The most dedicated and often the most beaten down SMU fans can be found browsing and posting on PonyFans.com, the board for SMU football discussion. Attendance woes, the whereabouts of Chad Morris’ real estate agent and a very divisive QB are some of the favorite topics on the site, with the occasional game thread sprinkled somewhere in between. Browse long enough and you will see the term Peruna’s Law come up. It’s a simple concept: anything that can go wrong for SMU, will go wrong for SMU.
Peruna’s Law predates my time on the Hilltop, and is even more ingrained into the poor old souls who actually lived through the dark ages following the death penalty. Its origins are apparent; SMU’s track record speaks for itself. The highs have been underwhelming and brief, while the lows have been all too frequent and way too deep. That’s why the last two games for SMU, both must-wins, have been so special.
Last Friday night SMU defeated Tulsa 38-34 in front of what felt like dozens of loyal fans. It was a cold game that struggled to outdraw local high school football games, but what a night it was for the SMU faithful. I froze my ass off and spent an absurd amount of cash on subpar stadium hot chocolate, but it was all worth it now that SMU is bowl eligible for the first time since 2012.
SMU was down 21-7 early in the first half and had to play from behind all the way up until the fourth quarter when they claimed the lead for good at 35-34. SMU’s porous defense struggled to tackle all game but came together to pitch a shutout in the last 15 minutes. The team showed the type of resiliency that has been missing from the Hilltop for years and it is really starting to feel like SMU may have turned the corner.
At 6-2 the Ponies are off to their hottest start since 1984. The offense is clicking – Courtland Sutton is the best player to come through SMU in my lifetime, Trey Quinn is my new crush and QB Ben Hicks has let his arm do the talking and it has told all the haters (including myself) where they can shove it.
Now don’t get me wrong, 6-2 (3-1) for SMU is one hell of an accomplishment and is right on pace with our expectations entering this season, but it is also a tad misleading about our prospects going forward. I’ll be the first to admit that there have certainly been some lucky breaks along the way, especially in these last two games.
There was the miraculous 4th-and-26 conversion in overtime against Cincinnati…
— TexasFootball.com (@dctf) October 21, 2017
There was the game sealing interception on the ensuing possession when Cincy QB Hayden Moore briefly forgot how to play football…
…and then of course there was that time last week when we paid off the referees to take a Tulsa TD off the board (Tulsa would go on to kick a FG for a net loss of 4 points, SMU would go on to win by 4).
Sometimes you need to get a little lucky, and quite frankly, these are the types of plays that SMU fans are not accustomed to having go their way.
On top of these fortunate breaks (or gutsy wins, depending on your mood) SMU’s record is a bit inflated due to a forgiving schedule. The Ponies have played the softest non-conference schedule that they have had in recent years, passing up on the old SWC matchups like Texas A&M, Baylor, or Texas Tech. The past few years of playing ball with Texas heavyweights combined with the annual battle for the iron skillet with TCU all but guaranteed a 2-2 record (at best) heading into conference play. Further, the three conference wins have come against UConn, Tulsa, and Cincinnati – all teams with losing records.
All that said, you can only play the teams in front of you, and one way or another the Pony Express is rolling into November in second place in the AAC West.
Looking ahead at the Mustang’s upcoming schedule, bowl eligibility could not have come soon enough. 6-2 could very quickly turn into 6-5 as SMU plays the heavy underdog in the next three games.A homecoming match up vs. UCF and away games at Navy and at Memphis leave a home game against Tulane (that will likely be played in front of a sparse Thanksgiving crowd) as the lone penciled in W remaining on the schedule.
When you consider that 1) UCF is undefeated, 2) last season the only player who didn’t get on the field for Navy was their punter and 3) Memphis has outscored SMU 124-7 in the last two contests, that Tulane match up really looks like the only realistic shot to get to 7-5.
Peruna’s Law tells us exactly how this back-loaded schedule is supposed to go – SMU should limp into that last home game on a three-game skid to fight against Tulane to stay above .500 and then be happy with an underwhelming bowl match up in Hawaii with an interim coach after Chad Morris gets poached by some P5 school/cult.
We know how it is supposed to go, but then again, we know how 4th and 26 is supposed to go. We know how last season’s match up with 11th ranked Houston was supposed to go, and we know that this is the best SMU team that Chad Morris has assembled in his three years on the Hilltop. Let’s not kid ourselves, SMU won’t win any of the next three games with less than 40 points on offense – it will take a herculean effort from SMU’s playmakers to outscore either of the next three teams but the pressure is off. We are already bowl eligible! So let’s draw up some flea flickers, maybe even some fake flea-flickers or whatever other razzle-dazzle-BS Coach Morris is saving for a rainy day and see if maybe, just maybe, SMU can put something really special together.
I mean after all, the Mustangs do control their own path to the AAC title game…
So until what feels like the inevitable actually happens I’ll be leading the homecoming parade, bragging about our 6-2 record to every poor fool unfortunate enough to cross my path, and doing everything I can (short of shoveling coal in the engine room of the Pony Express) to enjoy the ride. Let’s take joy in the simple things; Peruna’s Law be damned, SMU is 6-2 and is going to a bowl game. Saturday should be fun. Pony Up!