By Brian Hilderbrand for www.armedforcesbowl.com
Fort Worth, Texas, December 28, 2010 – SMU will be the home team in Thursday’s Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, playing in its home stadium and dressing in its own locker room. But SMU head coach June Jones said the game against Army won’t necessarily be a ‘home’ game for the Mustangs.
Because of all of the trappings surrounding the game, which honors those who have served and are currently serving in the United States armed forces, Jones said the game will be unlike any other the Mustangs have played at Gerald J. Ford Stadium.
“I was telling the kids, it’s going to be a little bit like a road game because they’ve got all the flyovers and they’ve got helicopters and tanks so it’s almost like it’s an Army home game,” Jones said. “At least we’re going to be in our own locker room, so that’ll be good."
Army head coach Rich Ellerson agreed – to a point.
“I tell you, we’re going to friendly country; Texas is Academy friendly,” Ellerson said. “Certainly the greater Dallas area, we have enough posts in that area, we have enough players on our team from that area, we have a significant percentage of the core cadets hail from Texas.
“I don’t think it’s going to feel like an especially enemy territory. We have an awful lot of support there. We’re not going to feel like the home team, but we’re not going to feel like strangers, either.”
The game’s trappings aside, Jones is more worried about the unorthodox looks the Black Knights will present on offense and defense. In addition to preparing for Army’s triple-option offense, the Mustangs will face a defense unlike any other they have seen this season.
“They’re very unique, they have a different scheme,” Jones said of Army’s defense. “Really, it’s sort of, to me, a 46 defensive scheme that (Ellerson has) kind of tweaked into his own deal. Nobody else runs what they do.
“They do a great job of coaching them up front and they hustle and they play hard. If you have to prepare for it in one week, it’s really difficult. They give you eight million different looks so you have time to at least hit everything. Whether we’ll execute it in the game, we’ll find out at 11 o’clock Thursday.”
SMU brings a 7-6 record into the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl and is coming off a heartbreaking 17-7 loss to Central Florida in the Conference USA championship game. Jones said a victory on Thursday will go a long way toward easing the sting of the Mustangs’ last outing.
“It’s the final game for us. It kind of determines how you feel about yourself in the off-season – you need to win it and that’s what we’re going to try to do,” he said. “No question, we’d rather end the season on a winning note.”
NOTES – SMU is taking the unusual step of encouraging its fans to wear black – one of Army’s school colors – for Thursday’s Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl. “While we recognize that they may be our opponent for this game, we want to show our thanks and appreciation to the Armed Forces and the U.S. Military Academy and its student-athletes for their service to our great nation,” Steve Orsini, SMU’s Director of Athletics, said. “This will serve as a tribute to service men and women across the globe for all their sacrifices to protect our freedoms.”
The Mustangs also will pay tribute to former SMU quarterback and television broadcaster Don Meredith, who died Dec. 5, by wearing a special “17” sticker on their helmets during the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl. Meredith was a two-time All-America selection while playing for SMU from 1957 to 1959. His jersey number 17 was retired by the university in 2008.
Brian Hilderbrand (firstname.lastname@example.org) will be covering the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl for www.armedforcesbowl.com for the second consecutive year. Hilderbrand is a media consultant and freelance writer in Las Vegas after spending more than 30 years as a sports writer covering high school, collegiate and professional sports in Southern California and Nevada. He began his journalism career in 1974 — while still in high school — covering local sports for his hometown Placentia (Calif.) Courier. A Cal State Fullerton alumnus, in 1979 he joined the sports staff of the Anaheim Bulletin, where his beats included the California Angels and Los Angeles Rams. After a brief stint at the Orange County edition of the Los Angeles Times, he moved to Las Vegas in 1986. He covered minor-league baseball, golf, motorsports and UNLV football during a 22-year career with the Las Vegas Sun.