THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published — Wednesday 26 December 2012
Last update 26 December 2012 12:11 am
HONOLULU: Southern Methodist University dominated Fresno State to win college football’s Hawaii Bowl 43-10 yesterday, thanks largely to a disruptive performance by Estonian defensive end Margus Hunt.
Hunt, a 6-foot-8 (203 centimeter) senior with an 82-inch (208-centimeter) wing span, forced two fumbles that led to field goals and sacked Derek Carr for a safety as SMU (7-6) built a 22-0 halftime lead en route to victory.
The Mustangs also returned two interceptions for touchdowns, giving them eight for the season to tie the National Collegiate Athletic Association record set last year by Southern Mississippi Hayden Greenbauer picked off Carr and returned it 83 yards with 1:14 left, the final blow to a miserable night for the Bulldogs (9-4).
SMU had seven sacks, the most Fresno State has given up all year.
SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert ran for a touchdown for the first score of the game and connected with Darius Johnson for a 21-yard score to answer the Bulldogs’ only touchdown. He rushed for 98 yards on 18 carries and threw for 212 yards.
But this game was decided by the Mustangs’ defense, with Hunt leading the way. He was voted the game’s Most Valuable Player.
Fresno State, which had averaged just over 47 points in its last five games, was held scoreless in the first half for the first time in two years.
The Mustangs were playing in a school-record fourth straight bowl game. They have won three of those games, twice as underdogs to explosive offenses — a 45-10 win over Nevada in 2009 and Saturday against Fresno State, both in the Hawaii Bowl.
Hunt, who won gold medals in the Junior World Championships in Beijing in 2006 in the shot put and discus, came to SMU for athletics and earned a football scholarship when the coaches took one look at him, and saw his 4.7 seconds time in the 40-yard dash. He set an NCAA record this year by blocking his 10th field goal.
His speed made all the difference in his final college game as Hunt zipped around tackles and harassed Carr all night. Carr finished with 362 yards on 33-of-54 passing. The 10 points were the fewest Fresno State has scored since a 20-10 loss to Boise State this year.
After a scoreless opening quarter, Gilbert shook off one tackle and scored on a 17-yard run. The defense took over from there.
Hunt blew past right tackle Alex Fifita and blindsided Carr, dropping him flat as the ball came loose and was scooped up by Aaron Davis, who returned it 23 yards to the Fresno State 16 until he fumbled it out of bounds. SMU had to settle for a field goal.
On the next series, Carr scrambled backward and couldn’t escape an 18-yard sack to the 6, and then Hunt sacked him in the end zone for a safety.
Hunt then caused another fumble on Carr’s delayed handoff to Robbie Rouse on the following series. SMU’s Taylor Reed recovered the fumble, leading to Chase Hover’s 48-yard field goal.
The two second-half interceptions sealed the victory for the Mustangs. Reed returned an interception 69 yards to make it 36-10, and then Greenbauer finished off a great night for the Mustangs’ defense.