Texas' defense picked off four passes and allowed just 94 yards of total offense and the No. NR/24 Football team collected its 15th-consecutive season-opening win to open the Charlie Strong era in style with a dominant 38-7 victory over North Texas Saturday night at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
Wide receiver John Harris set career highs with seven receptions and 110 yards, and Texas used a balanced offensive attack to control the game. Quarterback David Ash was 19-of-34 for 190 yards and a TD, while running backs Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown (two TD's) contributed 84 and 65 rushing yards, respectively, in Strong's debut as Longhorn head coach.
The Longhorn defense registered a touchdown via an interception return by linebacker Demarco Cobbs, tallied seven tackles for loss and sacked UNT quarterback Josh Greer four times while allowing just 40 yards in the first three quarters. It marked just the 14th time on UT record, an opponent has recorded less than 100 yards of total offense in a game.
Already leading 7-0, Texas took control of the game in the second quarter with a pair of scores. Hicks set up a Brown 3-yard TD plunge with an interception and Ash scored on a 1-yard run on the following possession giving the Horns a comfortable 21-0 lead late in the first half.
From the start, North Texas' offense was going nowhere against a stout Longhorn defense, as the Mean Green's first nine plays failed to gain a single yard. On the sixth play, a tipped ball over the middle was intercepted by defensive back Dylan Haines at the UNT 39. The Lago Vista, Texas, native returned the pick 21 yards, granting the Longhorns outstanding field position at the 18. Unfortunately for Texas, the Mean Green defense held firm and Nick Rose missed a 38-yard field goal try wide right.
With its defense having posted three consecutive three-and-outs, Texas nabbed a 7-0 lead with 4:06 left in the first quarter as Brown finished off a nine-play, 63-yard drive with a 1-yard plunge. The key play proved to be a third down, 27-yard completion down the right sideline to the UNT 12 from Ash to Harris. UT's offense outgained the Mean Green 103-15 in total yards during the opening stanza.
Hicks' first career interception got the Horns back in business at the UNT 31 with 9:52 remaining in the half. From there it took just two plays for Texas to reach the end zone as Ash connected with Harris for 28 yards, and Brown made it two scores on the night by driving in from 3 yards out.
Just minutes later, Gray got the Horns offense back in business again, erupting through the left side of the line on third-and-2 for a 42-yard gain down to the UNT 3. Reaching pay dirt from there wouldn't prove easy, however, as the North Texas defense held, forcing fourth down at the 1-yard line. Strong and his staff made the decision to go for the TD, and the gamble paid dividends as Ash rolled out to his right and outsprinted several Mean Green defenders to dive just inside the pylon for a 21-0 lead with 2:41 left in the first half.
Straight out of the halftime break, UT mixed the run and the pass to perfection, culminating a nine-play, 75-yard drive with an 8-yard scoring toss from Ash to Harris.
Trailing 28-0 in the fourth quarter, North Texas mounted its best drive of the contest, covering 32 yards on 11 plays over 6:29. With the Mean Green offense facing a third-and-5 at the Texas 39, defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway broke through the line and delivered UT's third sack of the contest, dropping Greer for a 9-yard loss to force UNT's ninth punt.
Texas' shutout bid came to an end with 7:17 left in the fourth. A mishandled UT snap inside the 1-yard line was recovered in the end zone by North Texas cornerback James Jones, cutting the deficit to 28-7.
Keyed by a 34-yard run by D'Onta Foreman, Texas answered back with a 34-yard Rose field goal, marching 53 yards over eight plays while utilizing 2:51 off the clock.
The scoring wasn't yet finalized, however, as a Greer pass across the middle was tipped up in the air. Texas linebacker Cobbs picked the ball off and set sail 28 yards to pay dirt, finalizing UT's 38-7 triumph.
The Longhorns return to action on Saturday, Sept. 6, as BYU ventures to Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium for a 6:30 p.m. Central contest slated for live broadcast on FOX Sports 1.