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StarBulletin.com

SMU a higher caliber


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POSTED: Friday, December 25, 2009

After shooting holes through most of its Western Athletic Conference opponents during the season, Nevada's pistol offense came to Aloha Stadium and backfired.

With quarterback Colin Kaepernick running backward trying to escape SMU's stifling pass rush, the Wolf Pack were held to 314 yards — 7 more than their season low at Notre Dame to open the season — in a 45-10 blowout loss to SMU in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl last night.

“;Our offense let us down, because we had to stay in the hunt with them with the offense and we were out of sync,”; Nevada coach Chris Ault said. “;It's disappointing we didn't even give them a game.”;

The Mustangs were 12-point underdogs at kickoff, but played like four-touchdown favorites, shutting down a Nevada offense that averaged 600 yards of offense during a five-game stretch.

Nevada was without running backs Vai Taua and Luke Lippincott, but even two 1,000-yard rushers wouldn't have been enough to run through a stout Mustangs defense.

“;These kids (that played) had enough experience to run the football,”; Ault said. “;Our front, other than maybe against Colorado State, played its worst game of the year.”;

SMU senior linebacker Chase Kennemer led the Mustangs defense with nine tackles to finish his career in a bowl game that he never expected to play in.

“;Slim to none,”; he answered when asked what his chances were of playing in a bowl game in his career. “;I couldn't ask for a better destination (and a) better way to go out as a senior.

“;It was all about the big guys up front this game. They dominated tonight.”;

Defensive ends Taylor Thompson and Margus Hunt each had a sack as SMU's line not only pressured Kaepernick in passing situations, but held the athletic junior to a season-low 23 rushing yards.

“;That's the type of hustling and hitting we needed,”; SMU coach June Jones said.

The lack of respect from the media and oddsmakers also provided the Mustangs with the motivation to put together one of their best performances of the season.

“;Everyone was counting us out right from the get-go and we definitely used that as motivation,”; Kennemer said. “;Guys are still in the locker room right now dancing and screaming. It was just awesome.”;

The win caps a turnaround from 1-11 a year ago to 8-5 and a bowl-game victory for the first time in 25 years for SMU.

The Mustangs started 12 sophomores and juniors, including seven on an offense that piled up 45 points and 534 total yards, and are poised to continue their ascent to the top of Conference USA.

“;(This win) brings back a lot of boosters and brings back all the alumni to know we have a football team again,”; said freshman quarterback Kyle Padron, who set a school record with 460 passing yards. “;It's going to be fun next year bringing the stadium back to being packed and I'm looking forward to it.”;