SMU Faces Tough Nevada Running Attack

December 24, 2009  

By Robby Gillespie

HONOLULU — The SMU football team will have to find a way to stop the best rushing attack in the NCAA Thursday night to earn their first bowl win since 1984 when they won the Hawaii Bowl.

Nevada set an NCAA record in 2009 after three Wolfpack running backs ran for more than 1,000 yards each. Fortunately for SMU, Nevada will play without two of their leading running backs Vai Taua and Luke Lippincott who combined for 2,379 yards and 19 rushing touchdowns. Taua was ruled academically ineligible this week and Lippincott had surgery two weeks ago.

The Wolfpack also lost strong safety Duke Williams and linebacker Andre Davis Wednesday after head coach Chris Ault suspended Williams for unspecified team violations and released Davis from the program.

Those losses may help out the Mustangs who have had trouble stopping the run this season, allowing 169 rushing yards/game and giving up 331 rushing yards to a Navy offense that also focuses on running the ball.

“They’re not going to change what they do,” said SMU Head Coach June Jones. “Somebody will get an opportunity to be a star and the team may rally up and play harder. They’re one of the best running teams in America…it’s going to be a tough match up for us.”

“We’re excited and are looking forward to the challenge,” said SMU senior linebacker Chase Kennemer. “As a linebacker you want to play a team that runs the ball. I’m looking forward to trying to shut them down. ”

Jones led the Mustangs to the biggest turnaround in school history and in the NCAA in 2009 with a 7-5 record, after SMU went 1-11 in 2008. He did it with a true freshmen quarterback, Kyle Padron, who he was talking about red shirting earlier in the season. Padron led the Mustangs to a 4-1 record as a starter.

He will see a defense Thursday that has allowed opponents to 284 passing yards/game, ranked 118th in the country. A unique part of this June Jones offense is running back Shawnbrey McNeal, who is the first collegiate running back to run for 1,000 yards under Jones.

“We have a young quarterback and Shawnbrey has really taken a load off of him,” Jones said.

The Mustangs are hoping for a home crowd Thursday when they take the field at Jones’ former home, Aloha Stadium.

“Everywhere we go, everyone knows coach Jones,” Kennemer said. “I think him being here will give us a slight edge.”

For Jones, the homecoming will be a welcomed sight to a place where he has so many memories as Hawaii’s coach.

“It’s going to fun walking into the stadium on game day,” Jones said. “I’m looking forward to being on the same sideline I used to be on.”

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