SMU Faces Tough Nevada Running Attack

December 24, 2009 by · Comments Off 

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.”

Jones Makes Return to Aloha Stadium For First Mustang Practice

December 20, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Robby Gillespie

HONOLULU — Having spent less than 24 hours in Hawaii, SMU Head Coach June Jones already feels welcomed by the locals of the state where he turned around a losing Hawaii program and took it to national prominence.

“Each (team) has its own uniqueness and memories,” Jones said. “We’re excited to be here.”

After practicing at Ford Stadium in the mild Dallas December weather for three weeks, the Mustangs had their first practice at Aloha Stadium Sunday under a warm Hawaiian sun.

“It’s awesome to sweat again,” said freshmen quarterback Kyle Padron. “I haven’t had to sweat in practice since probably training camp. It’s great to be out here.”

The team has begun to understand how important their head coach was to the people of Hawaii during his coaching tenure with the Warriors. In no way has it been distracting for some players, if anything, it’s motivating.

“It’s not so much distracting,” Padron said. “He’s pretty well known around here, like a celebrity. We’ve kind of got a home crowd. They’ve treated us great and are very respectful.”

“I think (the crowd) will be equally divided, but hopefully we’ll have a few more on our sideline,” Jones said.

The team ran through practice just like they have at Ford Stadium all season – splitting up the offense and defense, running through plays, scrimmaging, and running sprints to cap it off.

Absent from practice were seniors Emmanuel Sanders and Bryan McCann who had to stay in Dallas to complete graduation ceremonies. They joined the team Sunday afternoon.

Also scheduled for Sunday was a team trip to Pearl Harbor, a visit the Mustangs have been looking forward to all season as a tribute to their late special teams coach Frank Gansz.

“It’s something special,” Padron said. “We talked about it at the beginning of the season. We’ve reached our goal and it feels good to be able to do that.”

Gansz served in the military after graduating from the Naval Academy. Last season, he held hour long weekly discussions with the special teams units about his experience in the Navy and how special Pearl Harbor was to him. Coach Jones had talked with Gansz several times about taking the team to the historical site before Gansz’s unexpected death last Spring.

“We talked about it almost two weeks before he passed,” Jones said. “It’ll be kind of a release, I know for me, that way.”

Mustangs To Face Nevada For Bowl Title

December 6, 2009 by · Comments Off 

By Robby Gillespie

The day before official practice begins for the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, the Mustangs found out they will be taking on the Nevada Wolfpack out of the Western Athletic Conference on Christmas Eve. SMU is looking to win their first bowl game in 25 years.

“Having played Nevada Reno many times while I was at Hawaii, I have a great deal of respect for Coach Ault and his program,” said SMU Head Coach June Jones in a press release. “Their rushing attack will pose a stiff challenge, but we’re really looking forward to the game.”

Nevada (8-4, 7-1 WAC) has won eight of its last nine games after starting the season 0-3 and will be playing in its fifth consecutive bowl game. In 2005, the Wolfpack won a shootout over Central Florida in overtime, 49-48.

The teams will meet Dec. 24 at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii. The game will be broadcast on ESPN at 7 p.m. CST.