Christmas Eve clash


POSTED: Thursday, December 24, 2009

Today's Sheraton Hawaii Bowl represents a reward for the turnarounds executed by Nevada and SMU.

For Nevada, a fifth straight postseason appearance came after starting the season with three straight losses.

SMU, meanwhile, pulled off the biggest improvement in the nation by going 7-5 one year after a 1-11 showing in June Jones' debut in Dallas.

While overcoming the trials sweetened their berths in this afternoon's game at Aloha Stadium, neither team views the journey as complete just yet.

“;We worked hard to get here, we're excited about being in this atmosphere, but we also came here to handle business,”; SMU running back Shawnbrey McNeal said, “;and business is not over until after the game.”;

The Mustangs (7-5) and Wolf Pack (8-4) meet in a Hawaii Bowl missing the home-team element for just the third time in its eight years. But the game is spiced by Jones' return to Aloha Stadium.

A decade after reviving the UH program with a win in the Oahu Bowl and nearly two years removed from his sudden departure following the Warriors' Sugar Bowl appearance, Jones is back with an SMU program savoring its first bowl game in 25 years. The Mustangs edged Notre Dame in the 1984 Aloha Bowl, then struggled mightily after being shut down for two years when NCAA violations were uncovered.





        » Who: Nevada (8-4) vs. SMU (7-5)

» When: Today, 3 p.m.


» Where: Aloha Stadium




» Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM


“;It's also just nice to finally put an end to the death penalty talk,”; senior linebacker Chase Kennemer said. “;It's special to be on the team that finally put an end to that and I couldn't think of a better destination than Hawaii to go to our first bowl game, so it should be a nice way for the seniors to go out.”;

Nevada's fifth straight bowl appearance came thanks to an eight-game winning streak following the Wolf Pack's 0-3 start. It took Nevada six quarters before scoring its first touchdown of the season as the Wolf Pack opened with losses to Notre Dame, Colorado State and Missouri.

The Pistol offense led by quarterback Colin Kaepernick warmed up in October as Nevada averaged more than 51 points while tearing through the WAC schedule to set up a showdown with Boise State. Nevada lost to the Broncos, and the Wolf Pack views the Hawaii Bowl as an opportunity to generate momentum toward 2010.

“;This is going to be a huge game for us,”; said Kaepernick, part of a trio of 1,000-yard rushers. “;This is our fifth straight bowl game and the last three we've lost. It's not just good enough to be here. .. It's leading us into next season and we want to start next season on a good foot.”;

On the field, the game appears to be a matchup of offensive strengths against defensive weaknesses.

Nevada brings the nation's top ground game into the game, averaging 362.2 yards per game, against an SMU defense that struggled to stop the run, ranking seventh in Conference USA.

Nevada sophomore Lampford Mark is expected to make his first career start with Vai Taua and Luke Lippincott, the Wolf Pack's top two running backs, out. Ault said Mark and freshman Mike Ball both bring greater speed to the backfield, though they lack the experience of the veterans.

“;Like we told the kids, sometimes the flag is dropped and you have to pick it up and run with it,”; Nevada head coach Chris Ault said. “;That's what we expect from them.”;

SMU's run-and-shoot offense will be familiar to local fans and the Mustangs face a Nevada defense that ranked last in the WAC in pass defense during the regular season.

But with true freshman Kyle Padron at the controls, Jones has been more balanced in his play calling this season and McNeal rushed for 1,125 yards and nine TDs.

Padron has completed 64.4 percent of his passes with eight TDs and four interceptions.

The game is a chance for Nevada and SMU to put a final stamp on their turnaround seasons.

“;I hope we're ready,”; Jones said. “;We'll find out come kickoff.”;








QB2Kyle Padron6-4201
RB8Shawnbrey McNeal5-10190
LT70Kelvin Beachum6-3270
LG77Josh LeRibeus6-2330
C51Mitch Enright6-1266
RG64Bryce Tennison6-3285
RT79J.T. Brooks6-5311
X24Aldrick Robinson5-10175
H17Emmanuel Sanders5-11180
Y11Cole Beasley5-9172
Z18Terrance Wilkerson5-10178






DE47Taylor Thompson6-6280
NT93Chris Parham6-0282
DE99Marquis Frazier6-3281
SAM45Youri Yenga6-1223
BUCK52Pete Fleps6-1230
MIKE9Chase Kennemer6-0215
WILL56Ja'Gared Davis6-1206
CB6Bryan McCann6-0173
FS23Chris Banjo5-10195
SS10Rock Dennis5-9180
CB5J.R. McConico5-8175






PK11Matt Szymanski6-1193
P11Matt Szymanski6-1193
LS53Mark Voosen6-2203
LS63Blake McJunkin6-2262
Hold14Braden Smith6-0182
KR6Bryan McCann6-0173
PR17Emmanuel Sanders5-11180









QB10Colin Kaepernick6-6215
RB29Lampford Mark6-1200
T74Steve Haley6-5305
G62John Bender6-8325
C63Kenneth Ackerman6-4280
G75Chris Barker6-4305
T73Alonzo Durham6-4285
TE85Virgil Green6-5240
Z82Tray Session6-3175
X4Brandon Wimberly6-3195
F14Chris Wellington6-1190






DE55Dontay Moch6-1245
DT93Zack Madonick6-1285
DT95Nate Agaiava6-2285
DE99Kevin Basped6-6240
or58Ryan Coulson6-3255
SAM52James-Michael Johnson6-2240
MIKE36Mike Bethea6-2245
WOLF33Brandon Marshall6-1235
CB6Doyle Miller5-11185
SS25Mo Harvey6-3210
FS49Jonathon Amaya6-2190
CB28Isaiah Frey6-0190






PK46Ricky Drake6-0190
KO46Ricky Drake6-0190
Punt48Brad Langley6-0200
LS58Ryan Coulson6-3255
Hold15Luke Collis6-2210
PR11Antoine Thompson6-1195
KR5MIke Ball5-10225
KR14Chris Wellington6-1190