Here is a Q&A I did with Ronnie Turner from the Houston Chronicle about UNT’s game against Texas Southern:
1. How much did that season-opening win do for Texas Southern?
TSUs 44-41 victory over rival Prairie View A&M provided a huge emotional lift for the program. The Tigers entered the game with a five-game losing streak to Prairie View and were coming off a 4-7 finish in the previous season. First-year coach Darrell Asberry had a successful regular-season debut and gave fans reason to be optimistic about the remainder of the year. The Tigers offense showed great promise, racking up 544 yards en route to helping TSU overcome a 20-7 first-quarter deficit. And a normally weak unit, special teams, was very solid, led by senior kicker Robert Hersh, who kicked a game-winning 47-yard field goal as time expired. The defense, however, had its hat handed to it by Prairie Views potent offense, allowing 500 yards. Defensive coordinator Kevin Ramsey definitely has his work cut out.
2. Does this team look at a game with UNT as a chance to put itself on the map?
For TSU, a game such as this provides the best test and opportunity to show the college football world how far the program has come. However, the Tigers are hardly at the strength theyll need to contend against an FBS program, even one not quite as dominant as North Texas. Plus, TSUs recent matchups against FBS teams havent been kind in the least bit. The Tigers are 0-4 against FBS teams since 2008, having been outscored 245-13 in those matchups. Connecticut was the last FBS team to put a beating on TSU, rolling to a 62-3 victory in 2010. The likely best-case scenario for TSU against North Texas is to keep the outcome respectable and to make sure key players leave Denton as healthy as they arrived.
3. Dan McCarney said this week that Texas Southern has some guys with FBS talent. Talk about TSU’s top players.
TSUs most talented players are on offense, starting with its two top gunslingers — senior quarterbacks Dantavious Parker and Riko Smalls. Parker transferred to TSU from Troy in 2010, and Smalls has been with the Tigers since transferring from Virginia in 2010. Asberry said he plans to play two quarterbacks this season, and he backed that talk up by playing both against Prairie View. Smalls rewarded the gesture by throwing for 212 yards and rushing for 101 more, with Parker tossing two touchdown passes and helping to set up Hershs game-winning field goal on the games final drive. Smalls brings an extra dimension with his rushing prowess, and Parker can be an efficient passer. Defensive back Adrian Bennett is another player with some FBS talent, having transferred to TSU from Iowa State before the 2011 season. Running Tony Peoples, who played sparingly against Prairie View, is a transfer from Tulsa. Senior wide receiver Daniel McKayhan began his college career at Georgia Tech.
4. What is Texas Southern’s strength as a team?
The Tigers strength lies primarily on offense. TSU seems to be adjusting well to the switch from a run-based offense to Asberrys Magnolia spread offense. The use of a two-quarterback system could keep defenses guessing for most of the season, and the Tigers could be doubly dangerous if they manage to maintain a consistent rushing attack. Junior college transfer running back Edward Perkins-Loving helped a lot in the rushing department against Prairie View, totaling 88 yards and two touchdowns on 18 attempts. The Tigers ended up with 257 rushing yards, helping to spring big pass play opportunities for wide receivers Fred Plummer (five catches, 142 yards) and James Davis (96 receiving yards, two TDs).
5. How do you think this game will play out?
Barring some unforeseen hiccup by North Texas, its likely TSU will be pummeled by at least 40 points, if not more. The Tigers defense is not as talented as its been under Ramsey in recent years, and that showed against Prairie View. The offense had a big outing against Prairie View but got off a slow start against a defense that was at least as bad, if not worse, than its own. And, simply put, the Tigers cant match North Texas’ talent. TSU might still be on cloud nine after turning back its top rival last weekend, but the Tigers will surely be brought back down to earth on Saturday in Denton.