ORLANDO, Fla. -- SMU quarterback Kyle Padron put some of the blame on himself for the Mustangs’ offensive struggles in Saturday’s 17-7 loss to UCF in the Conference USA championship game.
But he also knew where to place the credit.
“Their front-7 did a very good job,” Padron said. “They played well and were prepared. But I have to play better.”
For the first time all season the Mustangs didn’t have a point in the first half. And the SMU offense, which scored at least 14 points in every game this season, was held to just seven.
UCF pressured Padron, forcing him out of the pocket. The linebackers held the Mustangs’ running game in check, keeping Zach Line below the 100-yard mark, a rarity in 2010. And the secondary bothered SMU, knocking balls down and forcing Padron to try to fit balls into tight areas.
“We knew we were only going to have a few opportunities to make big plays in the passing game and we had three chances early, but couldn’t do it,” SMU coach June Jones said. “I thought Kyle hung in there. We didn’t protect him very well.”
Pardon had a chance early in the game with the Mustangs driving when he threw a deep ball to the left side of the end zone to an open Aldrick Robinson. But the throw sailed over Robinson, and the Mustangs ended up missing a field goal and stalling out.
Padron was 18-for-34 passing for 220 yards and one touchdown. He wasn’t happy with the completion rate, saying he has to be more accurate, and the two interceptions proved costly.
The big momentum changer was in the third quarter. After UCF went on an 85-yard drive to take a 17-0 lead, the Mustangs worked their way into UCF territory. Jones, knowing his team needed to score to get back in the game, went for it on fourth-and-7 at the UCF 39-yard line. Padron made his best throw of the game, firing a laser to Keenan Holman on an out route to the sidelines.
But on the next play, Pardon tried a long out route to Robinson to the other side and threw it to the wrong shoulder, going to the inside shoulder instead of the outside shoulder.
“The defensive back made a nice play and got to the ball,” Robinson said.
Padron wasn’t happy with his execution.
“You can’t throw an out route behind the receiver to opposite hash,” Padron said. “I knew it was going to be behind him. We worked on that all week. You just can’t throw behind him.”
The offense actually outgained UCF by five yards, totaling 317 yards. But SMU didn’t convert the key plays early and then were left scrambling through the air after falling behind by three possessions in the third quarter.
“We kept trying to mix it up,” Jones said. “We dropped some balls and had a holding penalty that killed a drive early in the game. When you’re not doing it efficiently as you need to be, it wasn’t good enough to win.”