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SMU defense shines In win over Fresno State

Fresno State safety Phillip Thomas, bottom, and linebacker Tristan Okpalaugo, top, watch as SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert (11) breaks a tackle and runs in for a touchdown in the second quarter of the Hawaii Bowl NCAA college football game Monday, Dec. 24, 2012, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)

Billed as a high-scoring, dare-to-leave-your-seat Chrismas Eve affair featuring two high powered offenses, the Sheraton Hawai`i Bowl instead took on a more defensive tone in a lopsided victory for SMU.

The Mustangs gave Fresno State Quarterback Derek Carr all he could handle, sacking the MWC Offensive Player of the Year five times and putting the game away with two Hawai`i Bowl record-setting interceptions for touchdowns.  After Taylor Reed picked off Carr with 9:05 left in the fourth to take the ball 69 yards to the house, teammate Hayden Greenbauer would do him 14 yards better, taking the pick-six 83 yards to put the exclamation point on the 43-10 victory for coach June Jones’ squad.

Leading the way for SMU was its 6’8” 275-lb terror, Margus Hunt.  The Conference USA first teamer was nothing short of spectacular, bulldozing his way for two forced fumbles and three tackles for a loss, including a sack on Carr for a safety in the second quarter.  The former track and field athlete from Estonia, who hadn’t even played football until stepping on the Dallas campus, gave the Bulldog offensive line major fits all afternoon, especially Tackle Alex Fifita and Guard Matt Hunt.  The Mustang defensive end also totaled two sacks and three quarterback hurries en route to being named SMU MVP of the game.

After a scoreless first quarter for both teams, SMU got on the board early in the second, with a 17-yard scoring TD by Quarterback Garrett Gilbert.  A Chase Hover 20 yard field goal followed by the Hunt safety would push the Mustang lead to 12-0 before Zach Line’s 8 yard run would give SMU a three-score lead at 19-0.  Hover would add a 48 yard field goal with 1:37 left in the half, to send the teams to the locker rooms with Mustangs up 22-0.

Fresno State would finally get on the board in the third off a beautiful catch by Davante Adams in the corner of the end zone, and it looked like the Bulldogs would actually make this a ball game.  On the very next possession though, Gilbert, the former high school National Player of the Year, would charge the Mustangs 75 yards down to the field in a drive that culminated in a Darius Johnson 21 yard touchdown that put the team in red up 29-7.

Margus Hunt’s performance in this nationally-televised game is reminiscent of another non-BCS school sensation that made his name on the same stage.  Chris Johnson’s  breakout performance five years ago in the Hawai`i Bowl introduced the world to the electrifying running back out of East Carolina, who has been carving up rushing yardage in the NFL ever since.

“We knew it was going to be Monday Night Football game,” Hunt said, “for me personally, it’s good to end on this kind of note.”

Coach Jones added, “Margus is a special player…I was really happy on a national stage for him to play that kind of game.”

When asked about his football aspirations in the future, Hunt left no doubt.

“I haven’t done track and field for two years now. I’m gonna give [football] 110% and see where it takes me.”

With the victory at Aloha Stadium, the Mustangs finish the season with a winning record at 7-6.

 



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