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Ault-Jones main event takes center stage today


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POSTED: Thursday, December 24, 2009

Portland State and Nevada were playing each other in football when things got heated at halftime ... between the head coaches.

Darrell “;Mouse”; Davis and Chris Ault squared off for the lightweight championship of the small college football world about 35 years ago.

“;I don't know how it started, he was just being a cantankerous little pip-squeak. I probably was, too. Maybe there was some shoving, but no punches thrown,”; Davis said yesterday, between chortles in a phone interview from his home in Lake Oswego, Ore. “;We got right up to the point where we were really ready to get it on. Then my defensive coordinator, Lynn Hewitt, he got between us. He could whip both of us at the same time, so I guess he won the fight. Afterward, Chris said, 'I hope you're gonna fire that guy.' I said, 'Hell no, I'm gonna give him a raise.' “;

June Jones was there. He was the Portland State QB.

“;I think Mouse got the best of it, but I'm sure Chris tells his guys that he did.”;

So that's what happened when the granddaddy of the run-and-shoot and the inventor of the pistol offense met up in the 1970s. Today, Davis' protege, Jones, brings his SMU Mustangs to Aloha Stadium to play Ault's Nevada Wolf Pack in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.

I'm calling it the Ineligibles vs. the Intangibles. At this point, I'm not sure Nevada has 11 guys left who are allowed to play in this game. And how is it that this is homecoming in Hawaii for a team from Dallas? Well, Jones and half of his SMU staff directed the most exciting decade of UH football. Whether you like Jones or not, you gotta give him that much.

One of the reasons everyone here doesn't love Jones is because he changed the team nickname and its color scheme. When you mess with tradition, you mess with the very soul of a college football program — at least that's the way some people see it. I don't, because the game has changed, and that's what Jones saw and acted upon.

College football programs belong to the general public now, not just the alumni and the boosters; Notre Dame was actually way ahead on this with the concept of the Subway Alumni ... and it's always been that way in Hawaii to a certain degree since the Rainbows/Warriors are more the state's team than the university's.

If you don't like it, blame geography and TV. These are the two factors, locally and nationally, that have changed the dynamics.

Jones is making some changes at SMU, like he did at UH 10 years ago. SMU has a cute little pony, Peruna, as its mascot. But big is better, right? So Jones, with help from T. Boone Pickens, has brought in some full-grown mustangs.

“;It is actually going back to what there was before at SMU,”; Jones said. “;We still have Peruna, but we have the mustangs, too.”;

Today's game? I think Jones is still in Ault's head after he played three quarterbacks in the first series at Nevada in 2007, and Ault's attempt to ice Dan Kelly failed.

And Hawaii, I mean, SMU, has a 1,000-yard rusher, Shawnbrey McNeal. The only other one from the run-and-shoot I can think of is Barry Sanders.

Jones — and his staff that includes Michael Brewster, Dennis McKnight, Dan Morrison, Lopaka Ornellas, Jeff Reinebold, Adrian Klemm and Wes Suan (you remember them, right?) — get to pick on a defense that is minus its coordinator, Nigel Burton.

Burton is the new head coach at Portland State.

Funny how things work out, isn't it?

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Reach Star-Bulletin sports columnist Dave Reardon at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), his “;Quick Reads”; blog at starbulletin.com, and twitter.com/davereardon.