2012 Hawai'i Bowl - Fresno State vs. SMU

Posted Dec 25, 2012

2012-2013 Bowls - CFN's Preview & Prediction for the 2012 Sheraton Hawai'i

2012 Sheraton Hawaii

SMU 43, Fresno State 10

- 2012-2013 CFN Bowl Central
- Sheraton Hawaii Bowl Analysis & Breakdown

National Rankings
14th Total Offense 93rd
19th Total Defense 64th
27th Scoring Offense 59th
27th Scoring Defense 57th
58th Rushing Offense 94th
73rd Run Defense 24th
12th Passing Offense 59th
53rd Passing Defense 103rd
5th Turnover Margin 12th
Position Rankings
relative to each other
5 Highest - 1 Lowest
F   S
4.5 Quarterbacks 2.5
4.5 RBs 3.5
4 Receivers 3
3 O Line 2
3.5 D Line 2.5
5.5 Linebackers 3
5 Secondary 2
5 Spec Teams 3
4 Coaching 4
(AP) HONOLULU -- SMU coach June Jones walked out of Aloha Stadium with another win Monday, thanks largely to a disruptive performance by defensive end Margus Hunt that set the tone for the Mustangs' 43-10 win over Fresno State in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.

Hunt, the 6-foot-8 senior from Estonia with an 82-inch wing span, forced two fumbles that led to field goals and sacked Derek Carr for a safety as SMU (7-6) built a 22-0 halftime lead and never looked back.

The Mustangs also returned two interceptions for touchdowns, giving them eight for the season to tie the NCAA record set last year by Southern Miss. Hayden Greenbauer picked off Carr and returned it 83 yards with 1:14 left, the final blow to a miserable night for the Bulldogs (9-4).

SMU had seven sacks, the most Fresno State has given up all year.

Garrett Gilbert was effective with his arm and his legs, running for a 17-yard touchdown for the first score of the game and throwing a perfect strike to Darius Johnson for a 21-yard score to answer the Bulldogs' only touchdown. He rushed for 98 yards on 18 carries and threw for 212 yards.

But this game was decided by the Mustangs' defense, with Hunt leading the way. He was voted the game's MVP.

Fresno State, which had averaged just over 47 points in its last five games, was held scoreless in the first half for the first time in two years, and Carr was too busy running for his life to get the Bulldogs into any kind of offensive rhythm.

The Mustangs were playing in a school-record fourth straight bowl game since ending a 25-year drought dating to its infamous NCAA death penalty. They have won three of those bowl games, twice as big underdogs to explosive offenses -- a 45-10 win over Nevada in 2009 and Monday against Fresno State, both in the Hawaii Bowl.

That's where Jones feels right at home, even though the flea market earlier in the day drew more people.

He was the coach at Hawaii for eight years, leaving after its unbeaten regular season in 2007. Jones now has won 10 straight games in Aloha Stadium, dating to a December 2006 loss to Oregon State.

"I just want to say 'Aloha' to the seniors," Jones said during the trophy presentation. "We said we were going to do it and we did it."

Without hardly breaking a sweat.

Hunt, who won the Junior World Championships in Beijing in 2006 in the shot put and discus, came to SMU to work on athletics and earned a scholarship when coaches took one look at him, and saw his 4.7 time in the 40-yard dash. He set an NCAA record this year by blocking his 10th field goal.

His speed made all the difference in his final college game as Hunt zipped around tackles and harassed Carr all night. Carr finished with 362 yards on 33-of-54 passing. The 10 points were the fewest Fresno State has scored since a 20-10 loss to Boise State this year.

The Bulldogs hardly looked like a team averaging 488 yards a game. Carr spent more time on his back than stepping into throws as the Mustangs' defensive front -- particularly Hunt -- was overwhelming.

And when tight end Marcel Jensen dropped Carr's short pass in the end zone on the final play of the opening period, it marked the first time Fresno State was shut out in the first half since it lost to Boise State in 2010.

That was the only time the Bulldogs even came close to scoring.

After a dull, scoreless opening quarter, Gilbert shook off one tackle and scored on a 17-yard run. The defense took over from there.

Hunt blew past right tackle Alex Fifita and blindsided Carr, dropping him flat as the ball came loose and was scooped up by Aaron Davis, who returned it 23 yards to the Fresno State 16 until he fumbled it out of bounds. SMU had to settle for a field goal. On the next series, Carr scrambled backward and couldn't escape an 18-yard sack to the 6, and then Hunt sacked him in the end zone for a safety.

Gilbert did most of his damage on the ground, either on a quarterback draw or sprinting away from the rush, though he completed five straight passes during the Mustangs' longest drive, 67 yards that culminated with Zach Line busting up the middle for an 8-yard score.

Hunt wasn't finished, though.

On second-and-7 from the 33, Carr gave it to Robbie Rouse on a delayed handoff, right about the time Hunt showed up to disrupt the play and cause another fumble that Taylor Reed recovered. That drive went backward, and Chase Hover connected from 48 yards. Even then, the Bulldogs looked out of sorts, with players sprinting off the field during a substitution that looked to be run by the Keystone Kops.

SMU's offense did enough in the second half to keep Fresno State from making a game of it, and the second-half interceptions sealed it. Reed returned an interception 69 yards to make it 36-10, and then Greenbauer finished off a great night for the Mustangs' defense.

Fresno State (9-3) vs. SMU (6-6) Dec. 24, 8:00, ESPN

Here’s The Deal … Tim DeRuyter was hired last Dec. 14 to help guide Fresno State from the ranks of the mediocre. So far, so good in the Valley.

