Mustangs lose to Army in Armed Forces Bowl
Published: Monday, January 17, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 17:11
The SMU Mustangs came out energized as they played host to the 2010 Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, but were blacked out by the Army Black Knights 16-14 on Saturday afternoon at Gerald J. Ford Stadium.
The victory was Army's first bowl win in over two decades. SMU sported all new black uniforms in honor of their opponent.
"It was a well fought game," SMU head coach June Jones said. "I was proud of how the guys played, we didn't play well in the first half but the kids battled back."
Army jumped out to a 16-0 halftime lead and fended off a furious Mustang comeback. SMU outgained Army by nearly 200 yards but was plagued by three first half turnovers.
"The turnovers were obviously the difference," Jones said. "We had three and one for seven points and they had none. It's been a frustrating part of this year."
With the loss, the Mustangs dropped to 7-7 overall which prevents them from having consecutive winning seasons for the first time since the death penalty was instituted. SMU finished 8-5 in 2009.
The matchup allowed Jones to reunite with former teammate and coaching counterpart Rich Ellerson. Ellerson, who is in his Second season as head coach at Army, played and coached alongside Jones at Hawaii.
Both coaches have done tremendous jobs turning around their respective programs. Jones led SMU to a 45-10 victory over Nevada in the Hawaii Bowl last year which was SMU's 1st bowl victory in 25 years.
Ellerson turned around a Black Knight team that had finished 3-9 for three consecutive seasons prior to his arrival.
With the win over SMU, Army moved to 7-6 overall, their first winning season since 1996.
"He's a good football coach," Jones said of Ellerson. "He has a unique style of play and he's mastered it very well. I think as they get their players in place, they're going to have a good football team for years to come."
Ellerson got the better of his old companion, but it didn't seem like that was going to be the case as the Mustangs stampeded out of the gate.
On the game's opening play Padron dropped back and found wide receiver Aldrick Robinson on a 45 yard strike. However, two plays later former walk-on and Army senior captain linebacker Josh McNary scooped up a Padron fumble and returned it 55 yards for a touchdown.
SMU had faced a similar triple option team in Navy earlier in they year and had trouble stopping outside pitches. The Mustangs went on to lose that game 28-21.
On Army's opening possession the Black Knights exploited that weakness as quarterback Trent Steelman ran the triple option scheme to perfection. In the red zone, Steelman pitched the ball to Malcolm Brown who scampered for a 13-yard touchdown around the outside. The extra point attempt was blocked by SMU defensive end Margus Hunt which kept the score at 13-0. Only a sophomore, Hunt already has four career blocked point after attempts.
Padron was intercepted on both of SMU's next offensive possessions. Defensive back Josh Jackson and linebacker Stephen Anderson recorded the interceptions for Army.
Late in the second quarter Army kicker Alex Carlton tacked on three more points as he nailed a 44-yard field goal which gave the Black Knights a 16-0 lead heading into intermission.
The second half belonged to the Mustangs. SMU made a statement on their opening drive of the third quarter as the Mustangs 92 yards on 13 plays and chewed up six minutes off the clock. The drive was capped off by an 8 -yard touchdown pass from Padron to Robinson.
In the fourth quarter Padron hooked up with wide receiver Darius Johnson for a 28-yard touchdown which cut the Mustang deficit to two.
With 4:05 remaining in the game and facing fourth and six on Army's 30 Jones opted to kick a field goal despite having to kick into heavy winds. Jones not Ellerson decided to take a timeout before the kick, a decision that possibly iced SMU kicker Matt Szymanski and left the Mustangs with only one timeout.
Szymanski, who missed a 35 yard attempt earlier in the game, pushed the potential 47 yard game winning wide left. Army held on to the ball and ran out the remaining time off the clock.
Jones does not regret his decision and explained he called the timeout to tell Szymanski "to hit the ball, relax, don't rush it" but the kicker did just the opposite.
"It looked like he rushed it, which is easy to do when you're a young kid and a lot is on the line," he said. "He had enough leg its just unfortunate it didn't go in."
Johnson finished the game with 9 receptions for 152 yards and one touchdown and was named the SMU Most Outstanding Player for the Armed Forced Bowl.
"Darius made some big plays for us. He's a gamer," Jones said of Johnson. "He was that way in high school. He's proven he's that way in college."
Defensively, SMU was led by linebacker Taylor Reed who recorded 12 tackles and helped the Mustangs shut out the Black Knights in the second half.
"I think the defense played well enough pretty much in probably 12 of the 14 games this year to win," Jones said. "If we hadn't turned the ball over, hadn't given them the seven points, it would have been obviously a lot happier locker room."