If Saturday night's season-opener is any measure of where the 2014 North Texas football team stands, it showed just how much work the Mean Green faces before it can return to its bowl-champion status of a year ago.
With 11 new faces in the starting lineup, North Texas' inexperience and growing pains were evident in a 38-7 loss to the Texas Longhorns, who dominated the Mean Green offense and wore down the NT defense.
"There wasn't anything about our team that was good enough to win tonight," North Texas coach Dan McCarney said. "We've got to get that fixed."
North Texas managed just seven first downs in the game and 94 yards of total offense while throwing four interceptions.
The defense kept the Mean Green in the game into the second quarter, and it forced a pair of turnovers, including a fumble recovered in the end zone by James Jones for NT's lone score.
Texas completely controlled the first quarter, accumulating 103 yards of total offense while allowing the Mean Green just 15 yards and one first down. But the North Texas defense made key stops to hold the Longhorns to a 7-0 lead, that score made possible by a personal foul penalty to keep the drive alive.
But in the second period, the drumbeat of pressure on the North Texas defense - with no relief coming from the offense - took its toll. An interception set up a short field for the Longhorns' second score, Texas pushed the lead to 21-0 just before halftime, then put the game away on the opening drive of the third quarter, 28-0.
The Mean Green, meanwhile, could mount no attack at all. Quarterbacks Josh Greer and Andrew McNulty combined to complete one of eight passes with three interceptions in the first half, while the running game found precious little room through the Texas defense. The Mean Green did not cross midfield until the third quarter.
What They Said
"We need to be one of the most improved teams in college football this week."
--North Texas coach Dan McCarney on preparations for the home opener against SMU
"We didn't miss many tackles, and swarmed to the ball."
--Texas coach Charlie Strong on his defense's performance0
"It was really a good defense, and really poor execution on our part. It was just about as inept offense as we've had since I've been here."
--McCarney on his offense's performance
"Sopme really good series, and a lot of really valuable playing time for a lot of guys that have played very little. At times, we played well and tackled well."
--McCarney on his defense's performance
• Senior defensive back James Jones got his first career touchdown when he recovered a fumble in the Texas end zone in the fourth quarter.
Running back Reggie Pegram made his return from last year's season-ending knee injury and carried 15 times for 50 yards.
• This was the 10th meeting between North Texas and Texas. The Longhorns won the previous nine contests.
• The Mean Green is now 228-166-15 against Texas schools. North Texas has wins over 30 Texas schools (including a few that no longer exist), but still lacks a win against Texas, Texas A&M, and UTSA.
• The Mean Green's streak of forcing at least one turnover was extended to 17 when Sir Calvin Wallace recovered a Texas fumble in the third quarter. It was Wallace's first career fumble recovery.
• North Texas used four running backs in the first half, including freshmen Jeffrey Wilson and Willy Ivery, who made such an impression in camp.
• The North Texas defense recorded some big plays to keep the Mean Green in the game in the first half, including a three-play sequence in which a blitz by Derek Akunne forced an incompletion, Dutton Watson made a tackle for a two-yard loss, and Jarrian Roberts registered a sack. Kenny Buyers also had a tackle for loss on a screen to stop another Longhorn possession.
• The Mean Green has unusual depth at punter, and used both Eric Keena and Blake Macek Saturday. Both were effective, averaging 42.0 yards on nine punts, including a punt downed by Kenny Buyers at the Longhorn one-yard line that set up the Texas fumble that got North Texas on the scoreboard.
• Fullback Jarrod Lynn had his first career carry in the second half, picking up a first down.
North Texas returns home for its 2014 Apogee opener against SMU next Saturday, Sept. 6, at 11 a.m.