Scenes From North Texas' Dominant 43-6 Victory Over SMU at Apogee Stadium.
For the second week in a row, the Southern Methodist University football team looked abysmal — and, this time, that poor showing was forced by the University of North Texas, which bounced back from a Week One loss to the University of Texas to trounce the Mustangs 43-6 in the Mean Green's home opener.
Each team came into the game at Apogee Stadium in Denton looking to redeem itself after embarrassing losses to in-state Big 12 teams last week. But only North Texas bounced back — and it did so in a big way.
North Texas dominated SMU in every facet of the game. The Mean Green defense forced five turnovers, including three forced fumbles that followed jarring hits on Mustang players. Sophomore North Texas defensive end Dutton Watson returned an interception 24 yards after senior linebacker Derek Akunne knocked freshman SMU wide receiver Cedric Lancaster off his feet and popped the ball in the air before Lancaster could complete the catch. Later, junior defensive end Chad Polk blindsided sophomore SMU quarterback Neal Burcham, knocking the ball loose and forcing a fumble that was then scooped up by sophomore defensive end Jarrian Roberts, who ran in the fumble recovery for a touchdown.
It's a tough and physical style of play that's becoming North Texas' identity under fourth-year head coach Dan McCarney: As a result, all three of the quarterbacks SMU played on Saturday felt immense pressure as the Mean Green defense recorded four sacks and held the Mustangs to just eight net rushing yards.
All the while, the McCarney offense controlled the clock via a rushing attack that earned 245 yards and three touchdowns on the day, with four running backs contributing at least 50 yards each. Senior starting running back Reggie Pegram led the team with 81 yards, but redshirt freshman Erick Evans ran for a 53-yard touchdown on his first career carry and only run of the game. The North Texas running game matched the toughness of the defense, too: The backs ran through numerous attempted tackles by SMU, most notably on touchdown runs by Pegram and senior Antoine Jimmerson Jr. around the goal line.
SMU was nearly shut out for the second week in a row, but freshman backup quarterback Kolney Cassel threw a 33-yard touchdown to sophomore Nate Halverson as time expired. Cassel replaced starter Burcham after he injured his elbow in the first half and then shared time with sophomore Matt Davis until Davis also got injured (shoulder).
Fortunately for SMU, the Mustangs have a bye week coming up. But the team's schedule doesn't get any easier: On September 20, SMU will finally host its home opener — against the currently seventh-ranked Texas A&M University.
North Texas, meanwhile, kicks up conference play at Apogee Stadium on this Thursday, September 11, against Louisiana Tech.
North Texas football fans cheer on the Mean Green during their season opener against SMU. The attendance at Apogee Stadium was 22,398 — the fourth largest crowd ever.
North Texas team captains Mason Y'Barbo (57), Derek Akunne (7), Kenny Buyers (31) and Cyril Lemon (62) meet at the 50 yard line for the coin toss.
North Texas wide receiver Darvin Kidsy (4) cuts up the field after a reception in the first half. Kidsy caught three catches for 31 yards.
SMU starting quarterback Neal Burcham (12) drops back to pass. Burcham threw two interceptions and left the game after injuring his elbow.
North Texas linebacker Anthony Wallace (43) SMU running back Kevin Pope (3). Wallace recorded four tackles on the afternoon.
SMU wide receiver Der'rikk Thompson (7) dashes through the North Texas defense after a reception. Thompson caught six passes for 74 yards.
North Texas linebacker Jamal Marshall (8) wraps up SMU wide receiver Stephen Nelson (6). Marshall recorded five tackles.
North Texas special teams unit nearly blocks a punt in the end zone.
North Texas defensive end Dutton Watson (98) returns an interception for for 24 yards in the second half. Watson's interception was the first of five turnovers forced by the Mean Green defense.
North Texas running back Reggie Pegram (2) runs through an attempted tackle by SMU linebacker Cameron Nwosu for a touchdown. Pegram led the Mean Green with 83 yards rushing on 21 attempts.
North Texas linebacker Sed Ellis (6) celebrates after making a big hit on SMU kick returner Deion Sanders Jr.
SMU head coach June Jones looks on as his defense attempts to stop North Texas' offense in the second half. June Jones called the 43-6 loss “frustrating” after the game.
North Texas quarterback Josh Greer (8) hands the ball off to running back Reggie Pegram (2). Greer Complete 9 of 12 passes for 86 yards in the win.
North Texas linebacker Jamal Marshall (8) wraps up SMU's Deion Sanders Jr. (2) during a kick return. Sanders Jr. led the team in total yards with 75.
North Texas right tackle Cyril Lemon (62) lead blocks on a run play for Antoine Jimmerson Jr. Lemon was listed on the preseason Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy watch lists for best lineman in the country.
North Texas running back Antoine Jimmerson Jr. (22) runs into the end zone against SMU.
North Texas running back Erick Evans runs away from the SMU defense for a 53-yard touchdown run on his first career carry.
North Texas running back Erick Evans (24) celebrates with tight end Jarrod Lynn (39) after scoring a touchdown.
North Texas right tackle Cyril Lemon (62) celebrates with fans after the 43-6 victory over SMU. North Texas plays Louisiana Tech Thursday, September 11 at Apogee Stadium.