But the kids you see at right are not anybody's employees; they're June Jones's latest devotees, and they put a stunning exclamation mark on the '09 season in the Hawaii Bowl. Sure Nevada had nearly the worst pass defense in the nation, but unlike other porous defenses on SMU's schedule (UAB, Tulane, Washington State, Rice, UTEP all ranked in the bottom 20), Nevada had a decent offense that was favored to keep SMU's aerial circus off the field, even without 2/3 of its 1,000-yards-each trio. But Jones and his freshman phenom Kyle Padron put the bowl practices-- a luxury not afforded the Ponies in a generation-- to good use. "I think I've grown a lot in these last few weeks," Padron said. "Any time you can get extra practice in with the coaches we have, it's going to help in the long run."
SMU's true freshman gunslinger (pictured) racked up stats remeniscent of Colt Brennan, in Brennan's Hawaii stomping grounds: 460 yards, two touchdowns, zero interceptions. The Ponies' defense turned in its best performance of the year, holding Nevada to 10 points, 177 yards in the air and 137 on the ground. The 35 point margin of victory was the Mustangs' first comfortable win of the year-- of the last few years-- and nearly equalled the sum of the margins of victory in SMU's seven other wins this year. Add it all up, and everything about the game points to better things ahead in Dallas. Only graduating center Mitch Enright is older than a sophomore on SMU's 09 o-line two-deep; likewise only one d-linemen on the two-deep is older than a sophomore as well, junior nose-tackle Chris Parham. Senior WR Emmanuel Sanders graduates, and junior RB Shawnbrey McNeal has left early for the NFL, but the rest of the offense is scheduled for 2010. LB Chase Kennemer and two DBs graduate as well.
With McNeal (pictured) gone pro, SMU will be auditioning for a go-to runningback. McNeal handled 63% of the team's carries in '09, for over 83% of the team's ground yards. True freshmen Darryl Fields and Kevin Pope join a sparse backfield this summer.
In short, the crew that improved the school's rushing attack from 119th to 100th, scoring offense from 93rd to 55th, rush defense from 116th to 88th, pass defense from 119th to 46th, and scoring defense from 115th to 90th, returns in 2010. Likely SMU won't be threatening TCU's stranglehold on the Iron Skillet in 2010, but expect another round of improvement across the board-- and perhaps a different take on that Skillet in 2011.
Here're KDFW33's three-part look at SMU's '09 season.