By Craig Fields
Rice Owls vs North Texas Mean Green
Saturday – September 19 – 1:30 pm CT
Apogee Stadium – Denton
The North Texas Mean Green will leave it all on the field when they compete with the Rice Owls on Saturday at Apogee Stadium. The Mean Green will be looking to get their first win of the season while the Owls will be looking to improve to a 2-1 record.
UNT has a 16-7 record all-time at Apogee Stadium, so they will be looking to control the game throughout with help from the Mean Green faithful. That, however, may not be that easy considering that this could be the best Rice squad UNT has played since head coach Dan McCarney took over the Mean Green in 2011.
“This is the best team that Rice has had since I have been coaching against him [Rice head coach David Bailiff],” McCarney said. “They completely dominated Texas in a lot of ways.”
The game that the coach is referring to is the Rice Owls vs Texas Longhorns game that happened last week in Austin.
They led in yardage and had 30 first downs. Where the Owls struggled was in not turning the ball over. They had five no-nos, something that the Mean Green will have to exploit if they wish to slow down capable dual threat quarterback Driphus Jackson, and shifty running back Samuel Stewart.
The Mean Green defense was not able to stop the last dual threat signal caller they faced in Matt Davis who had a heck of a day for the Mustangs. But the defense isn’t necessarily the most glaring issue for the Mean Green going into this game.
The offense did very little to instill confidence into the fans last week as they only managed 240 yards against a very average Mustangs defense. Quarterback Andrew McNulty knows that will not get it done.
“I always look at myself first,” McNulty said. “I think I can do better and take responsibility for execution because I am the one out there putting it all together.”
The Mean Green defense actually did a pretty good job against the Mustangs offense, holding them to 10-points in three quarters. But it was painfully apparent that they were tired and beleaguered during the fourth quarter when they got little rest and were asked to repeatedly stop the offense of the Mustangs.
Things will definitely have to be different this week, and they should. McCarney is always preaching going out and getting over the last game and focusing on who is in front of you.
The Rice defense, just like the Mustangs defense, is suspect and can be scored on in the running and passing game. McNulty is a pocket passer but should try to move the pocket on qb rollouts in order to help get receivers open against an average secondary.
Also running the ball with running backs Antoinne Jimmerson and Andrew Tucker should be at the forefront of the attack plan for the Mean Green. The senior Jimmerson should get more touches this game, because he is arguably their best playmaker and only touched the ball 10 times in their last game.
The Owls did have five turnovers against Texas, three interceptions and two fumbles, which should give the Mean Green defense cause to go ball hunting. Rice signal caller Driphus Jackson can be electrifying but is also prone to making mistakes when under pressure.
He threw two interceptions last week and should throw a couple more against the Mean Green if the pressure is on from their front seven. McNulty will likewise be faced with pressure as he also had two picks last week when blitzed and with defenders in his face.
This game is big for both programs, but really huge for the Mean Green. Winning this game will put some things into perspective and bring hope to the season. However, the flipside to that coin is that losing this game with no improvement by the offense could make some people start to ask questions and second guess some of the players.
With that being said, the season could be over relatively quickly. But I do not think that happens this week. I think the Mean Green offense finds a way to improve, and I think the defense holds the Owls to less than 21-points.
Prediction: Mean Green wins a close one at home 21-17 over the Owls.