Mustangs seek to duplicate Army’s intensity, discipline

 By Brian Hilderbrand for www.armedforcesbowl.com

Fort Worth, Texas, December 29, 2010 - SMU is going to try and play exactly like Army when the Mustangs take the field Thursday morning at Ford Stadium for the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl.

No, SMU is not going to abandon its run-and-shoot offense in favor of the triple option and it’s not going to adopt a variation of the 46 defense. Rather, the Mustangs are hoping to approach the game with the same mental focus and execution as Army - and all of the service academies, for that matter.

“We have to really match how disciplined they are,” SMU safety Chris Banjo said of the Black Knights. “They’re a very disciplined team and they’re very well-coached. We just have to come ready to play, every play, on both sides of the ball and really dictate what they do (offensively) and make them one dimensional. If we can do that, I think we can really control the outcome of the game.”

Offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum said the Mustangs got a preview of what they can expect from Army when the Mustangs faced Navy earlier this season. SMU lost that game, 28-21, after leading 14-0 at halftime.

“They’re very disciplined, just like Navy,” Beachum said. “We know what to expect. We know that they’re going to come with it every play and they’re not going to shoot themselves in the foot. They’re going to make plays and do what they’re coached to do.”

SMU linebacker Pete Fleps agreed.

“Whenever you play a service academy, you’re going to get guys who are very disciplined, very tough and that don’t quit,” he said. “They’ll stay with the game and the play until the very end, regardless of score or outcome. We’ve got to match that and be prepared for that.”

Fleps added that he is confident the Mustangs can match the Black Knights’ intensity and play assignment-sound football on both sides of the ball.

“We’ve got a great challenge ahead of us but we’ve had a lot of preparation time so I think we understand our opponent fairly well,” he said. “Obviously, it’s going to be a good matchup and we’re looking forward to it.”

NOTES - SMU head coach June Jones was duly impressed by the top-notch practice facilities and weight room at Burleson Centennial High School, where the Mustangs practiced while in Fort Worth in preparation for the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl. “The University of Centennial was beautiful,” Jones quipped. “I've never seen high school facilities like that before.”

The Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl will unveil a new championship trophy following Thursday’s game at Ford Stadium. The winner of the game will receive an 18-inch-tall, 55-pound trophy that was forged from an actual tank round fired in battle during Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq.

Brian Hilderbrand (bgh5959@aol.com) - Brian Hilderbrand 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.