The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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A Tale of Two Seasons

Miracle man June Jones has SMU positioned for their first bowl appearance in 25 years, is it the beginning of a turnaround miracle?
Graphic by Brandon Brown
Graphic by Brandon Brown

Graphic by Brandon Brown

June Jones has been given the moniker of a miracle man of sorts based in his success in Hawaii, and it’s beginning to look like he still has the touch.

Before becoming head coach at the University of Hawaii in, the football team turned in 18 straight losses including an 0-12 record in the 1998 season.

When Jones took the reigns in 1999, he turned the program around, posting a 9-4 record his first season there, as the Warriors found themselves with a share of the Western Athletic Conference title. The turnaround was one of the biggest comebacks in NCAA history and earned Jones a reputation of turning distressed programs in a complete 180.

Jones signed with SMU in 2008 and after a rough first season at 1-11, it seems Jones’ magic is starting to take affect on what former coaches have called a “coaching grave yard.”

Jones currently has the Mustangs at a 5-4 record and on the verge of securing their first bowl appearance in 25 years.

“The kids are buying into what we are doing and playing hard, good things happen when you play hard,” Jones said. “I just believe in more than just X’s and O’s, everyone does that. It’s more about getting the mind set changed and culture of everything, not just in the locker room, but the school and traditions and everything else.”

The first season under Jones was marred with drama and controversy as he came in and laid down the law. He immediately suspended players – even stars – for grades and other behavior misconduct.

After players adjusted to the new system, the program appeared to begin to turn the corner.

“Coach Jones came in with a different philosophy and he is all about bringing the team together,” senior wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders said.

That chemistry is making the difference in producing wins by helping the game be more fun for players, Sanders said.

“How do you spell win? F-U-N. I’m having the time of my life right now,” Sanders said. “I’ve been going through so many things in my four years at this school with no winning seasons and we’re right on the edge. I’m happy with what Coach Jones is doing. We’re right around that corner.”

A major part of the turnaround this season has been improved play on defense. Last season the Mustangs allowed 479.5 yards per game, the worst in bowl subdivision. This season, the Mustangs are only giving up 377. 9 yards per game, a difference of over 100 yards.

“They’ve had a year in the system. Anytime you do the same things over and over you allow yourself a chance to get better,” Jones said. “We’ve gotten better athletes too. Better athletes make better coaches and we’ve got some young, true freshmen kids that are playing pretty well.”

Both the pass defense and tackling have improved from last season. The Mustangs have nearly doubled their interception total from last year with 15, compared to eight in 2008. They are also wrapping up their opponents better with 50 tackles for a loss of yards through nine games this season. Last season, SMU had just 48 tackles for loss of yardage last year.

“The two biggest differences between this season and last season is our defensive scheme and the players understanding of the defense,” Senior linebacker Chase Kennemer said. “The coaches have also had time to teach the players the schemes of the defense. Guys are not making as many mental mistakes, so they are in the right positions to make plays.”

Special teams has also contributed significantly to the Mustangs’ success this season. In two games the special teams unit, led by freshman Margus Hunt, has blocked field goals that have been returned for touchdowns that eventually became difference makers in the game.

Jones said the mantra of blocking kicks has become the norm with a lot of the players on special teams.

“That kick Sterling Moore blocked that happened because we’ve been blocking kicks. It’s a different attitude now, the kids almost expect to do it now,” Jones said. “They play with a different walk and a different step.”

Possibly the biggest factor to the turn around is what winning games is doing to the psyche of the team.

“There is more excitement on campus, everyone is talking about it,” senior center Mitch Enright said. “It is just more fun and exciting to be playing for something more than trying to win more than one game each season.”

Now with bowl eligibility within reach this Saturday at UTEP, the team has all the more motivation to continue their current two-game win streak.

“One of the things I’ve noticed the most are my professors,” Kennemer said. “You hear in class ‘Oh, the football team got killed again.’ I used to hear that all the time and I would just get real quiet but this year people are like, ‘Hey, the football team is winning. Who’s going to the game this week?’ Obviously students are fired up.”

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