At SMU, upset of TCU takes back seat to hurricane perspective

National notebook

September 16, 2005|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

There was more to SMU's 21-10 victory over then-No. 22 TCU last week than it being the first win over a ranked team for the Mustangs in 19 years, and the biggest since Phil Bennett arrived on the SMU campus after the 2001 season.

"I'm one of the few that will say it: They've stuck their nose up at us for a long time," said Bennett, a former TCU assistant. "About six years they didn't want to be associated with us. This was a pride factor, not just for the football team, but this whole university."

SMU's season is no longer just about winning games, something the Mustangs did only six times under Bennett in his first three years. It has also to do with gaining perspective as a result of what happened in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

"I told them after the [TCU] game, I said as happy as we are, I want you to be very thankful for what we're able to do," Bennett said.

For more than two weeks after the hurricane, SMU shared its facilities with the displaced Tulane team. The teams stayed in the same hotel the night before SMU's season opener against Baylor, and Tulane coach Chris Scelfo addressed the Mustangs a day after the win over TCU.

Here's the interesting part of this story: A week from tomorrow, the two Conference USA schools will play each other in Dallas. Will playing the Green Wave next week be a little strange considering how well the teams know each other now?

"It might be, but this is not normal circumstances," said Bennett, whose Mustangs play tomorrow at Texas A&M. "We all know we want to do anything we can. If you've ever been in need of help, like they are right now, you'd have a better understanding. And I have."

As an assistant under Bill Snyder at Kansas State, Bennett got a telephone call one day shortly before the 1999 season. His wife had been struck by lightning while jogging. She died 17 days later, leaving Bennett a widower with two kids, ages 8 and 10 at the time.

With the help of friends in the coaching fraternity, Bennett recovered from his personal tragedy and wound up at SMU with his first college head coaching job. At SMU, Bennett has drawn upon the experience he had in helping Snyder build the Wildcats from laughingstocks to national contenders.

This job will be tougher, since the Mustangs have never really recovered from the two years (1987-88) they were shut down by the NCAA. Bennett believes that SMU's former conference affiliation (in the Western Athletic Conference) was a bigger obstacle than the death penalty.

"It's been tough, and I'm not going to lie - we're definitely not out of the woods yet," Bennett said.

Returning to the field

One week after LSU won its delayed season opener on the road at Arizona State, Tulane will finally get started. The Green Wave's season opener at Southern Mississippi was postponed until later in the season, and will play tomorrow against Mississippi State.

The game, originally scheduled for the now ravaged Superdome in New Orleans, will be played at the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La.

Scelfo thinks his team could get even more support than the New Orleans Saints.

"Us and the Saints are two different entities of the city," said Scelfo. "They're the white collar of New Orleans. They're the million-dollar babies. Anything they do will give the city hope. But I think people that are affected can relate to us better than them because we're reality.

"Our kids don't have the resources that the Saints have, our coaches don't have the resources that the Saints have. I think we're more normal. Our team really does want to represent not only Tulane, but the city and the region."

Hot reads

Quote of the week: "They're just dumb things. You almost want to say, `You know, in the scheme of life, there are things going on around the world. It's just a game.'" Ohio State tight end Ryan Hamby on the hate mail he received after dropping a possible touchdown pass in Saturday's 25-22 loss to Texas.

Number of the week: 113. The ranking nationally in passing and passing efficiency for Oklahoma, which didn't attempt a pass in the second half of last week's win over Tulsa. Despite that, Sooners coach Bob Stoops plans on sticking with redshirt freshman Brett Rhomar against UCLA this week.

Game of the week: Though the matchup of SEC powers Tennessee and Florida could have national championship implications, the more intriguing game is ACC newcomer Boston College hosting Florida State tomorrow in what could be the game for the league's Atlantic Division.

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