SMU offense could be forced to adapt against Rutgers pass rush
Head coach Kyle Flood has said that as long as Rutgers' pass rush forces opposing offenses to get rid of the ball more quickly, then it has had an effect — no matter its sack total.
It may be the case again Saturday, when SMU's run-and-shoot offense compensates with quick passes from the shotgun. Still, the Mustangs rank 120th nationally with 17 sacks allowed in four games.
Three of them, Texas Tech, Texas A&M and TCU, were opponents from automatic-qualifying conferences.
SMU head coach June Jones said Monday a talent gap exists between the American and Conference USA, the team's previous affiliation.
He could resort to several tactics — three-step drops, quick reads, run options — to neutralize Rutgers' pass defense, tied for 24th in the nation with 11 sacks in four games.
|Kyle Flood could use different metrics to evaluate Rutgers' pass rush against a quick-pass team. SMU's protection woes could make his job easier. (AP Photo)|
"It can get frustrating," defensive tackle Darius Hamilton said Monday. "I think it depends on how much you let it get to you. As long as everybody's doing their jobs, it's going to force them to hold onto the ball longer and longer. The more you see it, the more you'll grow accustomed to it. Being able to hold them up any split-second buys us any amount of time."
Flood said Monday that Rutgers will likely mix four-, five- and six-man rushes and disguise them.
"This offense is predicated on triggering the football," he said, "and those triggers can sometimes be because of your coverage structure and sometimes they are because of the pressures that you bring."
With moving parts, it could be difficult to gauge the success of Rutgers' pass rush.
Kenneth Kirksey, a key reserve tackle, is out with a triceps injury. It will likely force Daryl Stephenson into a larger role at both nose tackle and the three-technique, which lines up on the outside shoulder of the guard.
"He's fixed a lot of little things to become the player he is today," Hamilton said of Stephenson. "I think he's made tremendous strides."
Redshirt freshman end Quanzell Lambert, who has played sparingly, could see more time to compensate for Kirksey's absence. David Milewski could also play inside.