Tomorrow at 2:30PM central, SMU will play one of the biggest home games of the June Jones era. New SEC member Texas A&M comes to Ford Stadium with a strong team and a boisterous following that is expect to invade the Mustangs’ home field en masse. 3,500 temporary bleachers have been erected above the south end zone to accommodate fans of both teams and the attendance is expected to set a new Ford Stadium record. SportDFW talked to Head Coach June Jones and starting quarterback Garrett Gilbert after practice Thursday about the game and the unique challenges they face playing a team of A&M’s calibre:
Sep 2, 2012; Waco, TX, USA; Southern Methodist Mustangs head coach June Jones before the game against the Baylor Bears at Floyd Casey Stadium. The Bears defeated the Mustangs 59-24. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE
Coach June Jones
Thoughts about going up against an SEC program:
“When you look at the film, you can tell they’re an SEC-quality team, they’ve got a lot of players in all phases of the game: offense, defense and special teams. They’re scary when you look at them on film. But look, we’re going to play the game, the kids are going to show up and play hard.”
Has your preparation been any different knowing it’s going to be a full stadium?
“No, not really, it’s the same preparation we’ve always had, but at the same time, once kickoff happens, the stadium is definitely going to be a little different. There is going to be a lot of noise, a lot of Texas A&M fans, they’re bringing their band, so you know, it’s going to be a different place.”
Is the team mentally prepared for a pro-A&M crowd in their own stadium?
“We’ve talked about it, but until you get in there, you just don’t know.”
How has the atmosphere changed at Ford Stadium since you’ve been here:
“<laughs> Well, it’s like night and day since I got here and hopefully we can have this kind of crowd more often. With our new Big East alignment, that will create more fans I think, so over the next 3-4 years, things look real positive.”
What unique challenges are there preparing for Texas A&M compared to your first two opponents?
“They have way more speed, size and strength. I mean, they’re front four is like nobody on either team we’ve played. That number 5 ( Sr DE Willie Jefferson) from Stephen F maybe could play for Texas A&M, but they just got, you know, different guys. They’re a very, very athletic football team.”
Sep 8, 2012; College Station, TX, USA; Texas A
Thoughts on A&M freshman QB Johnny Manziel:
“<Last week> he played like a freshman. It was a big game and he did do a lot of good things, and I think he’s just going to get better and better at what Kevin <Sumlin, Texas A&M Head Coach> wants to do. He presents all kinds of problems because of his mobility, but Kevin wants to throw the ball and as each game goes, he’ll get better at throwing the ball and knowing what it is that is expected of him within the system.”
What problems will SMU present to A&M?
“Well, hopefully we can disrupt some of that timing of things on defense. We play a different style than what they saw last week, although physically Florida’s team last week was like an NFL team. We’ll do what we do, we don’t change, and hopefully we can do it at a high level and get some turnovers.”
QB Garrett Gilbert
Have you seen anything on film regarding A&M’s defense that you’ll be able to attack?
Sep 2, 2012; Waco, TX, USA; Southern Methodist Mustangs quarterback Garrett Gilbert (11) sets the play in the red zone against the Baylor Bears during the fourth quarter at Floyd Casey Stadium. The Bears defeated the Mustangs 59-24. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE
“They’re very good defensively. They don’t do anything not well. Their defensive line is able to put pressure on you, which means a lot of times they don’t have to blitz. They can just bring four and drop seven into coverage and that gives them an advantage as a defense. Their safeties and their corners fly around out there and they’re going to make some plays. We’re going to have to be sharp, go out and execute our game plan and do a good job executing what Coach Jones calls.”
Any particular defensive player you’ll be making sure to locate before the snap?
“I’m not sure who led them in sacks last week, but I do know that they are able to bring pressure from all areas. They do a good job of putting their guys into position to make plays. It’s a little bit difficult to see, with only one game of experience under that defensive coordinator, what he wants to do scheme-wise, so we’re going to have to just go out there and communicate with one another <on offense> and be sharp so that we’re able to make adjustments.”
How important do you think it will be to get the running game and Zach Line going earlier this week?
“Well, Zach’s a guy that you always want to get going early in the game, he’s obviously a very good back and he gives us another dimension to our offense. If we can get him involved as early as possible, that only helps our passing game and the rest of our offense and especially our offensive line as it slows down the pass rush a bit.”
Are you prepared for the crowd to be cheering more strongly for your opponent than normal?
“Yeah, we’re prepared. If we have to use silent count and silent communication, we’ll be prepared for that. But you know, I expect our fans to show up and give us a good, maybe if not a true home-field advantage, at least give us some noise on defense and stay kinda quiet when we’re on offense.”
What would it mean to you to win this game?
“Well, it would mean that we’re 2-1. This is our next game on the schedule and obviously A&M is a strong program. They have a strong team this year and we know we have a tough challenge in front of us. We understand that challenge and we’d like to go out there and get the win and be 2-1.”
Gilbert’s perspective and attempt to keep an even keel in his answer to the last question is commendable, but make no mistake about it, a win over Texas A&M at home, in front of a record crowd, would be huge for the SMU football program. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter for live updates during the game and look for our full coverage of the Mustangs versus the Aggies on Sunday.