SMU upsets Fresno State in Hawaii Bowl, 43-10

December 25, 2012

Honolulu -- The underdog Southern Methodist University Mustangs routed the Fresno State Bulldogs, 43-10, in coach June Jones’ triumphant Christmas Eve return to the Hawaii Bowl. With the win, the Mustangs earned back-to-back bowl game victories for the first time in school history.

After a scoreless first quarter, SMU sprinted out to a 22-0 lead by halftime and never looked back. SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert led the way offensively for the Mustangs with 212 passing yards, including a 21-yard touchdown pass to Darius Johnson. Gilbert surprisingly brought a dual threat element to the Mustang offense as well, as he rushed for 98 yards and scored the game's first touchdown on a 17-yard scamper.

But ultimately SMU's defense proved to be the difference in the game, as it shut down Fresno State's high-powered attack.

Defensive end Margus Hunt, who earned team MVP honors, dominated the game with three tackles-for-losses, two sacks, two forced fumbles, and three quarterback hurries. His sack of Bulldog's quarterback Derek Carr in the second quarter resulted in a safety, while his two forced fumbles led to two Mustang field goals.

“I watched all of their games on the way over here so I knew what to expect,” said Hunt.  “It was a lot of fun. To me personally this is something really emotional because this is where it all started for me.”

Hunt, a 6-foot-8 senior from Estonia, was a former world junior record holder in discus throw, and was discovered by Jones after his freshman year at SMU in track and field.

“It was not hard for me to see that he was a world class athlete,” Jones said of his defensive end. “Margus is a special player and his best play is ahead of him, and I was really excited for him to have this performance on a national stage.”

Hindered by seven SMU sacks, Fresno State also posted the fewest rushing yards (-16 yards) in Hawaii Bowl history.

One bright spot for Fresno State was wide receiver and team MVP Davante Adams, who ended the game with 13 receptions for 144 yards. Adams caught a six-yard touchdown pass with 10:21 left in the third quarter to narrow the deficit to 22-7, but it was too little too late for the Bulldogs, who simply did not have an answer to Hunt's pressure on defense.

“They have a tough defense and play really physical,” remarked Bulldogs head coach Tom DeRuyter.  On Hunt’s dominance, DeRuyter said, “It was huge.  We knew he was going to be a problem, but not to that extent, and at times he was unblockable for us.”

Hunt's ability to wreak havoc in the backfield gave SMU the luxury of not having to gamble much defensively. As a result, SMU was able to drop multiple players back into coverage, partly contributing to two fourth quarter "pick sixes" of Carr.

Fresno State finished the season with a 9-4 record, and expects to return seven starters on offense and eight on defense next year.  Coach DeRuyter has challenged his team to use the loss as motivation for next season.

June Jones, the former coach at the University of Hawaii, improved his record in the Hawaii Bowl to 5-1.

By Mihoko Ito
Contributing Writer for The Daily Sports Herald

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