The stats that mattered in SMU's 28-6 dominance of Pittsburgh in yesterday's BBVA Compass Bowl, from sacks of Tino Sunseri, to an early SMU burst, to second-and-long.
159: Yards gained by SMU on their first four drives. The Mustangs averaged 8.0 yards per play and sprinted to an early 21-0 lead. Granted, they only gained 141 yards (3.8 per play) the rest of the way, but that didn't really matter. Thanks to their defense, SMU technically could have stopped after their first touchdown and still produced enough to win.
In these four drives, SMU quarterback J.J. McDermott completed seven of 10 passes for 119 yards and a touchdown, then hit cruise control. He still completed nine of final 15 passes for 120 yards, but the offense's role simply became to get out of the defense's way.
10.7: Value, in equivalent points, of Pittsburgh's two turnovers. Turnovers were an enormous hindrance to SMU's success in 2011; the Mustangs were minus-17 in turnover margin for the season (or as SMU coach June Jones put it in the post-game interview, SMU was minus-17 in "giveaway-takeaway," which I enjoy quite a bit more than "turnover margin"), but they were plus-one yesterday. Their third touchdown was set up by a strip of Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri inside Pittsburgh's 30, and with the Panthers attempting to cut into the SMU lead late in the first half, a Sunseri pass to Isaac Bennett was bobbled and picked off at the goal line by Stephon Sanders. Eleven points' worth of turnovers only makes so much of a difference in a 22-point win, but they assured that SMU had too big a cushion for Pitt to even think about denting.
8.1: Average yards to go on Pittsburgh's second downs. The Panthers' first-down success rate was a dreadful 20.8 percent, with running backs Isaac Bennett and Corey Davis (Zach Brown was listed as a starter in the box score but got no touches) combining to gain just 43 yards on 14 carries overall and Sunseri completing just six of 12 first-down passes for 39 yards. For a team that needed to avoid obvious passing downs because of its horrific ability to avoid sacks, this was a killer. Hey, speaking of which ...
6: Sacks of Tino Sunseri. Pitt attempted 11 passes on third-and-5 or more. Sunseri was sacked on five of them. Brutal. Pittsburgh's dreadful sack rates were a constant in The Numerical this year; the Panthers' solid run-blocking numbers suggested that the line was decent and Sunseri was to blame for a lot of the sack issues. But when you are the only team in the country to allow over 60 sacks for the season (63), and nobody else has even allowed 50 (Miami-Ohio is second at 47), there is plenty of blame to go around. Pitt really wanted to be a pass-first offense in 2011, but no matter what they tried to do first yesterday, the result was a passing down. And the result of seemingly half of Pitt's passing downs was a sack. You don't win bowl games, or many other games for that matter, when that is the case. Incoming coach Paul Chryst has some talent to work with here, but it goes without saying that he certainly has some work to do.
2: SMU bowl wins in the last three years. Also: SMU bowl wins from 1969-2008. The BBVA Compass Bowl is not exactly the most high-prestige bowl in the world, but for an SMU program so recently moribund, the Compass win was another reminder of the amazing rebuilding job June Jones has worked in a small amount of time. When he took over after the 2007 season, the Mustangs had averaged just three wins per season over the previous six years. They had won either zero or one games six times since coming off of the death penalty in 1989. (They would do so again in Jones' first season.) With upgrades in every aspect of the program -- facilities, recruiting, coaching, etc. -- they have stormed back to, at the very least, respectability, and after next season, they will once again (technically) be a BCS conference team with their move to the Big East. There was almost certainly some bad blood and awkwardness involved with Jones' near-departure to Arizona State, but yesterday encapsulated why SMU fans should be only so put off by that.