Shawnbrey McNeal rushed for 147 yards and two touchdowns, including the go-ahead score with 5:23 remaining, to lead SMU to a 26-21 win over Tulane on Saturday.
With the victory, the Mustangs (7-5, 6-2) are guaranteed to earn one of Conference USA's six automatic bowl bids. SMU has not appeared in a bowl game since the 1984 Aloha Bowl.
McNeal, who carried the ball 26 times, scored on a 4-yard run in the fourth quarter to put SMU ahead, and the Mustangs held on.
Andre Anderson scored on a 1-yard touchdown run to give Tulane (3-9, 1-7) a 21-20 lead with 10:06 left. Ryan Griffin and Jeremy Williams connected for a pair of touchdown passes for the Green Wave.
Tulane's last drive went when Griffin (18 of 26, 216 yards) tried to hit Williams on a fourth-and-23 play from the Green Wave 33-yard line, but the pass sailed over the receiver's head. Tulane got one more play in the final seconds, but fumbled and SMU recovered.
SMU was 1-11 in each of the last two seasons. Coach June Jones, in his second season at the school, was given a two-year contract extension on Friday, keeping him at the school through 2014.
Kyle Padron completed 20 of 34 passes for 264 yards for SMU, and Emmanuel Sanders finished with six receptions for 144 yards. SMU led 17-7 at halftime.