SMU looks to stop Army invasion into Ford Stadium for 2010 Armed Forces Bowl
Published: Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 17:11
After posting a 7-6 overall record and closing out the 2010 season as Conference USA Western Division champions, SMU will compete in its second consecutive bowl game for the first time since the 1983 and 1984 seasons.
The Mustangs will take on Army in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl on their own campus Thursday. The bowl game is usually played in Fort Worth at Texas Christian University's Amon G. Carter Stadium, but due to renovations, SMU's Gerald J. Ford Stadium will play host for this year only.
SMU accepted its invitation to play in what is basically a home game for the Mustangs, following a disappointing 17-7 conference championship loss to the University of Central Florida in Orlando.
SMU experienced an up-and-down season, letting down some expectations that followed the 45-10 Hawaii Bowl victory over the University of Nevada and an 8-5 finish in 2009.
The Mustangs started their current season with a close loss to Texas Tech in Lubbock in the season opener.
SMU bounced back with back-to-back victories over the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Washington State University The Mustangs fell back down to .500 after an emotional home loss to rival and No. 3-ranked TCU.
However, by mid-October, SMU appeared to be on a roll after pummeling conference foes Rice University and University of Tulsa to move to 4-2. Despite the momentum, SMU struggled in the second half of the season by going 1-3 in its next four games. The Mustangs suffered an embarrassing homecoming loss to the University of Houston, a blown lead against Navy, and an unexpected loss to an average University of Texas at El Paso team, which left SMU head coach June Jones and the rest of the Mustang faithful wondering if SMU would even reach the postseason. The lone SMU victory during the four-game span came against conference bottom feeder Tulane University.
After their trip to El Paso, the Ponies rediscovered their winning ways by dismantling Marshall University at home and winning a gritty game against Eastern Division power East Carolina University.
With help from other schools, SMU limped into a conference championship game where the team faced a physical UCF team. SMU quarterback Kyle Padron and the offense struggled to find the end zone until late in the game and the Mustangs were forced to come home without the title, despite outgaining UCF in total yards, 317 to 311.
SMU's football team is designed around its pass-heavy run-and-shoot offense and sophomore Padron, who set SMU records in passing yards and touchdowns this season. Padron compiled 3,526 yards through the air and was responsible for 33 total touchdowns.
Sophomore running back Zach Line, who entered the season regarded as a short-yardage back, has excelled this year rushing for 1,391 yards, which ranks 11th in the nation and third all-time at SMU.
The receiving tandem of wide receivers Aldrick Robinson and Cole Beasley have caught a combined total of 19 touchdown passes. Each receiver also went over 1,000 yards this year, which marks the first time SMU has had two 1,000-yard receivers in the same season.
SMU will face an Army team that earned its first bowl berth since 1996. Head Coach Rich Ellerson, who was hired by Army in 2008, has turned around a Black Knight program that had endured three straight 3-9 seasons and was 30-108 since 1996.
The Black Knights are one of the few teams to stay faithful to the triple option attack. Army, a conference independent, finished the year 6-6 after a 31-17 loss against traditional rival Navy in the regular season finale.
The run-heavy triple option offense has been a staple for Army this year as the Black Knights ran 10th in the nation in rushing yards.
Army has won both previous meetings against SMU, but Thursday's bowl game will be the schools' first encounter since 1967.