North Texas-UTSA Series Kicks Up A Notch Saturday In Denton
The Mean Green And Roadrunners Open Chapter Five Saturday
DENTON - North Texas and UT-San Antonio don't have a ton of history, however, Saturday's showdown at Apogee Stadium seems to carry a lot of weight. In just the fifth meeting between the two Texas schools, Saturday could go a long way in the development of what may turn into a fun rivalry.
There are those on both sides of the fence as to whether it already is a rivalry, or don't see it as such. Obviously there are ramifications for the Conference USA West division race, which is of the utmost importance for both sides come Saturday.
Here's what we know. North Texas trails the all-time series with the Roadrunners 3-1. UTSA took care of the Mean Green in 2016, knocking off North Texas 31-17 at the Alamodome. Three of the four meetings have been decided by eight points or less, including North Texas' 30-23 win in 2015 on Halloween, the lone win of the season for the Mean Green.
No matchup had more at stake than the first in the series, a 21-13 win by the visitors in Denton in late November, 2013. North Texas entered the contest at 8-3 with a good opportunity to lock up the West division, and earn a place in the conference title game. Instead, UTSA spoiled the party in Denton and gave themselves an outside shot at the division title. Both teams ended up finishing 6-2 in conference and on the outside looking in, as Rice took the division crown and eventually the conference championship.
North Texas went on to finish 9-4 after winning the Heart of Dallas Bowl, the most successful season in recent memory, while UTSA, who was transitioning to the Football Bowl Subdivision was ineligible for a bowl, despite their 7-5 season.
Looking at this week's game, there is potentially a lot on the line. Both teams are off to good starts, as the Mean Green enter the clash at 3-2 and 2-0 in conference, while the Roadrunners are 3-1 and 0-1 in C-USA.
A win for North Texas could loom large in the chase for the West division crown, while UTSA is looking to remain in that same race and even its conference record at 1-1. Both teams are much-improved from year ago, a year in which both went to bowl games.
The Mean Green have taken a major leap offensively under head coach Seth Littrell and offensive coordinator Graham Harrell, averaging 38.8 points per game and 510.8 yards of total offense per game. Last season, North Texas averaged 24.8 ppg and 341.8 yards per game.
Sophomore quarterback Mason Fine has shown significant growth, nearly matching his yardage output from a year ago through just five games. He has completed 62.6 percent of his passes for 1,442 yards to go along with 11 touchdowns, and has been taking far fewer sacks.
The offensive line, which struggled in 2016, allowing 43 sacks has surrendered just 11 through five games, and has helped pave the way for senior Jeffery Wilson. Wilson has been key for the Mean Green's success, totaling 666 yards rushing (averaging 7.2 yards per carry) and has nine rushing touchdowns. He ranks in the top 10 nationally in three categories (rushing yards per game, rushing touchdowns and scoring).
The Mean Green receiving corps is also much-improved, led by redshirt senior Jalen Guyton, who has a team-high 24 catches for 444 yards and five touchdowns. Those five touchdown grabs rank eighth in the country, and tie for the C-USA lead.
Defensively, it has been a bit of a work in progress for North Texas, though they improved significantly in the win at Southern Miss two weeks ago, limiting a high-octane offense to just 28 points. The key for North Texas will be limiting big plays, and trying to stymie the impressive UTSA rushing attack.
The Roadrunners are averaging 211.5 yards per game rushing, while posting 478.8 in total offense. They are led at quarterback by senior Dalton Sturm, who has been very efficient thus far this season. He is completing nearly 71 percent of his passes for 1,026 yards and nine touchdowns to just one interception.
UTSA's defense ranks as statistically the best defense in Conference USA in terms of total yards allowed (269.8). Sophomore linebacker Josiah Tauaefa and senior defensive lineman Marcus Davenport are two key faces to watch on that side of the ball. The secondary has also performed well, allowing just 143.8 passing yards per game.
This is poised to be another exciting chapter in the brief history between the two teams.
Fans interested in attending this and other North Texas home games can get more information by calling the Mean Green ticket office at 940-565-2527, or visiting www.meangreensports.com/tickets.