The SMU Mustangs’ win last week against the 9-3 Tulsa Golden Hurricane secured them a spot at yet another bowl game. After finishing the season with a record of 6-6, SMU received an invitation to represent Conference USA in the 2012 Sheraton Hawaii Bowl by defeating Tulsa 35-27 last Saturday. The Tulsa Golden Hurricane fought hard the entire game, and they even had a chance late in the game to tie it up, but they ran out of time. Once again it was SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert leading the way for the Mustangs; he threw for 113 yards and rushed for an additional 111 yards.
SMU Mustangs QB Gilbert and running back Zach Line were the standouts for the offense, and linebacker Ja’Gared Davis was the key playmaker on defense. Line scored three touchdowns and ran for 83 yards. Davis completed the trifecta: he blocked a punt, recovered a fumble, and made an interception. Davis’ blocked punt allowed RB Zach Line to score the Mustangs’ first touchdown for the first points of the game. The duo made way for another Mustang touchdown when Davis’ fumble recovery allowed Line to score on the next play from three yards out. Davis’ interception against the Golden Hurricanes gave the Mustangs another chance to score. QB Gilbert completed a 21-yard pass to Darius Johnson on 4th and 7, and then tossed a 25-yard pass to Der’rik Thompson to score. Three turnovers by Davis allowed the SMU Mustangs to score 21 unanswered points.
Tulsa quarterback Cody Green finally got the Golden Hurricane on the scoreboard with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Alex Singleton. Despite the TD, Tulsa was unable to sustain any momentum because Mustang QB Gilbert answered right back with a 74-yard touchdown run making the score 28-6. With the end of third quarter nearing, Zach Line managed to score again for SMU. His 10-yard TD run capped a 95-yard drive to put the SMU Mustangs up by a score of 35-6.
Despite an ineffective offense for the first 40 minutes or so, Tulsa mounted a furious comeback late in the game. The Golden Hurricane scored 21 unanswered points. In the final minute of the third quarter, Willie Carter caught a 31-yard touchdown catch from Green. Tulsa was unsuccessful at their two-point conversion attempt, but they scored on their next possession when Keyariss Garrett caught a TD to bring the score to 35-19. Just as Tulsa begam moving the ball and scoring point, the Mustangs started to seem incapable of sustaining any drives.
After another punt by the SMU Mustangs, Tulsa orchestrated another scoring drive that culminated in a one-yard run by Singleton. The Golden Hurricane went for the two-point conversion again, but this time they were successful. That score brought Tulsa within striking distance of the Mustangs for the first time since the opening quarter.
Once it was clear that Tulsa could tie the game on one possession, the SMU Mustangs got pretty conservative on offense and attempted to hold on to the ball for the remainder of the game. Eventually, the Mustangs had to punt the ball back to Tulsa. SMU Punter, Mike Loftus, did an excellent job of pinning the Golden Hurricane way back on their own 6-yard line with only 46 seconds left in the game. Cody Green then quickly completed four first downs to set Tulsa up with a chance for a hail-mary attempt. Green’s bomb fell incomplete which allowed the SMU Mustangs to escape with a 35-27 victory.
Although Tulsa was incapable of defeating the Mustangs, they have already secured their spot in the Conference USA title game representing the West Division.
The SMU Mustangs are now preparing to play in the 2012 Sheraton Hawaii Bowl on December 24 at Hawaiian Airlines field at Aloha Stadium.
The Mustangs will face a team from the Mountain West Conference in their sixth consecutive bowl game. The SMU Mustangs have won four of their last six Bowl games with Coach June Jones and hope to improve that record to five Bowl wins.
This will be SMU’s 15th bowl appearance and their third time in the Hawaii bowl. Don’t forget, the Head Coach of the SMU Mustangs, June Jones, is very familiar with Hawaii; he was the coach of the University of Hawaii for nine years.
ESPN will telecast the 2012 Sheraton Hawaii Bowl at 8 p.m. EST/ 3 p.m. HST.