Classes just recently started, with SMU and North Texas already facing a major test.
The subject? Which direction their football programs were going in 2016.
The Mustangs and Mean Green faced off Saturday night at Apogee Stadium in Denton in the season opener for both teams. Once the dust cleared, SMU walked away with the 34-21 win.
North Texas struggled in the first quarter, but showed some promise after that. Meanwhile, SMU took advantage of the slow start by the Mean Green, jumping out to a 17-0 start after the opening quarter.
“They obviously made more plays than we did,” said North Texas head coach Seth Littrell. “Overall, I was proud how we kept fighting. There’s no quit in this team. It just took a little longer than I’d like for us to get started.”
SMU head coach Chad Morris was happy to get the win, but not entirely thrilled about his team’s performance.
“We did a lot of really good things,” said Morris. “We also did a lot of bad things. There are a lot of things we can improve on.”
If you are only going to have four catches in the game, why not make them count. That’s exactly what SMU wide receiver Courtland Sutton did. Three of those four catches went for touchdowns, including one that went for 88 yards. Sutton finished with 162 yards receiving, proving why he’s on the Biletnikoff Award Watch List.
There’s plenty of focus surrounding the quarterback position for both teams after Saturday night. SMU starter Matt Davis suffered a knee injury and was replaced by redshirt freshman Ben Hicks, who threw for 145 yards and a touchdown.
“We’ll know more about Matt tomorrow,” said Morris. “He made some good throws, but he also made some mistakes. We don’t know the situations that will arise throughout the course of the season. We want to have a quarterback with some game experience when there’s a game on the line, not out of reach.”
Alec Morris made his debut under center with North Texas after transferring from Alabama; however it wasn’t exactly the debut he wanted to make in his return home. Morris had a couple of touchdown throws, but also threw three interceptions and was later replaced by freshman Mason Fine, who led the Mean Green on an 80-yard scoring drive late in the game.
“Mason brings a different energy,” said North Texas wide receiver Terian Goree. “He gave us some life.”
“We’re going to evaluate everything, and we’re going to play the best guys,” added Littrell. “If he’s earned playing earlier, then he will.”
First-game jitters were to be expected early on in season openers. Now the coaching staffs for both teams have a better idea of what they have and what direction they need to go. Question marks remain in certain areas, specifically at quarterback. However, there were positives to take away from Saturday night.
* SMU will now take on #23 Baylor on Saturday. Kick-off is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. in Waco.
* North Texas will host Bethune-Cookman on Saturday. Kick-off is at 6 p.m. at Apogee Stadium in Denton.
Written by C. James