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SMU rolls past Fresno State 43-10 in Hawaii Bowl

    SMU running back Zach Line (48) attempts to move away from Fresno State defensive back Derron Smith (13) in the third quarter of the Hawaii Bowl, an NCAA college football game Monday, Dec. 24, 2012, in Honolulu. Fresno State linebacker Tristan Okpalaugo is at rear. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)

A dominant defensive effort powered SMU to a 43-10 win over Fresno State in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl today at Aloha Stadium.

SMU defensive lineman Margus Hunt forced two fumbles that set up Mustangs scores and recorded a safety in a pivotal second-quarter stretch. SMU also returned two interceptions for touchdowns in the fourth quarter to put the game away.

SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert threw for a touchdown and ran for another and the Mustangs closed the season at 7-6 while giving head coach June Jones his fifth Hawaii Bowl victory and his second at SMU. Gilbert passed for 212 yards and rushed for 98.

Fresno State’s Derek Carr threw for 362 yards and a touchdown but was also intercepted twice. Carr was sacked seven times and SMU recorded 13 tackles for losses in holding Fresno State (9-4) to minus-16 yards rushing.

After SMU took the lead on Gilbert’s 17-yard scramble for a touchdown early in the second quarter, Hunt contributed the Mustangs’ next 15 points.

Hunt drilled Carr on his first sack and forced a fumble for the first time this season. Defensive tackle Aaron Davis recovered the loose ball and returned it 23 yards to the Fresno State 16. The play was upheld after a review and the Mustangs settled for a 30-yard field goal by Chase Hover.

Fresno State continued to move backward on its next possession with Carr dropped for an 18-yard loss by Ja’Gared Davis then again by Hunt on the next play for a safety.

SMU took the free kick and drove 67 yards in 11 plays, capped by Zach Line’s 8-yard touchdown run. Line’s 47th career rushing touchdown moved him into a tie with Eric Dickerson for the school record.

Hunt’s onslaught continued as he forced the ball out of Fresno State running back Robbie Rouse’s grasp and linebacker Taylor Reed recovered for the Mustangs. Hover’s 48-yard field goal gave SMU a 22-0 lead.

Fresno State finally showed some life as Carr strung together three completions, the last a 33-yarder that moved the Bulldogs to the SMU 3 with 40 seconds left in the half. But after an incompletion and two runs, Fresno State’s fourth-down pass fell incomplete on the final play of the half.

The Bulldogs broke the shutout after cornerback Sean Alston intercepted a tipped pass and returned it 50 yards to a the SMU 15. Carr then threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Davante Adams.

The interception was Gilbert’s first since Oct. 18 and ended his streak of 144 pass attempts without throwing a pick. But he responded by leading the Mustangs on an eight-play, 75-yard drive and threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Darius Johnson in the left corner to stretch the lead to 29-7.

The SMU defense added to the lead when Reed intercepted a pass over the middle, only the sixth pick thrown by Carr this season, and returned it 69 yards for a touchdown.

Hayden Greenbauer closed the scoring with an 83-yard interception return and the Mustangs tied the FBS record  with their ninth pick-six of the season.

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