Bulldogs Say ‘Aloha’ to Former Rival Mustangs
This clash between the Mountain West Conference champions and their onetime Western Athletic Conference adversaries from Dallas is as much about the head coaches as any other aspect of this Christmas Eve matchup.
Aloha Stadium in Honolulu is a familiar place to the Mustangs’ head coach, June Jones, who was credited with resurrecting the University of Hawaii’s football program. After winning three previous bowl games since 1999, Jones led the Warriors to a 12-1 record and an appearance in the Sugar Bowl in 2007, the year before taking the top coaching job at SMU. It took him two years to do it, but in 2009 he brought Southern Methodist back to a bowl game for the first time in 25 years — dating back to its infamous “death penalty” days. Ironically, it was the Hawaii Bowl, where SMU destroyed Nevada 45-10. So Jones knows how to win that game, in that stadium.
The year 2007 is also the last time the Bulldogs won a bowl game, when they beat the Ramblin’ Wreck of Georgia Tech 40-28 in the Humanitarian Bowl. They’ve been to three bowls since but lost every one, and were determined to get a different result this time around. So they let go 11-year head coach Pat Hill and hired Tim DeRuyter, who has brought a more focused approach to winning and to defense. Under the new coach, the ‘Dogs have gone from giving up 35.2 points per game last season to just 22.2 in 2012.
One of the players to watch in this game is Fresno State QB Derek Carr, named MWC Offensive Player of the Year. The younger brother of New York Giants quarterback David Carr declared he will return for his senior year, and that’s great news for them. Carr had a 68 percent pass-completion rate for 3,742 yards, 36 touchdowns and only five interceptions. This season featured six games with at least four TD tosses, among them a 536-yard, five-TD performance against San Diego State. If that wasn’t enough, Fresno State also features the “Mighty Mouse,” senior running back Robbie Rouse, who rushed for 1,468 yards and a dozen TDs, and freshman receiver Davante Adams, who caught 89 passes for 1,168 yards and 13 TDs.
Given all of that, it’s no surprise that SMU have been made 14-point underdogs: former Texas Longhorns pivot Garrett Gilbert is prone to turnovers, having thrown more picks (36) than TDs (26) in his college career. Both teams are in the top 12 in the country for turnover ratio, but Fresno State simply has too much talent for the Mustangs to handle.
Prediction: Fresno State 38, SMU 21.
RESULT: June Jones sure does know how to “win that game, in that stadium.” SMU built up a 22-0 lead by halftime, and brought it home with a 43-10 upset victory.