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  1. Link: https://meangreensports.com/news/2018/9/1/football-defense-dominant-in-46-23-rout-of-smu.aspx DENTON - The predictions were for an offensive shootout in Saturday's opener at Apogee Stadium, that 30-plus points would be needed to win. Maybe 40. The North Texas defense, however, was having none of it. The Mean Green defense stole the show Saturday, obliterating SMU in a 46-23 North Texas victory. The Mean Green allowed the Mustangs two first downs and 46 yards total offense through the first three periods, surrendered 4 yards rushing for the game, got an interception returned for a touchdown from Kemon Hall, and forced six three-and-outs from the Ponies. "The defense set the tone," North Texas coach Seth Littrell said. "They came out blazing, really dominated. That pick six was huge. "The defense has had a chip on their shoulder," he added. "They did a tremendous job, everybody making plays. We weren't missing tackles and we were getting off the field." The North Texas offense, meanwhile, put together scoring marches of 49, 59, 93, 75 and 95 yards to pile up a 33-0 lead. Quarterback Mason Fine opened his junior season by completing 40 of 50 for three touchdowns and a career-high 444 yards, the second 400-yard performance of his career and ninth in school history. "We knew this was a big game," Littrell said. "We've been circling this one and really talking about it." The game was played before the biggest home crowd in school history of 29,519, surpassing the previous best of 29,437 set in 2003 against Baylor at Fouts Field. "I can't say enough about the great crowd we had tonight," Littrell said. "They really helped bring the energy and I thought the team fed off that, and it helped us get off to a great start. I thought the energy we came out to start the game with was the difference early on." North Texas opened the game on defense and was immediately dominant. It didn't allow a first down until the second quarter and allowed 24 yards total offense in the first half. And when the Mustangs finally picked up a first down late in the second quarter, North Texas racheted up the pressure on Hicks, forcing two incompletions and getting a sack from linebacker Brandon Garner to snuff out the Mustangs' lone incursion across midfield in the first half. It got no better for SMU in the third period, by the end of which the Mustangs' offensive totals had climbed to two first downs and 46 yards total offense. North Texas linebacker E.J. Ejiyaled the assault with five tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble, and Garner had six tackles. By the start of the fourth, North Texas had built a 36-0 lead. The Mean Green scored on their first drive of the game on a 15-yard toss from Fine to Jalen Guyton, who had two touchdown receptions on the night. The defense made it 14-0 when Hall intercepted a pass from SMU QB Ben Hicks and returned it 36 yards for a touchdown, and the Mean Green added a pair of second-quarter field goals from Cole Hedlundfor a 20-0 halftime lead. North Texas put the game away in the third quarter with 75- and 95-yard touchdown marches. "Give North Texas credit," SMU first-year coach Sonny Dykes said. "The quarterback played really well. He made perfect throws and moved the ball well." SMU scored three touchdowns in the closing moments, and North Texas tacked on a late score on a 97-yard kickoff return from DeAndre Torrey. "It was a good start," Littrell said, "but we have a lot of work to do." Quick Hits The first possession of 2018 started with SMU on offense and ended with UNT's E.J. Ejiya sacking Mustang quarterback Ben Hicks for a 10-yard loss. On the Mean Green's first fourth-down situation of the season, North Texas eschewed the punt. Running back Loren Easley converted the fourth-and-one with a 4-yard run. Junior quarterback Mason Fine (Peggs, Oklahoma) continued his climb up the North Texas record books. He passed Scott Hall for sixth in career passing attempts with 822; Steve Ramsey for fifth in career completions with 519; and Hall for fifth in career passing yards with 6,068. Fine's career-high 40 completions tied him for third on the single-game all-time list with Giovanni Vizza (2007 vs. Navy). The first points of the year came on a 15-yard pass from Mason Fine to Jalen Guyton on the Mean Green's opening drive. Fine completed 6 of 6 passes for 50 yards, connecting