DeRuyter, whose name has been associated with a number of job openings this month, has overseen a five-game improvement for a school that hit rock bottom under Pat Hill in 2011. With a win in the Hawaii Bowl, the Bulldogs will snap a three-game postseason losing streak, while reaching 10 wins in a season for the first time since 2001. Winners of a share of the Mountain West, Fresno State will arrive at Aloha Stadium on a five-game winning streak, having lost on the road to three quality opponents, one-loss Oregon, 10-3 Tulsa and 10-2 Boise State.

For the first time in school history, SMU will be playing in a fourth bowl game in a row. But this one did not come easy.

The Mustangs have actually been regressing under head coach June Jones, who coached on the Islands for nine years before heading to Dallas. In fact, this is arguably his worst team since he debuted on the Hilltop at 1-11 in 2008. SMU lost games to Tulane and Rice during the regular season, and might not have become bowl-eligible in the finale with Tulsa had the Golden Hurricane not already padlocked the West Division of Conference USA. Correctly labeled as one of the least deserving of this year’s postseason participants, the Mustangs will be playing with a chip on their shoulder on Christmas Eve night.

Players to Watch: If SMU continues to have issues getting to the quarterback, Fresno State QB Derek Carr is going to pick it apart.

Carr wasn’t on anyone’s list of Heisman contenders, but, boy, did he have the kind of season that attracted the attention of NFL scouts. The 6-3, 210-pound junior has quietly thrown 36 touchdown passes and only five picks for an offense averaging more than 40 points a game. He’s helped elevate Davante Adams to Freshman All-American status, while maintaining excellent chemistry with veteran WR Isaiah Burse. Oh, and if the Mustangs commit too many resources to the secondary, three-time 1,000-yard rusher Robbie Rouse will gut them repeatedly between the tackles.

For all kinds of reasons, the Mustangs are going to need a big game from star RB Zach Line.

SMU QB Garrett Gilbert won’t dare attempt to throw into to the teeth of a secondary that includes ball-hawking safeties Derron Smith and Thorpe Award runner-up Phillip Thomas, who’ve combined for 14 picks and four touchdowns. Gilbert has been a big disappointment in his first season since transferring from Texas, lacking consistency or accuracy for that matter. He ranks outside the top 100 nationally in passing efficiency, and will be harassed into mistakes by the nation’s No. 11 sack unit.

Who’ll do a better job of creating turnovers, SMU or Fresno State?

The Mustangs are No. 3 in the nation in takeaways … uhh, so, too, are the Bulldogs. Both teams are loaded with good athletes in the back seven, who’ll hunt down opposing players and strip them of the ball. Thomas and Smith form a dynamic duo, but Gilbert must also pay attention to the backside pressure of DE Andy Jennings. SMU will counter with a defense well-coached at causing turnovers. CB Kenneth Acker and LB Randall Joyner have three picks apiece, while instinctive linebackers Ja’Gared Davis and Taylor Reed will never be far from the ball.

Fresno State will win if … Carr throws more than one touchdown pass.

In the Bulldogs’ three losses this season, the All-Mountain West quarterback threw just a single touchdown pass in each game. It was the only three times it happened all season. Against Oregon, Tulsa and Boise State, he also struggled to complete passes downfield, averaging just five yards an attempt. In the balance of his games, he was close to 10 yards a pass. The Mustangs can be stingy against the close, shutting down lanes for Rouse to navigate. Fresno State becomes infinitely tougher to defend when Carr is connecting over the top to Adams, Burse and underrated TE Marcel Jensen.

SMU will win if … the Mustangs collect a bunch of takeaways on defense.

The scales of this game are unbalanced. SMU is capable of tipping them in its favor with drive-ending picks and fumble recoveries. The Mustangs must not just win the turnover battle, but win it by at least plus-two. This is a game that’ll have to be won by the athletes on the defensive side of the ball, like Davis and Reed. And Line. If the 230-pounder can’t churn out more than 100 yards on the ground, keeping Carr & Co. off the field, the outcome won’t be in doubt after halftime.

What Will Happen: Fresno State is going to open up a Santa-sized bag of whoopin’ on SMU on the eve of Christmas.

This is going to be a rough matchup for the Mustangs, facing a well-balanced Bulldogs team, with a slew of quality playmakers on defense. Not only will it be difficult to contain the explosive trio of Carr, Rouse and Adams, but it’ll get markedly tougher once Gilbert starts turning the ball. The quarterback will be completely out of his league against a defense that will generate pressure and short-field opportunities for its offense. Fresno State will jump out to an early lead, exercising its offensive superiority, and somewhat neutralizing the impact of Line. And when Gilbert is forced into obvious throwing situations, it’ll be a recipe for Thomas and Smith to pad their ball-hawking numbers.

CFN Prediction: Fresno State 41 … SMU 21
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Fresno State -12 O/U: 59

Hawaii Bowl History
2012 SMU 43, Fresno State 10
2011 Southern Miss 24, Nevada 17
2010 Tulsa 65, Hawaii 35
2009 SMU 45, Nevada 10
2008 Notre Dame 49, Hawaii 21
2007 East Carolina 41, Boise St 38
2006 Hawaii 41, Arizona State 24
2005 Nevada 49, UCF 48 OT
2004 Hawaii 59, UAB 40
2003 Hawaii 54, Houston 48 3OT
2002 Tulane 36, Hawaii 28