North Texas will face their first true road test on Saturday and it’s not an easy one.
The Mean Green will make the trip to Big 10 country this weekend for a showdown against the Iowa Hawkeyes. This will be just the second time both teams have played each other, with Iowa holding the only win in 2015. North Texas is 1-1 and looking for that statement win after the 54-32 loss to rival SMU in Dallas. The Hawkeyes had to stage a comeback in order to beat in-state rival Iowa State 44-41 in overtime to stay unbeaten at 2-0.
North Texas is well-aware of the challenges the Hawkeyes bring to the table, especially on their home turf at Iowa City. The excitement is there for the Mean Green but so is the focus.
“We are always excited to go on the road; go into someone’s house and beat them,” said linebacker and Mansfield Timberview alum Brandon Garner. “It’s just a bigger stage. National TV. Just a little more energy. It’s basically going to be a game that’s man-on-man, which team is tougher and discipline.”
“It’s going to be a great atmosphere,” added safety Kishawn McClain. “We are pumped to play a Big 10 team. It will be fun. It’s more special but not just because it is Iowa. It’s to showcase that you can play against those type of guys. When you get a chance to play a big team like that, we can show what we can do.”
The Mean Green offense has shown what it can do during the first two weeks of the season. North Texas is averaging 24.8 points-per-game. Quarterback Mason Fine continues to impress, throwing for 424 yards and three touchdowns against SMU. Running back Jeffrey Wilson ranks No. 26 in the nation with 212 yards and is tied for fifth nationally with four rushing touchdowns.
However, Iowa typically has a smash-mouth defense every year that can present a fair share of problems for opposing offenses. The key to this game could come down to which side wins the battle, the much-improved offense of North Texas offense or the battle-tested defense of Iowa.
“What you see is what you get,” said North Texas head coach Seth Littrell. “You are playing against something you haven’t seen before. They line-up in a four-man front and they are going to be gap-sound. They play physical. It’s not something that they are going to out-scheme you or anything. They are going to do what they do. They have seen it all over the years.”
Against SMU, the Mean Green secondary got a boost from a cornerback who took the junior college route before arriving in Denton. Junior corner Kemon Hall grabbed his first interception in a North Texas uniform and finished with five tackles against the Mustangs.
Hall’s name may sound familiar to those who have watched the Last Chance U documentary on Netflix. As a player at Itawamba Community College in Mississippi, he faced the school the series revolved around, East Mississippi Community College.
“It was pretty cool,” Hall said. “That was my second time of being on there.”
As for his current team, North Texas has struggled over the years against teams from the Power Five conferences. The Mean Green are 13-103 and haven’t beaten a Power Five league team since 2011. With that being said, North Texas is ready and excited about the challenges they will face this weekend in Iowa.
“I’m pretty turnt,” Hall said.
That’s really all that needs to be said.