Sports

American Athletic Conference opponent preview: SMU

In the fourth part of a series, we take a look at new football opponents.

Temple is a founding member of The American Athletic Conference. Since the Owls are playing in a new conference with new opponents, The Temple News will be taking a look at the new rivals of the football team and providing some important facts that Temple fans should know about the new conference opponents. Next up: the Southern Methodist University Mustangs.

Southern Methodist University is located inside Dallas, about 1,500 miles from Temple’s main campus. The Mustangs play their home games at Gerald J. Ford Stadium, a $42 million complex that opened in 2000 with a capacity of 32,000 spectators.

The football program was founded in 1915 under the guidance of head coach Ray Morrison, who was also hired to run the basketball, baseball and track teams. The Mustangs enter The American Athletic Conference this year with a lifetime record of 439-477-54, equating to a .480 winning percentage.

Temple has played SMU only twice in team history. Both meetings ended in a tie, one in 1942 and the other in 1946. Before entering The American, the Mustangs had been members of Conference USA since 2005.

SMU has a 31-34 record over the past five seasons. Its current head coach is June Jones, who is entering his sixth year at the helm. Jones is a former NFL athlete and coach, playing for the Atlanta Falcons for four years and later coaching the team for a three year span from 1994 to 1996. Before moving to SMU, Jones was the head coach for the University of Hawaii.

The Mustangs are coming off a season in which the team went 6-6 during the regular season. SMU finished the year strong, however, defeating the Fresno State Bulldogs 43-10 in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. The Mustangs were considered double-digit underdogs in the Christmas Eve matchup.

Entering his senior year, quarterback Garrett Gilbert will be one of the biggest deciding factors of whether or not the Mustangs’ offense will be successful. A transfer from Texas, Gilbert was inconsistent on the field last season, throwing 15 interceptions to match his 15 touchdowns. Gilbert threw for 2,932 yards in 2012, and will have to adjust to new assistant coach Hal Mumme’s “Air Raid” offense—a scheme that focuses heavily on passing the football.

Senior wide receiver Jeremy Johnson will also be key on the offensive side for the Mustangs this season. Johnson played in all 13 games last season, and led the team with 67 grabs for 679 yards and three touchdowns, later being named an All-Conference USA honorable mention. Junior wide receiver Der’rikk Thompson is another important piece to the offense. Having started in every game last year as a sophomore, Thompson had 41 receptions for 535 yards and a team-high five receptions in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.

On the defensive side, senior Kenneth Acker is one of the more prominent returning athletes on the roster. Last season, Acker was named second-team All-Conference USA as he led SMU with 12 pass-break-ups and three interceptions. Senior Randall Joyner, making eight starts in 2012, ranked second on the team and 17th in the league with 93 tackles. As a whole, the Mustangs’ defense posted two shutouts and tied an NCAA season record for pick-sixes.

SMU has a number of former athletes that have had success on the professional level. One of them is Hall of Famer Forrest Gregg, who won two Super Bowls with the Green Bay Packers. Heisman winner Doak Walker is perhaps the most famous athlete in the history of the program, having been a three-time All-American running back, defensive back and place kicker.

Temple will take on SMU at Gerald J. Ford Stadium on Oct. 26 at a time that has not yet been specified.

Avery Maehrer can be reached at avery.maehrer@temple.edu or on Twitter @AveryMaehrer.

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