UNT is will kick off its game here in Austin against Texas here in an hour or so. We have made the trip from Denton to cover today’s game and do some blogging along the way.
Before we get to today’s game, here’s some good news. Former UNT linebacker Zach Orr made the final cut and has landed a job with the Baltimore Ravens.
It couldn’t happen to a better guy. It’s interesting side note, the Ravens’ story cited Orr’s abilities on special teams as a reason he made the roster. That has been the case for a number of UNT players who have played in the NFL through the years.
As for today’s game, it’s the latest edition in a series of games through the years that UNT has played against national powers. UNT lost 56-7 the last time it played at Texas in 2006 and was run over to the tune of 65-0 in 2004 before going on to win the Sun Belt Conference title.
UNT is hoping today’s game will look more like its game against Georgia last year. The Mean Green hung with the Bulldogs and tied the game up at 21-21 before Georgia pulled away for a 45-21 win.
The question is if UNT is capable following the loss of so many key players after last season, including Orr. UNT has just nine returning starters. Only Utah State has fewer.
UNT will lean on a host of young or inexperienced players, including Josh Greer, who will be making his first start at quarterback. Greer just transferred to UNT from Navarro College in December and has never taken a snap in a major college game.
UNT has four starters returning on its offensive line, which will be a strength.
What could also help UNT is the fact that Texas is a team in transition. Charlie Strong makes his debut as the Longhorns head coach today. It’s been tough in the early going for Strong, who has dismissed or suspended more than a half dozen players.
While Texas has lost several key players, it does return running backs Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray. Both are on the watch list for the Doak Walker award that goes to the nation’s top running back.
UNT lost all four of its starters on its defensive line and six members of its front seven. The Mean Green’s chances to stay in today’s game will hinge on its ability to slow down Texas’ running game.
Stay tuned. I will update the blog all night long.
Update 25 minutes to kickoff — UNT is lining up for pre-game drills. A few items of note — Chad Polk, all 231 pounds of him, is out there at defensive end. It looks like Sed Ellis will start at outside linebacker.
Update 20 minutes to kickoff — A couple of Texas writers brought up a good point while we were chatting in the press box. David Ash might be one hit away from being knocked out of this game. The question is if UNT can get there. UNT had a terrific pass rush last season, when the Mean Green posted 39 sacks. Most of the guys who made reaching that number possible are gone. UNT could use a big game from Daryl Mason at defensive end. Mason is one of the few players returning who showed the ability to get to the quarterback last season.
Update 15 minutes to kickoff — There are a lot of empty seats at Memorial Stadium. There was a question if Texas would sell this game out. Those questions linger at this point. There is a pretty good little pocket of green ton in the corner of the end zone and a few green shirts scattered in the crowd.
Update 10 minutes to kickoff — One player I expect to take on a larger role in UNT’s offense this season is tight end Marcus Smith. Offensive coordinator Mike Canales has always loved getting tight ends involved in the passing game and Smith is a good one. Throw in the fact that UNT lost its top two receivers from last year in Brelan Chancellor and Darnell Smith and there will be plenty of opportunities for the former high school wide receiver.
Update 5 minutes to kickoff — UNT’s captains are coming out on the field. Shawn McKinney is carrying the Mean Green Family flag. Texas’ players are also out there. Everyone is in the same end zone.
Coin flip — UNT captains: Derek Akunne, Kenny Buyers, Mason Y’Barbo and Cyril Lemon. Texas win the toss and defers. UNT will have the ball to start.
15:00 — The kick goes out of the end zone. UNT has the ball at the 25.
13:55 — UNT goes three-and-out. Greer dropped the snap on third down.
11:30 — UNT come sup with a stop after giving up a first down. UNT has the ball back at its 14-yard line. UNT broke up a pass on third down over the middle.
9:33 — Greer tosses an interception over the middle on a ball intended for Marcus Smith.
8:32 — UNT dodged a bullet there. Texas pushed the ball to the UNT 16-yard line, but Nick Rose missed a 38-yard field goal after a false start penalty pushed Texas back.
7:44 — UNT goes three-and-out again. Greer missed his target on third down. He threw it behind him.
4:06 — And Texas is on the board on a Malcolm Brown 1-yard run at the end of drive that was kept alive by a personal foul on UNT safety Sheldon Wade. That was a tough call on UNT.
2:30 — UNT picked up a first down on its last drive, but stalled out. Texas has the ball back at its 19. Josh Greer does not look like he has found a rhythm yet.
End of the first quarter — UNT is down 7-0 and is probably lucky to be down just seven. Texas missed a field goal after having the ball inside the Mean Green’s 20-yard line. Texas has 103 yards to just 15 for UNT. Sheldon Wade has six tackles already, which is probably not a good sign. Wade is one of UNT’s safeties. Josh Greer is just 1-for-6 with an interception. Texas will have the ball at the UNT 43-yard line to start the second quarter and looks like it is starting to settle in.
14:03 — UNT’s defense stiffened on its own end of the field and forced a Texas punt. Kenny Buyers made a great tackle on a swing pass. I have no idea why anyone throws one against Buyers. He is a terrific open field tackler and never seems to get beat on those types of plays.
12:14 — UNT goes three-and-out again and will punt from its own end zone. Texas will have the ball back at its 42. UNT is hanging on by a thread it seems like at this point.
10:31 — There was a huge play by Jarrian Roberts, who came free and sacked David Ash for a 9-yard loss on third down. UNT will have the ball back at its 40-yard line down just 7-0. UNT has held up well against Texas running game. Texas has just 26 yard on 14 carries.
9:34 — There is a killer for UNT. Jordan Hicks picks off Greer and returns deep into UNT’s end. Malcolm Brown takes it in from two yards out to put Texas up 14-0.
9:13 — UNT has the ball at its 31 and needs to stay on the field for a while here.
7:05 — Welp, crank up the quarterback controversy talk. Andrew McNulty was in on the last series and went three-and-out. He was lit up on a third down blitz.
2:41 — UNT nearly came up with another version of last year’s epic stand against Rice, holding Texas on three plays from inside the 3-yard line. Texas came up with a key play on fourth down when David Ash beat UNT to the corner and scored from a yard out. It’s 21-0 Texas. It will be interesting if we see Andrew McNulty again this series.
:54 — There’s your answer. McNulty came back in, but threw an interception over the middle. He over shot his receiver. Adrian Colbert grabbed it for Texas.
Halftime — It’s 21-0 Texas at halftime. UNT has 31 yards. I don’t know if it has a quarterback. UNT held up OK defensively, allowing only 191 yards.
And here we go in the second half — Texas takes over at its 25-yard line. UNT needs a stop here to keep hopes alive.
10:35 — Texas may be wearing UNT’s defense down. John Harris catches an 8-yard touchdown to push Texas’ lead to 28-0.
8:42 — UNT stuck Josh Greer back in the game, but that didn’t help matters much. The Mean Green were forced to punt again. Texas is backed up at its 11-yard line here. If UNT can hold, it will have pretty good field position to work with. UNT has 47 yards on the night, by the way.
5:28 — UNT made a nice stand defensively to force a Texas punt. UNT will have the ball at its 24-yard line. Josh Greer is in and was just sacked.
3:51 — UNT was forced to punt. Josh Greer just flat dropped a ball in the pocket and knelled down when he picked it up.
2:04 — Sir Calvin Wallace just recovered a fumble for UNT to kill a Texas drive that had reached the UNT 21-yard line. UNT has come up with a couple of key stops in its own end.
:39 — UNT just went three-and-out again. I will be back later. This one is over.