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Joe Bo’s College Exam: SMU Gets Off Death Row

December 26, 2009

Game Raises Some Thoughts About SMU Coach June Jones and Browns

By Joe Bodolai

Making their first bowl game appearance since 1984, the SMU Mustangs drove hard and often into the end zone after a 25-year bowl game dry spell. The June Jones “run and shoot” offense shot early, quickly, and seemingly at will, pounding the Nevada Wolfpack 45-10 in what has been the most dominating performance of the bowl season to date.

The impressive offensive show, led by freshman Kyle Padron’s astounding storybook night, was matched by the Mustangs’ defense which limited the nation’s second-leading offense to a second half field goal and a TD in the final two minutes against the bottoms of SMU’s depth chart.

Padron, who looks like a high school JV player, was all grown up with the poise of a senior. Unexpectedly taking over as a starter and going 5-1, he threw for 460 yards, over 300 of them in the first half before SMU decided to use up the clock with the running game. Padron’s performance has to be filtered through the fact that Nevada came in with the nation’s second worst pass defense. Yet, the run and shoot was unstoppable, a fact emphasized by the 31-0 halftime score.

The SMU defense, however, held the nation’s leading rushing attack to just 134 yards. In all fairness, the Wolfpack was without two of their three thousand yard rushers, declared academically ineligible.

The star of the night was SMU coach June Jones, the beneficiary of the Mouse Davis run and shoot offense. His record of turning programs around from losing to winning in just one year is unprecedented in all of college football. He took Hawaii from 0-11 to 9-4 in 1998. Aside from his record, what came to my mind was the way that Padron and the SMU offense looked as if Brady Quinn were playing for the Mustangs. Receivers free to adjust patterns, high percentage passes, the perfectly called long bombs, and a running game and play calling keeping the defense off balance are hallmarks of Jones’ teams.

Jones does have NFL coaching experience but would be a long shot and unlikely fit for a return to the pro game. His NFL resume is unimpressive to say the least, and would likely not be a good NFL choice, nor would he leave something he is building in Texas. Yet, film of this game might be some good study for Mike Holmgren when he thinks about the kind of system that suits the present and future talent of the Browns. It certainly shows that some coaches have a different timeline for their “process”.

It was clearly a statement night for SMU that was 25 years in the making. In the early 80’s this program was a national powerhouse featuring running backs Craig James and Eric Dickerson on the same team, before becoming the first and only major college program to suffer the NCAA “death penalty”. They were unable to field a team in 1987 and 1988 and were inconsequential for the last 20 years. On this night, June Jones got them off of death row. They enjoyed their first night out of jail and deserve it. Welcome back SMU.

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