27-26 loss ends Tulane’s 0-15 streak
Published: Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 17:11
SMU trailed Tulane 20-6 at halftime Saturday at the Mercedes Benz Superdome in New Orleans, and the Mustangs’ fans were already cringing at the thought of losing to the 0-5 Tulane team. SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert led SMU back to take a 26-20 lead with 1:23 left in the game and Mustangs fans breathed a sigh of relief.
The SMU defense, unfortunately, allowed Tulane fifth-year quarterback Ryan Griffin to lead the Green Wave offense on a 68-yard drive in a mere 48 seconds to a score, and ultimately a win that snapped Tulane’s 15-game losing streak.
“It is unfortunate and I feel bad for the kids, but when you have the issues you had in the first half, it’s hard to overcome and it’s on the road,” SMU head coach June Jones said. “I am proud that they didn’t quit, came back and showed their character, but when you have the opportunities you had in the first half on the road you’ve got to capitalize.”
As rough as the season’s beginning has began for the Mustangs, especially on offense, it is surprising that Tulane was able to put together a win against the Mustangs. Going into the game and even after the game, Tulane ranked last in the country in rushing yards per game and points per game.
Tulane did not play a stellar game. In fact, SMU outplayed them for the most part. SMU outgained Tulane 196 yards to 40 yards rushing in the game behind senior running back Zach Line’s 177 yards rushing.
“I thought that they had a pretty good front six guys and they played well and played hard. Zach [Line] wore them out,” Jones said.
The Mustangs also held the football for more than 40 minutes compared to Tulane’s 19 minutes and 43 seconds with the ball. Tulane also struggled on third downs—mustering just three third-down conversions on 11 attempts. The Mustangs had the ball on Tulane’s two yard-line and a fourth down with a little over a minute to play in the game with a lead of 23-20. But even with Line’s big day, the Mustangs decided to kick a field goal.
“Yea we did talk about [the field goal], but we thought our defense played really well in the second half and thought they would have to score a touchdown to win,” Jones said. “[Tulane’s] field goal kicker is 100 percent outside of 40 yards so that was the deciding factor right there.”
If SMU would have gone for it and not made the touchdown, Tulane would have had to drive at least 60 yards with zero timeouts and been stuck deep in its own territory to set up for a game-tying field goal.
Either way, the SMU defense should have been able to hold a relatively inept Tulane offense out of the endzone, but Griffin added big plays in the air on that drive to total 302 yards passing and three touchdowns on that day.
Gilbert had his best day statistically for the Mustangs, but he isn’t anywhere near being where he wants to be after passing for a respectable 275 yards and two touchdowns. Gilbert did not complete more than 50 percent of his passes, managed just 5.4 yards per attempt and threw an interception as well.
“It comes down to Zach [Line] ran his rear end off,” Jones said. “I mean we didn’t make many plays in the passing game again, which is unfortunate, but we just got to keep trying to get better.”
This occurrence has been the story for SMU this season: the poor play of the passing game led by Gilbert. The Mustangs have yet to put together a complete game offensively and with the Houston Cougars coming to town Thursday for a Conference USA Western division showdown, the Mustangs will need to get it together.
The loss drops SMU to 2-4 on the season and 1-1 in C-USA play. SMU will need to beat Houston this Thursday to remain in the battle for the Western division title.