With a new system and a new coach in place at North Texas, it stands to reason the 1st quarter was all SMU. When Freshman QB Ben Hicks threw an 88-yard touchdown pass to make it 17-0 with 23 seconds left in the 1st quarter, it wasn’t so much that the wind went out of Apogee Stadium, but rather a feeling of, “Welp, this feels about right.”
But the Mean Green would not just curl up and die, charging right back on a 75-yard drive for a touchdown of their own, culminating in a 7-yard TD pass to Thaddeus Thompson. They traded another set after that, as SMU put QB Matt Davis back in the game, keeping the lead but a smaller one, 24-14 at the half.
Ultimately the Mustangs proved too much for the rebuilding project from up Highway 75, putting up another field goal and touchdown to remain comfortably ahead, as UNT had a touchdown of their own during garbage time. The latter gave the Mean Green a chance to show off freshman QB Mason Fine, who has a cannon for an arm but suffered from inexperience at the collegiate level. Even as a backup, he finished an impressive 8/11 with 74 yards passing.
Despite the experience of SMU, the top QB on the field was senior Alec Morris, who finished 24/39 for 237 yards, making him the best North Texas quarterback since Donald Trump was still a reality show star. After he settled down into a rhythm in the second quarter, he threw all over the Mustangs and will be a scary prospect for opposing defenses this season.
Where North Texas fell short, however, was where the Mustangs excelled. SMU outgained UNT on the ground, 272 to 83, and that plus 3 turnovers from North Texas was enough to seal their fate.
North Texas will have to deal with some growing pains this season, hopefully working them out next week against FCS Bethune-Cookman. Of their 83 yards on the ground, 80 came from standout returning junior Jeffrey Wilson, the only real rushing option head coach Seth Littrell had at his disposal.
On the Mustang side of the ball, this is a squad massively improved from last season. While the passing was all but even, the 1-2-3 combo of Xavier Jones, Braeden West and QB Davis were the bulk of their ground game, with Jones average 10.5 yards every time he touched the ball. The team wisely split QB time between Davis and Hicks, as Davis is more of a runner and Hicks more comfortable throwing, going 5/9 but for 145 yards. Star receiver Courtland Sutton only caught the ball four times, but 3 of those were for touchdowns.
SMU will surely rise in the American standings this year overall, though a victory against the Jim Grobe-led Baylor Bears next week seems a shaky proposition. North Texas, meanwhile, has its work cut out for it, with 51 newcomers on the roster this year.
Last year the final margin of victory was 18, between two very rough-around-the-edges squads.
This year SMU still gets the win, but it’s getting closer, and so for another year they can hold their head high— taking their 30th win in the series but 1st ever in Denton. But don’t get too confident... these teams meet again in Week Two next year.