Share “SMU fends off UConn 38-21”

Published on NewsOK Modified: November 16, 2013 at 7:03 pm •  Published: November 16, 2013

DALLAS (AP) — For SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert, Saturday's 38-21 victory over Connecticut was just another game in a record-breaking season.

He threw four touchdown passes to help SMU hold off the Huskies.

The national leader in total offense at 409.4 yards per game before Saturday, Gilbert passed for 353 yards and ran for 23 against UConn.

His eighth 300-plus-yard passing game this season set a Mustangs record.

Gilbert said of the record, "It's a huge product of how much work as an offensive unit that we've put in. We continue to get better. The success yardage-wise is attributable to those guys. We keep working to get better."

He also set an SMU season record with 316 completions, through just nine games.

SMU (4-5, 3-2 American Athletic Conference) improved its chance of becoming bowl eligible for a fifth consecutive year. The Mustangs must win two of their final three games.

UConn (0-9, 0-5) stayed within a touchdown of SMU until 3:50 remained in the game.

At that point, SMU's Chase Hover kicked a 27-yard field goal, set up by Connecticut's 14-yard punt.

Three plays after that, UConn committed its first turnover. Under pressure, quarterback Casey Cochran threw an interception that SMU's Stephon Sanders returned 35 yards for a touchdown.

"They blitzed," Cochran said. "I was trying to get it our early, I got hit and I either need to throw it out of bounds or go down."

Sanders said, "I was just playing the defense like we're supposed to. It was a fire zone there, and when that happens, the ball comes out quick.

"I just took one step at a time. The first was having to catch it. I just saw the end zone and kept running."

Gilbert completed 33 of 52 passes, including two touchdowns each to Jeremy Johnson and Keenan Holman. Johnson finished with 12 catches for 71 yards. Holman had 8 for 88 yards, and teammate Der'rikk Thompson caught 5 for 113.

The Mustangs came in with a minus-7 turnover differential, but did not turn the ball over for the second consecutive game. UConn gave up two interceptions, to Sanders and Darrion Richardson.

"This week, that was the difference in the game," Jones said.

He also praised the Mustangs' offensive line.

"(AAC teams) are more physical than what we have been playing against. When you're throwing the ball 52 times, you're going to have some seepage. With the size of their front four, a bigger line, (SMU's linemen) competed pretty hard.

"We have to do everything right, and I am proud of Garrett."

Gilbert said of his pass protectors, "They're doing a great job. They've really come together to play as a unit. It all starts with them."

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