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North Texas Mean Green - Texas Longhorn Football Game Preview

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Sarah Glenn

This is what the TTF had to say about our upcoming North Texas game.  Excerpt:

Last meeting

2006 in Austin.  Texas-56, North Texas-6.  The Longhorns’ post-championship "Come and Take It" flag got to wave proudly for at least one week, as freshman QB Colt McCoy tossed three TDs and Texas D devoured the Mean Green like they were made from soylent green.  Limas Sweed took the second pass of young Colt’s career sixty yards to the house and the Longhorns never looked back - Texas’ struggles with a Booger Kennedy-led UNT D in 2002 were not to be repeated.

Overview

Head coach Dan McCarney spent a decade turning Iowa State into the scrappy spoilers of the Big XII Conference, putting up five .500-or-better conference records and also making five postseason appearances in an area that’s known more for bowl haircuts than bowl appearances.  His Build-A-Gutty-Overachiever tool kit in hand, he headed to Denton in 2011 to help the Mean Green dig out from the wreckage of the Todd Dodge error era (not every successful Texas high school spread coach gets to be the next Art Briles.)  That tool kit paid dividends in 2013 as the Mean Green turned in a nine-win season highlighted by giving Georgia all they wanted for three quarters and logging the program’s first bowl win since...that Booger Kennedy-led team in 2002!

McCarney got it done last season with a spread-out passing game that emphasized stretching the defense horizontally and then hitting them with a big back, and his defense thrived on creating negative plays (over 70 tackles for loss, 39 sacks and 17 forced fumbles.)  Of course, North Texas lost plenty of seniors who keyed both sides of the ball, and rebuilding rather than reloading tends to be the order of the day at programs of this echelon.  But if the newcomers are capable of emulating 2013’s style then they’ll be more than capable of giving Texas a game.

Challenges for Texas

McCarney’s defensive approach last season was basically to load up the line, attack the backfield and hope like hell that the secondary could hang on against the deep ball.  It’s the kind of approach that can cause headaches when your offensive line is full of new faces learning a new system, and a few missed assignments leading to sacks or runners getting smacked in the backfield could quickly put the Longhorn crowd in a dour mood.  The heart of last season’s Mean Green Sack Machine is no longer around, but DEs like Daryl Mason and the speedy Chad Polk will be a decent early test for the Longhorns’ tackle tandem.  Texas still owns a significant talent edge up front, but if UNT’s sophomore DT Sir Calvin Wallace receives an actual knighthood at midfield after the game then we’ll know that things have gone badly wrong.

North Texas’ skill positions underwent major turnover in the offseason, but if  the Texas D wants to translate that into major turnovers they’ll have to contend with a very experienced OL.  The Mean Green’s Front Five will line up either three or four seniors and return well over 100 combined starts between them.  They’ll be unlikely to blow blitz protections and should give whoever’s under center at least a modicum of time to throw.  Their horizontalism-is-its-own-reward passing attack should bring a smile to both of Greg Davis’ remaining fans, and it will also give an early test to the Texas corners’ ability to rally to balls in the flat and beat bubble screen blocking.

Opportunities for Texas

Capable senior QB Derek Thompson is gone, and one former two-star recruit or another will be making his first start in a hostile environment - well, an environment of variable hostility dependent on the heat, the drink specials in the Touchdown Club and how many "Miss Mack Yet?" signs have been bootlegged into the stadium.  The Longhorn defense’s hostility will be a given, however, and even if the rush isn’t manhandling the North Texas front there should be plenty of opportunity to confuse the signal caller with pressure from odd angles and varied looks in the secondary.  UNT returns some skill position guys with experience but nobody who’s scary enough to preclude Texas from playing a man-heavy scheme and causing havoc up front.

With neither of the Mean Green’s projected DT starters breaking 280 pounds and a starting DE clocking in at a smooth 6’0" 233, even an attacking pose shouldn’t be enough to keep the Longhorns from imposing their will on the ground.  A heavy diet of run blitzes will open up a lot of space for guys like Jaxon Shipley and (dare we dream) the tight ends to work the middle of the field, and a defense that gave up plenty of yards when it wasn’t stopping someone in the backfield could be ill-suited to corral Daje Johnson in space.

**

What's changed since our late July musings?

  1. Jaxon Shipley probably won't be will be terrorizing their secondary.
  2. Daje Johnson will only be terrorizing the water cooler.
  3. Josh Greer has been named UNT QB.  6-5, 220.  Pocket passer.  His only college passing experience was at Navarro Junior College.  Welcome to DKR.
  4. Former Longhorn Darius Terrell isn't slated to start, but will be in the Mean Green receiver rotation. What a glorious run of large, slow receivers we've had over the last five years.
What's still the same?
  1. The North Texas OL is the elite of Conference USA and a legit FBS bunch.  They average 6-3.5, 320 across the board including a starting guard who weighs 358 (and used to weigh 390), a 330 pound center and a legitimate NFL prospect tackle in Lemon (6-3, 315).  They're experienced, huge and a great unit level test for our DL and LBs
  2. Our OL inexperience will face UNT's own DL inexperience.  They have four new starters up front and go 6-1, 252 on average.  They're undersized and will try to compensate with feast-or-famine style stunting.  This will be less a physical test than one of assignment, effort and execution.
  3. The UNT secondary is on the smaller end of the scale, but they're not shy about manning up.  The safety Lee is a big hitter.
  4. Their RBs are both bowling balls (5-9, 230 and 5-9, 222) so linebacker and safety tackling better be on point.
Texas is in the process of learning about itself on offense and will face a defense that will test assignment soundness, but if that holds, scoring opportunities should abound.
Defensively, the Horns front 7 will see a legit FBS OL while the secondary will have the luxury of facing an inexperienced QB with a smallish WR corps.

I'll be pleasantly surprised by anything better than a shaky start on special teams.
If you want the deep dive UNT primer, here's Dan McCarney sporting redneck sunglasses indoors paired with a tie and dress shirt combo revealing his opening depth chart on a greasy whiteboard.
FOOTBALL!