By Craig Fields
Saturday – November 9 – 2:30 PM
Apogee Stadium – Denton
Last Thursday’s win against the Rice Owls might have felt like homecoming for the Mean Green as they captured their sixth win of the season for the first time in over nine years. Their defense stood tall and ultimately provided the highlights of the evening repelling the goal line offense of the Rice Owls time and time again.
Well with that being said, Saturday’s game against the UTEP Miners (1-7) is the actual homecoming game and, honestly, must feel like a gift in nice wrapping paper with a pretty bow on top. The UTEP Miners are a football team in trouble right now. They have lost six straight games and do not seem to be improving.
However, there is a silver lining regarding this team. And that silver lining is that they can run the ball. They can run the ball well. Running back Aaron Jones, currently in the mix for leading the nation in rushing by a freshman running back, is a true threat that is not to be taken lightly. Averaging over 100 yards a game, with a total of eight touchdowns, this guy is the real deal.
This team rushes for over 200 yards a game. That is an impressive mark and is good for 30th in the nation. The reason the Miners are 1-7 is because of their pedestrian aerial attack and their awful defense. They average 180 yards in the air a game; good for 106th in the nation. Their defense gives up over 40 points a game. They give up over 247 rushing yards every game. They give up over 232 passing yards a game. They don’t cause turnovers, and they can’t get off the field in third down situations.
This is the kind of team that North Texas destroys this year. They literally eat teams like this up for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The rushing attack of the Mean Green, spearheaded by Brandin Byrd, is a very balanced, by committee type operation that is so effective because of the offensive line. Once those guys get a feel for the defensive line, forget about it. Even though the Mean Green only rush for about 157 yards a game, good for 77th in the nation, they still find ways to control the time of possession and score about 32 points a game.
This defense continues to cause turnovers as well. They have 28 turnovers so far in the season. They cause 3.1 turnovers a game. They hit hard and ask questions later. This defense, led by senior linebacker and Butkus award watch list entrant, Zach Orr, is the heart and soul of this entire team. I dare say, that the offense feeds off this defense. There have been many times this season, in which the defense makes a crucial play like causing a turnover or making a big stop, which then puts the offense in prime position to score with the football.
I am anticipating a game that will be over at half time. The Mean Green are sitting atop their division for a reason. This Saturday, at 2:30, in front of a boisterous crowd at Apogee Stadium in Denton, Texas, expect this team to show you that reason.