The Seth Littrell Era began on the field at Apogee Stadium Saturday night as North Texas hosted the rival SMU Mustangs. More questions than answers were provided before the game with North Texas adding a brand new head coach, offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator, and quarterback. As expected, the experience and talent of SMU led them to a 34-21 victory to spoil the Mean Green’s season opener.
A fast start for SMU really put this game away before it ever got competitive. On the opening drive, running back Xavier Jones took a 49 yard run to the house and gave SMU an early 7-0 lead in the first 2 minutes. By the end of the first quarter SMU had a comfortable 17-0 lead after a field goal and an 88 yard touchdown pass from Matt Davis to Courtland Smith. The chemistry of SMU’s offense exploited every weakness of a North Texas defense that is still trying to adjust to a new 3-3-5 defensive scheme.
The offseason provided North Texas with nothing but question marks surrounding it’s offense. The Mean Green didn’t return a single quarterback that played in 2015 and hired their new offensive coordinator, Graham Harrell. This season will be Harrell’s first as an offensive coordinator in the NCAA, although his style is expected to favor the air attack given his background as a quarterback at Texas Tech. Alabama graduate transfer, Alec Morris, is the man chosen to execute the Harrell air attack offense. Morris finished the game with 237 yards passing, 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. A lack of long-term chemistry with his receivers was obvious as he overthrew on numerous occasions, missing out on score chances.
SMU’s offense looked impressive early, but seemed to slow down significantly as the Mean Green began to get used to their defensive adjustment. Quarterback, Matt Davis, rushed for 91 yards and provided 2 touchdown passes with only 1 interception. The running game was truly the highlight of the Mustang offense as they accumulated 272 yards rushing between 5 separate players. Running back Xavier Jones led the rushing charge with 115 yards and a touchdown. However, both Xavier Jones and Matt Davis left the game early with injuries. The Mustangs offense will need both of them back as quickly as possible to keep up their high tempo.
Moving forward, North Texas has positive signs for their season. The Mean Green outscored SMU 21-17 after the first quarter and looked much more in synch defensively. On the offensive side of the ball, 7 different players had a reception for a total of 311 passing yards. The running game looked stagnant for the most part but returning starter, Jeffrey Wilson, provided 86 yards and a touchdown. The Mean Green host FCS team Bethune-Cookman next week in a must win game after last season’s blow out by Portland State. A loss to Bethune-Cookman will be the ultimate sign of a repeated 2015 North Texas soon.