Stingy D, hard-charging Zach Line lead SMU vs. UAB

UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas -- At 235 pounds, Zach Line is not the prototypical running back.

Blocking, not ball carrying, is usually his chief duty.

But the sophomore had his number called 16 times and responded with a career-high 122 yards and two touchdowns in SMU's 28-7 win over Alabama-Birmingham in the Conference-USA opener for both teams Saturday night at Gerald J. Ford Stadium.

Afterward, Line admitted he was as surprised as anyone.

"No, that wasn't the plan tonight," he said.

SMU coach June Jones made some adjustments to the game plan on the fly, joking that his team had a little "Ohio State Power I" look.

"I could tell after Zach's first carry he had gained some confidence from last week," Jones said, referring to SMU's 35-27 loss at Texas Tech.

Line capped first-half drives of 99 and 64 yards with short touchdown runs.

He did the heavy lifting on both scoring drives in the second half that ended in Kyle Padron touchdown passes of 5 and 15 yards to Darius Johnson.

Jones said SMU (1-1, 1-0) would normally throw the ball against the look the UAB defense gave the Mustangs, "but we weren't passing the ball."

While praising Padron's scrambling (9 carries, 66 yards), Jones said when his quarterback watches the film, he will see missed opportunities for open receivers.

UAB (0-2, 0-1) managed only 261 yards against the Mustangs, and had to go just 9 yards for its only touchdown after SMU's lone turnover.

"Our defense is improved," Jones said. "As long as we don't turn it over, we'll be fine."

Just before halftime, SMU made a game-changing goal-line stand. UAB failed to score on three plays from the Mustangs' 1, allowing SMU to go to intermission with a 14-7 lead.

"We knew we had to stop them going to the half," said linebacker Pete Fleps, who led SMU tacklers with 13. "We did our job and shut them down."

UAB threatened again on the opening possession of the third quarter when quarterback David Isabelle connected with receiver Frantrell Forrest for a 50-yard gain. But just as Forrest was about to cross the goal line, SMU safety Ryan Smith dislodged the ball. It rolled out of the end zone for a touchback and the Mustangs retained their seven-point lead.

The Mustangs play the second of three straight home games against Washington State at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

Randy Jennings covers college football for ESPNDallas.com.