Mustangs to take on 4-0 UCF
Published: Thursday, November 1, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 17:11
SMU is coming off a big Homecoming 44-13 victory over the Memphis Tigers that moved the team to 3-1 in Conference USA play, but this week is an even bigger test waits for the Mustangs in Orlando.
The University of Central Florida Knights are 4-0 in C-USA play and are in the driver seat for the East Division title and a right to go to the C-USA Championship. SMU has recently been on a roll in almost every facet of the game and that has head coach June Jones thinking positive.
“We started with the possibility of winning the Baylor game that we could get on a roll and be a BCS [Bowl Championship Series] kind of team. That’s always what you want to come into the season thinking,” Jones said.
“We’re going to have to play our best game, but we can beat them and we can win.”
During the last three games, running back Zach Line has lead the team with 417 yards rushing and an average of 5.7 yards per carry and three touchdowns.
Line’s ability to run the football has helped Mustangs’ quarterback Garrett Gilbert have some of his best performances.
Gilbert has thrown for over 600 yards, had a completion percentage over 65 percent and has scored seven total touchdowns the last two games.
SMU will need Gilbert’s best game of the season to beat the talented UCF team that is giving up just 21.4 points per game.
“I think this is the most talented team we’ve played with skill and the big guys. We’re going to be in a real physical game,” Jones said.
SMU’s defense has battled all year with injuries in the secondary, but the defense has set the tone every game for the Mustangs and will need to be extra tough Saturday night.
“Guys have done a great job of stepping up and knowing that they have shoes to fill. That’s a sign of a good defense,” linebacker Cameron Rogers said.
SMU has some undersized, but extremely athletic linebackers that have been leading the charge all season. SMU is tied for the national lead in turnovers (27). UCF’s running game has been very effective this year with Latavius Murray rushing for 538 yards on just 73 carries.
That adds up to a 7.4 yards per carry average.
“Their offensive line is going to be one of the top that we’ve faced in conference and they’ve got a lot of good backs, big backs,” Rogers said.
SMU is No.2 in the country in time of possession this year — averaging over 34 minutes with the ball a game. Keeping the ball away from Murray and UCF quarterback Blake Bortles will be crucial to getting a win.
The defense will have to get the ball back to the offense so the team can pound UCF’s defense with Line and wear them down.
“We just want to be able to contain them and get a lot of pressure on them. We pride ourselves on being a very fast and blitzing team and we’re going to stay the same,” Rogers said.
Gilbert’s emergence the last couple games has been due in part to senior receiver Darius Johnson having his best games of the season as well. Against Memphis, Johnson went over 140 yards receiving including a 70-yard reception that set up a Line touchdown.
If SMU wants a victory in its biggest game yet this season, the team will need Johnson to perform and takeover, which will set up Line to wear down UCF and rip off big gains.
SMU and UCF are set to kick off in Orlando. at 6 p.m.