with five different receivers. That opening drive was kept alive by a crucial penalty. On third and 25, North Texas threw incomplete, but SMU linebacker Trevor Denbow was flagged for targeting, resulting in a 15-yard penalty, an automatic first down, and Denbow's disqualification from the game. Fine completed his first eight passes of the game. North Texas senior linebacker Brandon Garner showed perfect timing to stop an SMU third-and-three late in the first quarter. With SMU QB Hicks rolling out, Garner picked up Hicks' intended receiver coming off the line and took him out of the play, then dropped his coverage of the would-be receiver at the right moment and closed on and tackled Hicks for no gain. The Mean Green held SMU without a first down through the Mustangs' first five possessions. Senior kicker Cole Hedlund (Argyle), taking over the kicking duties from record-setting Trevor Moore, was perfect in his debut. He made four field goals from 40, 20, 41 and 51 yards and three of extra points. This was Seth Littrell's 10th victory at Apogee Stadium and his first against SMU. Redshirt junior running back Loren Easly(Houston, Texas) had his first career start and finished with 31 yards on 17 carries. Junior wide receiver Rico Bussey, Jr.(Lawton, Oklahoma) set a new career high with nine catches, including five in the first quarter, breaking his previous high of eight. His 109 yards was two shy of his career best. Senior cornerback Kemon Hall's (Calhoun City, Mississippi) 36-yard interception return for a touchdown with 5:37 left in the first quarter was the first for UNT since Eric Jenkins' 34-yard return at Army on Oct. 22, 2016. It was Hall's first interception since last season's game at SMU. North Texas has now won eight-straight home games dating back to November 19, 2016, when it beat Southern Miss. Sophomore running back DeAndre Torrey(Gautier, Mississippi) returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown with 1:28 left in the game. It was the first time a UNT player returned a kickoff for a touchdown since 2014 (Darvin Kidsy, at Rice). What's Next North Texas hosts Incarnate Word at Apogee Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 8, at 6:30 p.m.
  2. Link: https://meangreensports.com/news/2018/9/1/football-defense-dominant-in-46-23-rout-of-smu.aspx DENTON - The predictions were for an offensive shootout in Saturday's opener at Apogee Stadium, that 30-plus points would be needed to win. Maybe 40. The North Texas defense, however, was having none of it. The Mean Green defense stole the show Saturday, obliterating SMU in a 46-23 North Texas victory. The Mean Green allowed the Mustangs two first downs and 46 yards total offense through the first three periods, surrendered 4 yards rushing for the game, got an interception returned for a touchdown from Kemon Hall, and forced six three-and-outs from the Ponies. "The defense set the tone," North Texas coach Seth Littrell said. "They came out blazing, really dominated. That pick six was huge. "The defense has had a chip on their shoulder," he added. "They did a tremendous job, everybody making plays. We weren't missing tackles and we were getting off the field." The North Texas offense, meanwhile, put together scoring marches of 49, 59, 93, 75 and 95 yards to pile up a 33-0 lead. Quarterback Mason Fine opened his junior season by completing 40 of 50 for three touchdowns and a career-high 444 yards, the second 400-yard performance of his career and ninth in school history. "We knew this was a big game," Littrell said. "We've been circling this one and really talking about it." The game was played before the biggest home crowd in school history of 29,519, surpassing the previous best of 29,437 set in 2003 against Baylor at Fouts Field. "I can't say enough about the great crowd we had tonight," Littrell said. "They really helped bring the energy and I thought the team fed off that, and it helped us get off to a great start. I thought the energy we came out to start the game with was the difference early on." North Texas opened the game on defense and was immediately dominant. It didn't allow a first down until the second quarter and allowed 24 yards total offense in the first half. And when the Mustangs finally picked up a first down late in the second quarter, North Texas racheted up the pressure on Hicks, forcing two incompletions and getting a sack from linebacker Brandon Garner