TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Freshman backup quarterback Neal Burcham lead two third-period scoring drives to help SMU overcome the loss of injured starter Garrett Gilbert and beat South Florida 16-6 on Saturday night.
Gilbert left with 1:21 to play in first half when he hurt his leg while attempting to slide while running the football and was assisted off the field. Gilbert, who was 19-for-23 for 138 yards and one interception, was replaced by Burcham.
Gilbert entered the game leading the nation in total offense at 405.7 yards per game. Over his previous five games, the senior was even more productive, averaging 459 yards with 17 touchdowns and just one interception.
SMU (5-5, 4-2) has won four of its past five and can become bowl eligible by winning one of its remaining two games. The Mustangs travel to Houston before finishing up at home against American Athletic Conference leader Central Florida.
Chris Dunkley had a late fourth-quarter 50-yard punt return touchdown for USF (2-8, 2-4), which has lost four straight. In addition to being ranked last in the AAC in total offense, averaging 263.7 yards per game, the Bulls were also last in scoring offense at just under 15 points per game.
SMU opened the second half with an 11-play, 75-yard drive that featured a 6-yard touchdown run by Prescott Line to make it 9-0. Chase Hover missed the extra point.
Burcham extended the lead to 16-0 with a 37-yard TD pass to Der'rikk Thompson on the final play of the third quarter.
Keyed by a 73-yard pass from Mike White to Andre Davis, South Florida reached the Mustangs 2 later in the fourth. After three consecutive penalties moved the ball back to the 17, the drive ended following four straight incompletions.
The Mustangs went up 3-0 on their first possession when Hover made a 25-yard field goal, which accounted for all of the first-half points.
A pair of holding penalties, including one that negated an approximately 75-yard run deep into SMU territory by Marcus Shaw, stalled a South Florida drive midway through the first.
Hassan Childs set up South Florida at the SMU 36 after intercepting Gilbert's pass early in the second, but the Bulls failed to score when Marvin Kloss missed a 51-yard field goal attempt.
Childs also stopped a third-period Mustangs drive by picking off Burcham's pass at the USF 2.