August 30, 2010
By SCHUYLER DIXON
The Associated Press
DALLAS — June Jones watched four quarterbacks take simulated shotgun snaps while four receivers scattered across the SMU practice field. Moments later, four footballs went flying.
Route after route and throw after throw, the drills went on for more than two hours, Jones surveying all the while. He talked to one receiver or another after nearly every pass-and-catch quartet, fine-tuning the heart of an offense that is pumping life into a football program many had given up for dead.
The SMU coach has followed his record-setting turnaround at Hawaii a decade ago with an equally improbable revival of the Mustangs, who endured a quarter-century of losing after the only "death penalty" shutdown for cheating in NCAA history. The formula, boiled down to its simplest form, was the same each time: Score points. Lots of them.
"A lot of guys take these jobs that have lost forever and it's old school, you gotta be tougher, you gotta be more physical," Jones said. "But to come to this school and build a team on defense is not going to happen. The turnaround stuff to me is playing an exciting brand of football where you go and try to win the game on every play."
It worked right away in Hawaii, where Jones set the NCAA mark in 1999 with a nine-game improvement from 0-12 to 9-3. It took a year at SMU, where the Mustangs matched the 1-11 record of Phil Bennett's final season in the first go-round for Jones.
A year ago, though, SMU went 7-5 to qualify for its first bowl in 25 years. The Mustangs were the biggest underdog of bowl season but had the largest margin of victory, 45-10 over Nevada in the Hawaii Bowl. Their eights wins were the most since 1984, three years before the program went dormant for two seasons.
The Mustangs almost never tackle during practices that are so quiet, a librarian could be in charge. ("We're positive reinforcement rather than cursing, yelling, hollering and screaming," Jones says.) He believes in establishing the offense first, then bringing the defense along later — the opposite of the championship formula so many coaches follow.
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