to snuff out the Mustangs' lone incursion across midfield in the first half. It got no better for SMU in the third period, by the end of which the Mustangs' offensive totals had climbed to two first downs and 46 yards total offense. North Texas linebacker E.J. Ejiyaled the assault with five tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble, and Garner had six tackles. By the start of the fourth, North Texas had built a 36-0 lead. The Mean Green scored on their first drive of the game on a 15-yard toss from Fine to Jalen Guyton, who had two touchdown receptions on the night. The defense made it 14-0 when Hall intercepted a pass from SMU QB Ben Hicks and returned it 36 yards for a touchdown, and the Mean Green added a pair of second-quarter field goals from Cole Hedlundfor a 20-0 halftime lead. North Texas put the game away in the third quarter with 75- and 95-yard touchdown marches. "Give North Texas credit," SMU first-year coach Sonny Dykes said. "The quarterback played really well. He made perfect throws and moved the ball well." SMU scored three touchdowns in the closing moments, and North Texas tacked on a late score on a 97-yard kickoff return from DeAndre Torrey. "It was a good start," Littrell said, "but we have a lot of work to do." Quick Hits The first possession of 2018 started with SMU on offense and ended with UNT's E.J. Ejiya sacking Mustang quarterback Ben Hicks for a 10-yard loss. On the Mean Green's first fourth-down situation of the season, North Texas eschewed the punt. Running back Loren Easley converted the fourth-and-one with a 4-yard run. Junior quarterback Mason Fine (Peggs, Oklahoma) continued his climb up the North Texas record books. He passed Scott Hall for sixth in career passing attempts with 822; Steve Ramsey for fifth in career completions with 519; and Hall for fifth in career passing yards with 6,068. Fine's career-high 40 completions tied him for third on the single-game all-time list with Giovanni Vizza (2007 vs. Navy). The first points of the year came on a 15-yard pass from Mason Fine to Jalen Guyton on the Mean Green's opening drive. Fine completed 6 of 6 passes for 50 yards, connecting with five different receivers. That opening drive was kept alive by a crucial penalty. On third and 25, North Texas threw incomplete, but SMU linebacker Trevor Denbow was flagged for targeting, resulting in a 15-yard penalty, an automatic first down, and Denbow's disqualification from the game. Fine completed his first eight passes of the game. North Texas senior linebacker Brandon Garner showed perfect timing to stop an SMU third-and-three late in the first quarter. With SMU QB Hicks rolling out, Garner picked up Hicks' intended receiver coming off the line and took him out of the play, then dropped his coverage of the would-be receiver at the right moment and closed on and tackled Hicks for no gain. The Mean Green held SMU without a first down through the Mustangs' first five possessions. Senior kicker Cole Hedlund (Argyle), taking over the kicking duties from record-setting Trevor Moore, was perfect in his debut. He made four field goals from 40, 20, 41 and 51 yards and three of extra points. This was Seth Littrell's 10th victory at Apogee Stadium and his first against SMU. Redshirt junior running back Loren Easly(Houston, Texas) had his first career start and finished with 31 yards on 17 carries. Junior wide receiver Rico Bussey, Jr.(Lawton, Oklahoma) set a new career high with nine catches, including five in the first quarter, breaking his previous high of eight. His 109 yards was two shy of his career best. Senior cornerback Kemon Hall's (Calhoun City, Mississippi) 36-yard interception return for a touchdown with 5:37 left in the first quarter was the first for UNT since Eric Jenkins' 34-yard return at Army on Oct. 22, 2016. It was Hall's first interception since last season's game at SMU. North Texas has now won eight-straight home games dating back to November 19, 2016, when it beat Southern Miss. Sophomore running back DeAndre Torrey(Gautier, Mississippi) returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown with 1:28 left in the game. It was the first time a UNT player returned a kickoff for a touchdown since 2014 (Darvin Kidsy, at Rice). What's Next North Texas hosts Incarnate Word at Apogee Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 8, at 6:30 p.m.
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