Kenneth Acker intercepted two passes and scored two touchdowns as SMU cruised to a 52-0 victory over Stephen F. Austin on Saturday night.
The SMU defense forced 10 turnovers and scored four touchdowns. Acker's second touchdown of the night added an exclamation mark to the win as he intercepted a Joe Minden pass and returned it 77 yards to put SMU up 45-0.
On the ensuing SFA possession, Cameron Rogers scored the SMU's final touchdown when he scooped up a fumble and returned it 96 yards for the knockout punch. SMU recorded six interceptions and recovered four fumbles and recorded its first home shut out in almost 30 years.
"It was exciting to watch our defense take the ball away so many times," said SMU head coach June Jones. "We talked about, talked about it, and talked about it and had we not done that, we might have struggled tonight."
SMU did in fact struggle early offensively, gaining only nine yards on its first three possessions, but momentum shifted dramatically when Margus Hunt set an NCAA record with his ninth career blocked field goal.
"We couldn't get it going offensively," Hunt said. "But when the opportunity came to go out and block that kick, we knew exactly what they were going to run, and the play worked."
With Garrett Gilbert failing to get in rhythm, SMU turned to Zach Line, who punished SFA defenders, and scored the game's first two touchdowns. Line finished the contest with 61 yards rushing and also caught four passes for 39 yards.
"I was glad Zach kind of picked us up through that stretch," Jones said. "He has the ability to do that."
Just before halftime, Aaron Davis blocked another SFA field goal, which resulted in another SMU score thanks to a 56-yard touchdown return by Acker.
Ja'Gared Davis also returned a fumble for a touchdown and gave SMU a commanding 35-0 lead in the third quarter. Ryan Smith intercepted two passes while Randall Joyner picked off another.
Gilbert was less than impressive in his second start for SMU. The Texas transfer went 19-for-36 for 205 yards and threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Keenan Holman. But he also threw an early interception and missed various open targets.
"We're not good enough around him yet, I don't think. We played without a lot of people," Jones said. "He's going to get better and better. We have to help him out more. I have to help him more. But I like what I see from him."
Top receiver Darius Johnson did not play in the game due to a concussion. Left tackle Ben Gottschalk was also held out with a shoulder injury.
Despite the blowout win, Stephen F. Austin outgained SMU 466 to 328 and had 11 more first downs than the Mustangs. SMU failed to covert on third downs, going 3-for-13 but did enough to capitalize on the defense's impressive outing.
"It's good to win. Period," Jones said. "We're not where we need to be exactly, but a win is a win and in this business, they're hard to get."
Game Recap: SMU routes Stephen F. Austin 52-0
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