Kyle Padron eludes a Marshall defender (AP)
SMU quarterback Kyle Padron spent most of Saturday afternoon running from Marshall defenders.
Padron was sacked five times and the Thundering Herd’s defensive pressure forced him to throw an interception late in the fourth quarter that sealed Marshall’s 34-31 victory.
Mitch Enright, SMU’s senior center who was recently selected to ESPN The Magazine’s Academic All-District team, admitted that he and his teammates on the offensive line failed. He said he was sure the Mustangs would have won the game had they done a better job of protecting the freshman from Southlake Carroll. Amid all the pressure, Padron’s fourth collegiate start featured 18 completions in 32 attempts for 225 yards and touchdown passes to Emmanuel Sanders and Aldrick Robinson.
The loss ended SMU’s three-game winning streak and dropped the Mustangs into a first-place tie in the Conference-USA West standings with No. 25 Houston. The Cougars’ 38-15 victory over SMU on October 24th gives them the tie-breaker for the division title. The “All Grit, No Quit” Mustangs host 3-8 Tulane and Houston hosts 2-5 Rice Saturday. At 6-5, SMU is bowl-eligible, but probably needs another victory to ensure its first bowl berth in 25 years. The Mustangs are projected to play Fresno State in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve.
Marshall’s offense was running on all cylinders as Brian Anderson threw a pair of second-half touchdown passes to freshman Aaron Dobson while Martin Ward and Terrell Edwards-Maye combined for 249 yards and two touchdowns.
SMU back Shawnbrey McNeal ran for 71 yards and a touchdown in the first half, but was limited to 11 yards in the second as Marshall outscored the Mustangs 24-21.
Zach Line’s nine-yard touchdown run with 41 seconds remaining narrowed the gap to 34-31, but Marshall recovered the Mustangs’ onside kick and ran out the clock.
SMU linebacker Chase Kennemer recorded 13 tackles to increase his 2009 total to 117. It was his eighth game with 10 or more tackles this season.
The Mustangs, who entered the game tied for seventh in the nation with 16 interceptions and eighth with 26 takeaways, failed to force a turnover for only the second time in 2009.