By Craig Fields
North Texas Mean Green vs. Rice Owls
Saturday – October 25 – 11:00 am
Rice Stadium – Houston
The North Texas Mean Green will be looking to save their season on Saturday as they travel to Houston to take on the Rice Owls in their home stadium. The Mean Green (2-5) have five remaining games on the schedule and need to win four of those five to become eligible for a bowl game. The Owls (3-3) will not make it easy on the Mean Green, as they are halfway to their goal of becoming bowl eligible for the third year in a row.
There is no doubt that the Owls will be looking to impose their will on the ground. They are currently 37th in the nation in rushing and gain over 200 yards on the ground per game. The Mean Green are 53rd in the league and give up almost 150 yards per game. This battle will be won or lost in the trenches, and the Mean Green has not proven that they can stop anyone on the ground all season.
The Owls will be content handing the ball off to Sophomore running backs Jowan Davis who is a load at 5’7 200 pounds, and Darik Dillard who is 5’10 and 205 pounds. The yards per carry average for Davis and Dillard are 4.3 and 5.5 respectively. If these two guys get going early, it will be a rough day for the Mean Green front seven.
The Owls, however, are not simply a rushing team. They have a quarterback by the name of Driphus Jackson that is not afraid to sling the rock. He averages about 200 yards passing a game and almost two touchdowns a game. He is a game manager that has some athleticism and can throw the sometimes difficult back shoulder pass.
The Mean Green’s front seven will have to be aware of his scrambling ability as well as his ability to pass accurately on the run. Their starting cornerbacks Kenny Buyers and James Jones will also need to be aware of his penchant for throwing the back shoulder pass. Over pursuit may pay off big in this game if they can cause some turnovers by simply sitting on some routes and attacking the ball aggressively.
The Owls rushing defense is in fact worse than the Mean Green’s. They rank 70th in the league at stopping the run and tend to get dominated in the trenches often. The Senior laden offensive line of the Mean Green will need to step and impose their will on a very suspect and week Owl defensive line. Running backs Antoinne Jimmerson and Reggie Pegram should have their numbers called often in this game as they will need to be effective in order to set up playaction.
Junior quarterback Andrew McNulty did not dazzle in his lone start this season against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles, but he did do enough to keep the starting job. His ball security and ability to not turn the ball over will be crucial if the Mean Green want to stay in this one. He will also need to find a way to get a couple of touchdown passes to one or more of his receivers. He was without one last week against the Golden Eagles.
Junior Carlos Harris, who had 15 receptions for 216 yards last week against the Golden Eagle defense will look to have another big game. Over his last three games the junior has 31 receptions for a total of 426 yards and one touchdown. He is clearly the lone passing threat for the Mean Green as the closest receiver to Harris only has 140 yards in total on the season.
One thing that is certain is that the Mean Green can not afford to leave points on the field. True Freshman kicker Trevor has been a revelation this year for the Mean Green. He missed his first field goal of the season last week against the Golden Eagles. He has been very consistent and will need to continue that trend if the Mean Green want to win this one.
The Mean Green will need to be sharp in all three phases of the game to come out victorious this weekend. There has not been any proof to this point that this current team can put it all together against even moderate competition, let alone a good team. The Owls are moderate competition, and it is because of that reason that I think that the Mean Green could find themselves 2-6 at the end of this one.
Prediction: Owls 38 – Mean Green 24