DALLAS (AP) — SMU is in a precarious situation trying to get to its fifth consecutive bowl game under coach June Jones.
Six wins might not be enough this time to get a postseason berth, like it was last year. The Mustangs (3-5, 2-2 AAC) might have to win their final four games.
The first step is Saturday, when SMU is back home as a two-touchdown favorite against winless Connecticut (0-8, 0-4).
Mustangs quarterback Garrett Gilbert is the national leader with 409 total yards a game. He has averaged 480 yards the last four games while throwing for 1,746 yards with 13 touchdowns and only one interception. He has also run for five scores in that span.
“His confidence has risen and his play has shown through that. … I’m glad we have him,” Jones said. “I didn’t realize that he had never had the same offensive system in college two years in a row. So with that said, that makes sense why he’s starting to gain his confidence.”
Even with Gilbert’s recent surge, the Mustangs have won only two of those four games. Gilbert threw two TDs to Darius Joseph in the fourth quarter last week before a 28-25 loss at Cincinnati.
While SMU is set at quarterback with Gilbert, the Huskies plan to give redshirt freshman quarterback Casey Cochran his first career start.
“We think he gives us the best chance at this point in time,” interim coach T.J. Weist said. “He’s done a great job the last few games, coming in and leading us to scoring drives. He’s made good decisions in practice through the whole fall.”
Cochran, who will be the third different starter for the Huskies this season, has completed 17 of 28 passes for 183 yards with two touchdowns and an interception as a reserve in four games. Tim Boyle, the freshman who started the last four games, completed only 44 percent of his passes (58 of 132) with eight interceptions and no touchdowns.
“We will try some different things with our game plan,” Weist said. “We’re not going to reinvent the offense. We just have to throw it and catch it better.”
Five things to know when Connecticut plays SMU:
BACK IN THE WIN COLUMN: SMU has played Connecticut only once before, a home game the Mustangs won 31-30 on Sept. 16, 1989. The significance of that victory was it was SMU’s first after coming back from being the only team given the so-called death penalty by the NCAA. The Mustangs didn’t play a game in 1987 or 1988 before returning to the field. Coach June Jones said that’s not even something that’s been discussed by his team this week.
BUSY COACH: Weist, a 25-year coaching veteran, took over as Connecticut’s interim head coach after the fourth game of the season. He was the receivers coach at Cincinnati before joining the Huskies staff this season. When Weist got elevated to interim head coach, he still maintained his duties as offensive coordinator and overseeing the team’s receivers.
HOME LEAGUE: SMU is 16-2 in conference games at home since 2009. Most of those were in Conference USA. Since moving to the American Athletic Conference this season, the Mustangs are 1-1 in league home games — a pair of wild ones. There was a 55-52 triple-overtime loss to Rutgers in the first one after scoring 21 points in the fourth quarter, and a 59-49 win over Temple three weeks ago when Garrett Gilbert threw for a school-record 538 yards with four TDs while running for 97 yards and two more scores while SMU again trailed by 21 points after halftime.
DAVIS DOUBLES UP: Geremy Davis is UConn’s leading receiver for the second consecutive season, with 41 catches this season for 620 yards. He has three 100-yard games, but hasn’t yet scored a touchdown. Last season, Davis had 44 catches for 613 yards with one TD.
DEFENSIVE ADJUSTMENTS: Mustangs defensive coordinator Tom Mason plans to increase the playing time for some young defensive backs, including freshman cornerback Darion Richardson, though he’s not ready for them to be starters. That goes for some other positions as well.
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