Mean Green Manhandles Mustangs In Home Opener, 43-6
Defense Forces Five Turnovers While Offense Runs For 245 Yards Against SMU
Dutton Watson returns an interception to set up the first Mean Green touchdown. (photo by Rick Yeatts)
DENTON - North Texas coach Dan McCarney has stated that there is no rivalry with cross-metroplex foe SMU until the Mean Green start winning games against the Mustangs, who came into Saturday's meeting with a considerable advantage in the all-time series.
Well, rivalry on.
A dominating Mean Green defense forced five turnovers and tossed a shut out until the last play of the game, special teams repeatedly pinned the Mustangs deep, an efficient offense churned out 245 yards rushing and protected the football, and true freshman Trevor Moore tied a school-record with five field goals as North Texas throttled SMU, 43-6, in the 2014 home opener. It was the Mean Green's most lopsided victory over the Mustangs in series history.
"We played Mean Green football," McCarney said. "Plus five in turnover margin, rushing the football for almost 250 yards, great on third down on defense, and special teams came through with big plays. All in all, a really good day. A great win."
The North Texas defense, facing a pass-happy SMU attack, kept the Mustangs contained, prevented them from converting any third-downs until the last play of the game, stuffed the SMU running game, and took control of the game by detonating Pony ball carriers and jarring loose turnovers that turned into North Texas points.
With North Texas up 3-0, linebacker Derek Akunne exploded into a Mustang receiver just as the pass arrived, sending man and ball flying. Defensive lineman Dutton Watson caught the deflected pass for his first career interception, rumbling 24 yards to the SMU 14 to set up a Reggie Pegram four-yard scoring run and a 10-0 lead.
After a field goal put the Mean Green up 13-0, defensive lineman Chad Polk blasted SMU quarterback Neal Burcham and forced a fumble that Jarrian Roberts scooped up and returned 31 yards for the first touchdown of his career. The defense then closed out the half with an interception by senior defensive back Lairamie Lee, which led to a 23-yard field goal and a 23-0 halftime lead.
"That's what we're looking for," McCarney said. "We forced turnovers today. That's our style, and anytime you do that you really have a chance to win."
The North Texas offense, meanwhile, looked much improved from a week ago. Quarterback Josh Greer, who completed just two of 11 passes last week, was good on nine of 12 passes. But it was the running game that fueled the North Texas attack, grinding out a 15-minute time of possession advantage and all three Mean Green offensive touchdowns.
What They Said
"One of the marks of this program has been, when adversity hits, we really respond. That's what happened today."
--Dan McCarney on his team's rebound from last week's loss to Texas
"It starts up front. We took the run game away. Then you have to be disciplined in your pressure and be really smart in coverage and have great reads when they snap the ball. The kids really executed today."
--McCarney on his defense
"They've got a pretty sophisicated pass game. Our kids did a nice job of matching to it, and the front kept struggling and straining to get to the quarterback. I'm really happy with the kids."
--Defensive coordinator John Skladany on dealing with the SMU passing attack
"I think he earned his scholarship."
--McCarney on kicker Trevor Moore's day
• This was just the third trip to Denton the SMU football team has made, and the Mustangs' first visit to Apogee Stadium. North Texas won the two previous Denton games, 14-7 in 1990 and 24-6 in 2006, both at Fouts Field.
• Quarterback Josh Greer completed his first four passes of the game, exceeding his completion total from the season-opener in Austin.
• North Texas held SMU to just eight yards rushing, the fewest yards rushing allowed by the Mean Green since 1991 (Alcorn State, also eight yards).
• The North Texas offense, so limited a week ago in Austin, topped its week-one production by the latter half of the second quarter. The Mean Green had 94 yards total offense against Texas, and finished Saturday with 353 yards total offense.
• True freshman Trevor Moore hit a 44-yard field goal on the first attempt of his collegiate career, then added kicks of 21, 23, 42 and 47 yards to tie the school record for most field goals in a game. Moore's performance was within one field goal of the NCAA record for a freshman.
• North Texas special teams pinned SMU at its own eight-, eight-, nine-, six- and seven-yard lines on punts and kickoffs.
• Dutton Watson's second-quarter interception extended the Mean Green's streak of forcing at least one turnover to 18 games.
• Lairamie Lee's second-quarter interception was the fifth of his career. Lee had three picks in 2013.
• Saturday's attendance was 22,398, the fourth-largest crowd in Apogee history.
• Sir Calvin Wallace recovered an SMU fumble in the third quarter, his second fumble recovery of the season.
• Running back Reggie Pegram had 81 yards on 21 carries and a touchdown to lead the Mean Green running game.
• Redshirt freshman running back Erick Evans got the first carry of his career Saturday, and took it 53 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
• The defense held SMU without a third- or fourth-down conversion until the final play of the game, when SMU connected on a 33-yard touchdown pass.
North Texas opens Conference USA play on Thursday, Sept. 11, at home against Louisiana Tech. Kickoff is 7 p.m.