By: LARY BUMP
DALLAS (AP) Garrett Gilbert threw four touchdown passes to help SMU hold off Connecticut 38-21 Saturday.
The national leader in total offense at 409.4 yards per game before Saturday passed for 353 yards and ran for 23 against the Huskies.
SMU (4-5, 3-2 American Athletic Conference) improved its chance of becoming bowl eligible. 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.
Gilbert passed for 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.
For UConn, Cochran passed for two scores, and Max DeLorenzo ran for a touchdown. Lyle McCombs led the Huskies with 103 rushing yards in 17 carries.
SMU scored first with 3:35 remaining in the first quarter on Gilbert’s 1-yard pass to Holman. He made a leaping catch at the back of the end zone and came down with one foot in bounds.
On the previous play, Gilbert had appeared to score on a run from 24 yards out. A review showed that he stepped out of bounds a yard short. His 25-yard pass to Jeremiah Gaines plus a UConn personal foul had started the 75-yard drive.
The first quarter ended with the Mustangs leading 7-0.
They extended the lead to 14-0 on Gilbert’s 4-yard pass to Johnson. It capped a 12-play, 80-yard drive.
The Huskies answered with a 75-yard drive that ended with DeLorenzo’s 2-yard touchdown run. Penalties on SMU for a horse collar tackle and pass interference in the end zone helped UConn move into position to score.
In hurry-up mode, Gilbert drove the Mustangs 70 yards in 10 plays and 2:10. A 5-yard TD pass to Johnson produced a 21-7 lead 18 seconds before halftime.
Gilbert finished the half 25 for 37 for 237 yards and 3 scores. Johnson caught 10 passes for 56 yards and two touchdowns.
UConn stopped the Mustangs on their first possession of the second half. Redshirt freshman Cochran, making his first start, then led a 62-yard drive. He threw a 1-yard touchdown pass on fourth down to tight end Sean McQuillan.
The Huskies had another chance to score in the quarter, but a fourth-down pass was tipped and fell incomplete.
That gave SMU the ball on its 26 yard line. Two short passes, with two missed tackles turning the plays into long gains increased the Mustangs’ lead to 28-14.
Thompson slipped a tackle for a 54-yard gain to Connecticut’s 20. On the next play, Holman broke a tackle for his second touchdown of the game.
UConn’s offense wasn’t bothered by the two-TD deficit. The Huskies scored on a 26-yard pass from Cochran to team receiving leader Geremy Davis.