DALLAS The SMU Mustangs entered Saturday’s regular season finale against the Tulsa Hurricane needing a win to become bowl eligible for a school record fourth straight season. The Mustangs (6-6, 5-3) took the lead near the end of the first quarter and held on late to win 35-27 over Tulsa (9-3, 7-1). The win qualifies SMU for bowl season for the fourth time in Head Coach June Jones’ fifth season at the helm on the Hilltop.
SMU senior linebacker Ja’Gared Davis got things going for the Mustangs late in the first quarter when he blocked Tulsa punter Cole Way’s kick from the Hurricane 42 yard line. The ball was recovered by SMU’s Derek Longoria at the Tulsa three yard line setting up the first of three Zach Line rushing touchdowns on the day. Davis would impact the game throughout totaling seven tackles, three for a loss, a forced fumble which he recovered, an interception and a 39 yard punt return in addition to the blocked punt. Davis was one of 20 seniors being honored on Senior Day and many of those players contributed to SMU victory.
Line, also a senior, finished the day with 23 carries for 81 yards but the Mustangs where sparked on the ground by quarterback Garrett Gilbert who had 12 carries on the day totaling 111 rushing yards. Gilbert would give SMU a 28-6 halftime lead when he scampered 74 yards for a touchdown with 5:48 left in the second quarter. It was Gilbert’s first 100 yard rushing performance of his career and he became the first SMU quarterback to rush for 100 or more yards in a game since Justin Willis had 114 vs. Memphis in 2007.
SMU extended the lead to 35-6 after Line’s third touchdown run of the day with 4:14 left in the third quarter. Saturday marked the first three touchdown day on the ground for Zach Line since last season versus Tulane. Line now has 46 rushing touchdowns in his career at SMU.
Tulsa scored three consecutive touchdowns making this a one possession game with 5:05 left to play. The Mustangs were able to chew up all but 46 seconds of the game on the ensuing drive that ended in senior punter Mike Loftus’ 48 yard punt that went out-of-bounds at the Tulsa six yard line.
Tulsa quarterback Cody Green would get the Hurricane offense to the SMU 35 yard line with one second left in the game. Green, who finished the day with 36 completions on 64 pass attempts totaling 413 passing yards, took the final snap, rolled to his right and launched his final attempt towards the SMU goal line. The pass would be caught at the SMU one yard line by wide receiver Jordan James, but SMU senior Taylor Reed along with Jay Scott converged on James keeping him out of the end zone and ending the game on that final play.
SMU will now wait to accept a bowl bid from one of six Conference USA bowl partners. The Liberty bowl bid goes to the Conference USA Champion leaving the Hawai’i Bowl, Armed Forces Bowl, Beef O’Brady’s Bowl, Military Bowl, New Orleans Bowl and the Heart of Dallas Bowl as possibilities. An announcement is expected in the coming days.
- Had 3 takeaways (2 fumbles, 1 interceptions); has 33 on the season (entered the game T-4th in the nation with 30 takeaways)
- Had 1 interceptions; has 19 on the season (entered the game T-4th in the nation with 18 interceptions)
- Had 2 fumbles gained; has 14 on the season (entered the game T-11th in the nation with 12 fumbles gained)
- Entered the game co-leading the nation with 6 pick sixes – tied with Fresno State (T-3rd NCAA FBS history)
SMU at Ford Stadium this year (7 games)
- 5-2 this season
- 4-0 in C-USA games
- W 72-42 vs. Houston
- W 44-13 vs. Memphis
- W 34-6 vs. Southern Miss
- W 35-27 vs. Tulsa
- Outscored opponents 256-160; averaged 36.6 points
- 28 takeaways (16 interceptions, 12 fumbles)
- +15 on turnovers (28-13)