June Jones returned to Honolulu as head coach of SMU, and his Mustangs trounced Fresno State, 43-10, in the 2012 Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.
The first half belonged to SMU and, more specifically, senior defensive end Margus Hunt. The 6'8", 280-pound lineman from Estonia was unstoppable in the first half hour and went into the locker room with three sacks, two forced fumbles and a safety.
Garrett Gilbert, Zach Line and the Mustangs' offense ensured that Hunt's defensive efforts were not in vain, and each rushed for a touchdown to give their team a 22-0 lead at the end of the first half.
The Bulldogs decided that Hunt was not going to have the same type of impact and frequently triple-teamed the talented pass-rusher for the remainder of the game.
This allowed Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr time to throw, and he was able to slightly close the gap with a touchdown pass to Davante Adams early in the third quarter. But Gilbert refused to entertain the notion of a comeback, and he found Darius Johnson in the end zone on the very next drive.
The Hawaii Bowl was supposed to be Carr's time to shine, but a fourth-quarter interception that SMU's Taylor Reed returned for a touchdown turned this contest into a rout. Carr's later attempts to make the score respectable backfired, and Hayden Greenbauer intercepted another one of his passes and returned it for another score.
SMU finished the season above .500 with a record of 7-6, while Fresno State dropped to 9-4 in 2012.
While the game was technically played at a neutral location, SportsCenter noted that SMU had an advantage thanks to head coach June Jones' previous job at the University of Hawaii:
Former Hawaii coach June Jones looks right at home in Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.Underdog SMU is up 22-0 in Jones' 75th game at Aloha Stadium.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 25, 2012
Senior running back Zach Line has been a workhorse throughout his career with the Mustangs. In his final game, he put his name next to one of the all-time greats, as ESPN Stats & Info noted:
Zach Line just tied Eric Dickerson for most rush TD in SMU history (47) @hawaiibowl— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 25, 2012
The National Football Post's Dave Miller took note of Margus Hunt's first-half production:
#SMU defensive end Margus Hunt: 3 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and a safety. In the first half.— Dave Miller (@Miller_Dave) December 25, 2012
Margus Hunt is going the full Van Noy.— Matt Hinton (@MattRHinton) December 25, 2012
CBS Philly's Kevin McGuire was balancing his professional with his religious duties on Christmas Eve and noted that his prediction for this game was way off:
Not watching but before we go any further, I really like Fresno State tonight in the #HawaiiBowl.— Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB) December 25, 2012
Just checked the score between services, I see SMU is making me eat at words. Wow.— Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB) December 25, 2012
CBS Sports' Eye on College FBall noted that SMU's second interception return for a touchdown was another record-tying score for the Mustangs:
SMU has tied an NCAA record with 8 interceptions returned for TDs this season (tying Southern Miss in 2011).— Eye on College FBall (@EyeOnCFB) December 25, 2012