SMU hosts Tulane in the teams' '09 regular-season finales (SMU)
When: Saturday, November 28, 2 p.m. (CST)
Where: Gerald J. Ford Stadium (32,000)
Television: TWC Metro Sports
Radio: The Ticket – 1310 AM
Series: Tulane leads 12-5
Line: SMU -17/53.5
So much is riding on Saturday’s SMU-Tulane regular-season finale, it warrants a checklist. An SMU victory will:
A. Ensure its first winning season in 12 years;
B. Give the “All Grit, No Quit” Mustangs their first bowl berth since 1984, thereby ending the nation’s fourth-longest bowl drought;
C. Push the Mustangs into first place in the race for the year’s most-improved team. SMU (1-11 to 6-5) is currently tied with Idaho (2-10 to 7-4) with a five-game improvement;
D. Keep SMU – at the very least – tied with Houston for first place in the Conference-USA West. A Rice victory over the Cougars would give the Mustangs the title and put them in the conference championship game against East Carolina. SMU beat the Pirates 28-21 on October 10th; and
E. Make Athletic Director Steve Orsini, who signed Mustangs Head Coach June Jones to a two-year contract extension Friday, look like a genius. Jones, who engineered the biggest turnaround in NCAA history when he led Hawaii from 0-12 to 9-4 including a bowl game in 1999, is now under contract through 2014.
SMU will honor its seniors – Josh Bryant, Tim Crosby, Kellis Cunningham, Rock Dennis, Mitch Enright, Bryce Hudman, Chase Kennemer, Bryan McCann, A’Darius Medford, Chris Parham, Emmanuel Sanders and Zach Zimmerman – in a post-game ceremony.
The Mustangs are tied for 10th in the nation with 16 interceptions and 15th with 26 forced turnovers. They have also excelled on special teams, blocking nine kicks. Margus Hunt has blocked seven field goal and point-after attempts, two of which Bryan McCann has returned for touchdowns. Hunt was honored as the Conference-USA Special Teams Player of the Week after blocking two East Carolina field goal attempts. The 6-8 defensive end is within one block of tying the NCAA single-season record.
Dennis, who earned the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Week award for picking off two passes and recovering a fumble against Stephen F. Austin, leads the team with four interceptions.
Kennemer, one of SMU’s team captains, earned the Conference-USA Defensive Player of the Week award by recovering three fumbles in the 31-28 victory over Rice.
Sanders is the Mustangs’ career leader with 272 receptions, 3,523 receiving yards and 33 touchdown receptions. He also ranks No. 1 on the single-season list with 85 catches and holds the single-game record with 18 receptions. Sanders is 60 yards from setting SMU’s single-season receiving record.
Shawnbrey McNeal, who became eligible just one day before the season started, has helped immensely by almost doubling SMU’s 2008 rushing total and scoring nine touchdowns. With 22 yards against Tulane, McNeal will become the first collegiate back to rush for 1,000 yards under Coach Jones and SMU’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Keylon Kincade ran for 1,280 in 2003.
Tulane is led by wide receiver Jeremy Williams, who ranks among the nation’s leaders with seven receptions and almost 100 yards per game.
The Green Wave has a 12-5 record against SMU, including victories in seven of their last eight meetings. Last year, Kevin Moore passed for three touchdowns and Andre Anderson ran for 219 yards and a score as Tulane held off the Mustangs 34-27.