saturday, Go Mustangs, Go Astros, and fuck the Cubs (and Horned Frogs).

Monday, September 8, 2008

Texas State Recap and Other Notes

See? All we had to do is be patient and June Jones would reward us with a win. Granted the win was over FCS team Texas State and the Mustang defense still allowed 36 points and 465 yards of offense, but a win is a win and I'll take it.

Bo Levi Mitchell passed for 370 yards, had no interceptions and 5 (yes five) TD passes. Emanuel Sanders and Aldrick Robinson both had over 100 yards receiving and 3 and 2 TD catches respectively. As Sanders said after the game "It's going to be scary when we get better". So as in sync as the offense looked on Saturday, there is still room for improvement. Bo is still overthrowing a little and his timing with some receivers (like Wilkerson) is a bit off, but that will come with time. Sanders and Robinson also made him look good on some catches that were thrown down by the hip or short, but I also noticed that Bo Levi was throwing it away from the defenders: either a Mustang was going to catch it or no one was for the most part. This is markedly different from the second half against Rice when Bo floated too many passes and allowed himself to get careless in his decision making. Let's hope he shows further improvement next week becuase Texas Tech's backs are on a different level than those of Texas State.

Another interesting development, was the use of Justin Willis as an option-running QB on a couple short yardage situations in the first half. Are the Mustangs going to do the vogue thing and start instituting a direct snap formation too? Time will tell. I certainly support the idea as Justin was always a better runner than passer.

All in all, a good performance by the Mustangs. The defense still has a long way to go, but we in Pony Nation should keep in mind that this defense was never meant to shut down the other team's offense. Tom Mason's defense is designed to make aggressive plays and either force turnovers or allow big plays. While turnovers are of course preferred, the general concept is that any play that gets the offense back on the field that much faster is acceptable. This is a different style of defense than what we as fans were used to under Phil Bennett, where the idea was to stop the other team in its tracks (with varying degrees of success as Bennett's 18-52 record demonstrates). This type of defense takes an adjustment of expectations by us the fans. Big plays will happen, but we have to have faith in our offense, and so by extension June Jones, to keep us in the game.

In other news, the Astros took 2 of 3 from the Rockies over the weekend and are only 6 back in the Wild Card race. Hunter Pence continued his torrid pace, hitting his 21st home run on Saturday and Roy Oswalt threw a one hitter the same night. The bad news: Brandon Backe and Wandy Rodriguez both injured themselves. Better to have this happen after September callups when the roster is at 40 players I suppose, but it is still a rough break.

I also tried with Ty a beer I'd never had before call Steam Engine Amber. It proudly boasts on the can that it is the best American Style Amber Lager in the world. It had notes of fruit and an excellent nose to it. Very solid beer, but more research is necessary.

We'll have more entries this week as we face the spectre that is Texas Tech this weekend. Until then, go Mustangs and go Astros (and the Rangers too I guess).

Friday, September 5, 2008

Home Kickoff Tomorrow and Baseball notes

The Mustangs kick off their home opener Saturday night at Ford Stadium at 7 pm against Texas State (no Ty, not the Armadillos ). This game, against a Division 1-AA--or FCS or whatever it's called--opponent should help Bo Levi and company get on the same page with the offense while the defense will hopefully get it's footing against the Bobcats. The Tech game, afterall, is looming next weekend and so a confidence/experience boosting game against a lesser team this weekend takes on added importance. As previously mentioned, Ty and I will be on the Boulevard experimenting with powering a TV using a deep cycle marine battery (should be interesting...).

In the meantime, the Astros wrapped up a three game sweep of the Cubs at Wrigley on Wednesday. In three games the Stros outscored the Cubs 16-7 (all seven of those runs game in the second game of the series) and the first and third games were punctuated with great pitching performances from Roy 'Where has this been all season' Oswalt and Randy 'So that's why we traded for him' Wolf. The Astros now have an 8 game winning streak and, dare I say it, are starting to move into the NL Wild Card picture. The odds of winding up in the playoffs are of course pretty low, but considering that with 74 wins, the Stros have already topped their win total from last year, this must be considered a successful season for Cecil Cooper and company. What does this mean for next season when everyone on an already not young team will be a year older? Eh, we'll see...

I'll be recapping the Texas State game on Sunday or Monday again. Until then, see you on the Boulevard.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Rice Recap: It wasn't really that bad guys...

Ok, so naturally we were hoping for a better debut than a 56-27 defeat doled out by Rice. The score and the loss notwithstanding, there are some positives to take away from last Friday's game. One thing is certain, the new uniforms are kick ass.

First of all the, offensive line held up well in its first game. No one is going to confuse Rice's defensive line with a bunch of Reggie White clones, but given that Chase was playing a new position, Tennyson, Boyd, and Beachum were all in their first collegiate games, the line performed as well as could be expected of it. Dennis McKnight has done well at folding two returning starters (Enright and Lobo) in with a converted TE (Chase), a returning reserve (Poynter) and a mixture of red shirt and true freshmen (Beachum, Tennyson, Boyd). The real test is still two weeks away when the Ponies play Texas Tech, but the early results are good. I also thought DeMyron and McKinney blocked well and seemed to fit their new roles nicely. DeMyron was always a tailback to be used on occasion--his performance against TCU in 2005 aside. I think he'll flourish in this offense, particularly as the QB (be it Bo Levi, Turner, or whoever) gets more comfortable in the offense as well.

Bo Levi Mitchell...He's a freshman who was making his first start ever at the collegiate level. What did we expect? The picks were bad decisions made based on fatigue. Not much to add to that except that he will get better. Logan Turner looked great in his brief time in at QB. His arm slot when throwing is remeniscent of Vince Young during his UT days. I sincerely doubt Turner has anything like Young's mobility though. Prove me wrong Logan!

The defense was....well it was a familiar sight unfortunately. McCann shut down Jarret Dillard in the first half for the most part, only to have the Rice coaches move Dillard to the other side where he was just too much for Derrius Bell. McCann, who played well all game, until the fourth quarter when, after having his great play pointed out by the ESPN crew, he was immediately owned by Dillard on a slant through the end zone...thanks ESPN guys (who the hell were those guys by the way?) The pass rush still needs some work. Elizee was double teamed by the Rice O line all night and so couldn't get to Clement (other than the one side swipe in which Clement appeared to hurt his hand). Dizer, Sowe and Handy were all fighting the humidty induced cramping. Dizer already had hammy issues coming into the game and his mobility wasn't helped by the amount of moisture and heat in the air. Rock Dennis is going to be good. You heard it here first. He needs to get a little more discipline though (the hit out of bounds was a major mental error which gave Rice even more momentum). It was also good to see Banjo get some playing time.

Sanders looked great and Robinson has great promise (Aldrick if it hits both of your hands that you mean you should have caught it). If there was any doubt that they will put up huge Crabtreean numbers in this system, then Friday night put away those doubts. It's going to be fun and frustrating to see this offense continue to develop.

The Mustangs welcome Texas State to Ford Stadium this Saturday. Ty and I will be on the Boulevard tailgating. I'm looking forward to seeing those new home uniforms. In the meantime, everyone stay patient with this team and with JJ.