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SMU going old-school for AAC debut vs. Rutgers

Published on NewsOK Modified: October 4, 2013 at 9:44 am •  Published: October 4, 2013

DALLAS (AP) — SMU is going with an old-school look for its first game in its new league.

When the Mustangs make their American Athletic Conference debut at home Saturday against Rutgers, they will be wearing blue throwback jerseys reminiscent of what they wore in the 1980s. It will be a different look for SMU (1-3) in its first-ever meeting with Rutgers (3-1), the New Jersey-based team that has been to Texas only two previous times to play a game.

"It's a little bit unique in that it's the first time this group of players will play against this team," Rutgers coach Kyle Flood said. "But the conference has changed over the last couple of years. ... We talk all week about the opportunity to be 1-0 in conference play."

The Scarlet Knights have scored 28 points or more in each of their first four games for the first time in school history. They have won three games in a row since a 52-51 overtime loss at Fresno State in the season opener.

SMU's season high was 31 points, when the Mustangs had to score a last-minute touchdown at home for a 31-30 victory over FCS team Montana State. Coach June Jones' team has been outscored by an average of 30 points the two games since.

"Coach Jones has got a good football team, certainly better than their record, for sure," Flood said.

Jones said quarterback Garrett Gilbert is getting better each time out in his second season running the Mustangs' spread offense. But the coach said the team has to do a better job blocking and protecting Gilbert, who has thrown for 322 yards per game.

"He's getting a better and better feel for what we do every time he walks on the field," Jones said. "We did not help him much last week."

Here are five things to know when Rutgers and SMU meet for the first time.

UP AND AT IT: SMU is playing an 11 a.m. CT game for the second week in a row, but hasn't had to leave the Dallas-Fort Worth area for either of those games. The Mustangs lost at TCU last weekend after giving up 31 points in the fourth quarter. Rutgers isn't complaining about traveling and then having an early start. "We are a morning program, and this is a get-up-and-go game," Flood said. "I think it fits our schedule every day very well."

CATCHING ON: SMU receivers Darius Joseph and Jeremy Johnson are among the nation's top pass-catchers. Joseph ranks second nationally with 9.8 catches a game while Johnson is sixth with 8.5 catches a game. They have helped Gilbert rank second nationally with 34 completions a game.

REVOLVING RUNNERS: Paul James, whose six rushing TDs in a two-game stretch matched Rutgers' team total of last season, will miss the game with a lower leg injury. He also isn't expected to play five days later at Louisville. SMU will get back Traylon Shead, the former Texas transfer who hasn't played since getting hurt in the season opener. Shead ran nine times for 22 yards before getting hurt on the first drive of the second half.

NOT HOLDING ON: SMU finished among the nation's best last season with a plus-9 turnover margin. So far this year, even after a season opener with neither team turned over the ball, the Mustangs have a minus-7 margin to rank 120th nationally. They have only one interception and have recovered two fumbles. Meanwhile, they have lost five fumbles and thrown five picks. Gilbert has more interceptions (five) than touchdowns (four).

RARE VISIT: The last time the Scarlet Knights played a game in the Lone Star State was in the 2006 Texas Bowl, when they beat Kansas State 37-10. They have been to Texas only one previous time for a regular-season game, losing 48-14 at Texas in 1997.


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