FACTS & STATS: Site: Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium (100,119) --
Austin, Texas. Television: Longhorn Network. Home Record: UNT 0-0, UT 0-0.
Away Record: UNT 0-0, UT 0-0. Neutral Record: UNT 0-0, UT 0-0. Conference
Record: UNT 0-0, UT 0-0. Series Record: Texas leads, 9-0.
GAME NOTES: The Charlie Strong era in Austin officially gets underway on
Saturday night, as the Texas Longhorns play host to the North Texas Mean
North Texas is coming off a season in which it went 9-4, logging a 6-2 mark in
Conference USA play which tied it for second place in the West Division
standings. The Mean Green were rewarded for their impressive campaign with a
date against UNLV in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, which they won in a 36-14
Dan McCarney is set to embark on his fourth season at the helm in Denton, and
will try to improve upon his 18-19 overall record with the Mean Green.
Strong, the former Louisville head coach takes over the reins at Texas, where
Mack Brown had ruled the roost since 1998. The Longhorns went 8-5 last season,
with seven of those victories coming against Big 12 Conference foes. Having
lost out on the chance at winning the league crown and a BCS bowl bid, UT
settled for an Alamo Bowl clash with Oregon, and the Ducks prevailed easily in
that one, 30-7.
Texas has won each of its last 14 season openers, and is an astounding
101-17-3 all-time in such endeavors, which includes a 79-7-2 mark at home.
This Lone Star State rivalry has been one-sided since its inception, with the
Longhorns prevailing in all nine prior matchups.
The good news for North Texas when it comes to offensive starters returning is
that the offensive line doesn't need much work. Four of the five starters are
back, which will help offset the fact that several of the skill position
players are brand new.
McCarney recently announced that sophomore Josh Greer will be the starter at
quarterback, while the top returning receiver is Carlos Harris (553 yards, two
TDs). Other pass catchers to keep an eye on include Darius Terrell and Darvin
The rushing attack, which featured a 1,000-yard back in Brandin Byrd in 2013,
boasts a pair of solid options in Reggie Pegram and Antoinne Jimmerson, the
duo combining for seven touchdowns last year.
Defense was UNT's strong suit in 2013. Led by Zach Orr, who registered 123
tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and three sacks, the Mean Green limited foes to
a mere 120.5 rushing yards per outing. Marcus Trice registered nine pass
breakups and intercepted a team-high five passes from his spot in the
Unfortunately, both players are gone, leaving only four returning starters,
although one of them is productive linebacker Derek Akunne (90 tackles).
Along on the defensive line, not a single starter returns, but there are guys
McCarney feels comfortable going into battle with, namely seniors Daryl Mason
and Alexander Lincoln.
Kenny Buyers (78 tackles, three interceptions) and James Jones (67 tackles,
seven pass breakups) should anchor the secondary on the outside, while
Lairamie Lee (74 tackles, three interceptions) roams the middle of the field.
Running the football was the strength of the Texas offense last season, as the
unit averaged just shy of 200 yards per game (196.2) on the ground. That
aspect of the team's attack should be the least of Strong's concerns this
year, as senior Malcolm Brown (904 yards, nine touchdowns) and junior
Johnathan Gray (803 yards, four touchdowns) are back to handle the bulk of the
Quarterback and offensive line are the two areas that may take some time to
develop, although junior David Ash is coming off a season in which he
completed nearly 61 percent of his passes while throwing for seven scores
against only two interceptions.
Strong is a no nonsense coach, and his reign has already resulted in several
players being dismissed from the team, including receivers Kendall Sanders and
Montrel Meander, running backs Joe Bergeron, Jalen Overstreet and Chet Moss,
as well as defensive backs Chevoski Collins and Leroy Scott. He has also
suspended running back/receiver Daje Johnson, offensive tackle Desmond
Harrison and safety Josh Turner for at least the first game of the season, so
clearly he isn't willing to put up with much with regard to off-the-field
transgressions or violating team rules.
The one bright spot as it pertains to pass catchers still on the Texas roster
is that senior Jaxon Shipley is back after securing a team-high 56 receptions
(589 yards, one TD) in 2013.
The Longhorns were a middle-of-the-road defensive unit at best last season,
permitting more than 25 points per game while yielding nearly as many yards
(407.2) as they generated (408.7).
Back to help improve the numbers across the board are seven players with
starting experience, the most notable being senior defensive end Cedric Reed
(79 tackles, 10 sacks). Junior Malcolm Brown should be able to stand his
ground at defensive tackle, while Jordan Hicks, Steve Edmonds and Peter
Jinkins form a solid linebacking unit.
In the secondary, seniors Quandre Diggs and Mykkele Thompson are expected to
lead by example, and junior Duke Thomas is fresh off a year in which he picked
off three passes.
It may take some time for the 'Horns to come together as a cohesive unit, but
Strong has already left his mark. Expect the home team to be less than
hospitable to their guests in this season opener.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Texas 38, North Texas 17