By Melissa Triebwasser
Frogs Today staff writer
The 101st edition of the Battle for the Iron Skillet will soon be upon us, and in order to get an accurate dispatch from the other side of the Metroplex, we reached out to the exceptional Joseph Hoyt of the Dallas Morning News to go behind the curtain of SMU football.
Hoyt has been in the middle of some of the biggest stories surrounding the Mustangs, and his reports on Rashee Rice and Sonny Dykes’ exit for purpler pastures have been key in fanning the flames of this century-old rivalry.
Check out some of the highlights of our conversation and be sure to watch the interview in its entirety below, via the Frogs Today YouTube channel.
On the early returns of Rhett Lashlee in his first head coaching gig: “One thing that Rhett Lashlee has kind of said through the first few weeks was, ‘Hey, everything’s new’. So we’re learning about this team. We’re learning about him. We’re learning about how he is as a head coach. And he’s learning that, too. This is kind of what we would expect from a Rhett Lashlee offense. They’re taking a ton of deep shots. Tanner Mordecai is throwing it all over the yard. If you look at the game against Maryland — and they had some pretty good corners — but Rashee Rice was sometimes covered by two guys but it didn’t matter. He had 20 targets that game. So my my big question for the offense this week is, ‘Is SMU a one-trick pony?’ No pun intended. But maybe that one trick is really, really good. And it would be throw it to Rashee Rice.”
On the East Coast trip hangover facing the Mustangs: “I think SMU played really well for about three quarters. And then I think, just down the stretch, they had no other option but to throw. When they were leading 27-20, they kind of had a chance to say, ‘Alright, let’s kind of salt this one away. Let’s run it down.’ And that they couldn’t do that. They had a couple turnovers. I think that there’s definitely lessons to be learned from that game. I think the way they handled the run game at the end was a little bit concerning. And I think that they got worn down a little bit. And I think that’s concerning, specifically this week, because they just went to Maryland, had a late night, got back at 5 a.m., and then now they have to come home and play a very emotional game against a team that’s coming off a bye. I think that the fourth quarter might be the pivotal thing come Saturday.”
On Rashee Rice and the challenge he poses to the new-look TCU defense: “Joe Gillespie’s defense is really good at taking away your big deep threat and doing the whole bend-but-not-break kind of thing. Going back to Tulsa, I know Sonny Dykes said that he they gave him a lot of fits last year. And so I think that’s going to be a fascinating question: How do they handle Rashee Rice? Because I think Rice has earned the right to be doubled all the time, barring someone else really, really stepping up. And I think that if maybe Moochie Dixon or Jake Bailey have success early on, that might be not be something that TCU can do. But I’m very curious to see how they handle Rashee Rice. I think TCU does have some talented corners. So I wouldn’t be shocked to see them try to stick to their defense in its natural state, and kind of say, ‘Hey, let’s go one on one and see what happens.’ Maybe have a safety kind of looking over a little bit more attention than normal to that receiver spot. But that’s a fascinating question heading into this weekend. And maybe if Rice has a lot of success early on, how does TCU react to that?”
On the infamous flag-planting celebration after last year’s SMU victory: “I’ve been, obviously, looking back a lot this week at video and stuff like that. I was just filming the celebration, and someone goes like, ‘Oh, here we go.’ And I’m in the press box and they nudge me and say, ‘Look to your left,’ and I move the camera and you just see the flag was just moving so methodically. And it was just funny. And then I’m like, ‘Oh my god, is that Rashee?’ You literally hear me in my video say it. And there was a little scuffle, but it moved on. I couldn’t believe it. But the fact that Rashee said what he said before the game, but then having the presence of mind to say, ‘I’m going to be the one now to go grab the flag and try and plant it.’ It was mind blowing to me. It was crazy.”
On SMU fans and their feelings about Sonny Dykes: “I think SMU fans were just generally very hurt, to be honest. And I think that there was a lot of emotion, and frankly pain, because they looked at Sonny Dykes as the guy that had brought SMU back and was going to bring SMU back, was going to take them eventually into a Power Five conference and build something here. Maybe 20 years down the road, he’d have his statue outside like Gary Patterson at TCU. I mean, talking to SMU fans, they’re like, ‘If it would have been Texas Tech, we would have wished him well, we would have understood.’ But in their minds, to go to their rival, for SMU fans, it was like, ‘You went to our rival, the bitter, hated across the town rival.’ And it was an unprecedented move in the modern era. I think that there was just frankly a lot of pain because in Sonny Dykes, they saw the guy that was going to bring them to where they wanted to be. And now he’s doing it down the street.”
On how the game will play out and the final score: “I think it’s a fascinating game. I think that, if you look back at last year, how did SMU beat TCU? They ran all over the field and they dominated the line of scrimmage. I’m not positive they’ll be able to do that on Saturday. The other thing is I don’t feel like we know much about TCU yet. Colorado is not very good. Tarleton State is not going to give you answers for a new regime. So I think that this is a big game to learn about TCU. And so with unknowns comes questions, but I think we’ll find out a lot about who TCU is this week. As for score prediction, I picked SMU. I think they’d have to get a couple big plays. Maybe they do it schematically. I don’t know if a trick play’s coming. But I think that they’d have to get out early if they want to win. And if they do, it’s going to be close. So score prediction, I’ll go 31-28 SMU.”
Watch the interview in its entirety below for a full breakdown of the SMU offense and defense and what Rashee Rice has done to become one of the best wide receivers in the country through the first month of the season.