Gilbert, Shead carry SMU past Memphis 34-29
Garrett Gilbert threw for 321 yards and two touchdowns, Traylon Shead ran for two more scores and SMU won its first American Athletic Conference game with a 34-29 victory over Memphis on Saturday afternoon.
Gilbert was 27-43 in the game as the Mustangs (2-4, 1-1 AAC) went out to a big lead in the first half and held on as Memphis linebacker Ryan Coleman scored on a pair of fumble recoveries - one from 15 yards and the other for 19 yards - in the second half. The Tigers (1-5, 0-3 AAC) had penalties negate two other fourth-quarter scoring plays.
Gilbert threw touchdown passes of 79 and 8 yards in the game. Shead ran for 83 yards and both of his touchdowns came on 1-yard runs.
Memphis quarterback Patrick Lynch completed an 8-yard touchdown pass to Mose Frazier as time ran out for the final score.
After Coleman's fumble recoveries, the Memphis defense almost came up with another score as Reggis Ball returned an interception 94 yards for an apparent touchdown.
But Ball dove into the end zone from the 1-yard line, leading to an excessive celebration penalty assessed from the 1, giving Memphis the ball at the Mustang 16.
Brandon Hayes eventually scored on a 1-yard run.
Another touchdown pass from Lynch to Joe Craig for 68 yards was nullified by a facemask penalty against a Tiger lineman.
SMU's only score after halftime was a 31-yard field goal by Chase Hover.
But the Mustangs already had built a sizeable advantage.
In the first half, Gilbert guided the Mustangs down the field and Shead finished a pair of drives with 1-yard runs, helping SMU to a 31-3 lead at halftime.
Gilbert wasted no time getting the Mustang offense on track. After an opening pass completion, the SMU quarterback faked a throw to the right flat and then connected with Keenan Holman for a 79-yard score on the second play from scrimmage.
Gilbert would add another scoring pass to Collin Lagasse from 8 yards in the closing seconds of the half.
A 31-yard pass from Gilbert to Jeremy Johnson early in the second quarter set up a 1-yard run for Shead. Later, in the quarter, Gilbert completed a 16-yard pass to Darius Joseph to the 1, where Shead again scored.
Hover had a 37-yard field goal for SMU to complete the first-half scoring.
Memphis, as it has recently, initially moved the ball on offense, but was unable to reach the end zone. Kicker Jake Elliott connected from 52 yards for his 11th straight field goal of the season, but later broke the consecutive streak missing a 39-yarder.
The Tiger offense stalled after its early success, amounting to only 116 yards in the half. Memphis would end the game with 320 yards, compared to 460 for SMU.
The Memphis defense controlled the SMU runners, allowing only 59 yards on the ground in the first half. But that is not the Mustangs strong suit. Gilbert was 18 of 25 before the break for 223 yards.
In fact, it was the Memphis defense that would eventually get the Tigers into the end zone. Shead was running at the Mustang 15 when Coleman stripped the ball and headed the other way barely reaching the end zone for a touchdown late in the third quarter.
His other touchdown came when SMU's Bryce Taylor fielded a punt at his 22 and retreated, where he fumbled and Coleman headed in for another score.