Tag Archives: Chris James

True Road Test Awaits North Texas In Iowa

2017 UNT Spring Practice

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.

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North Texas Opens Season With Dominating Win, Now Focus on SMU

unt-helmet

The 2017 season started off on the right track for North Texas. The Mean Green handled business on their home turf, lighting up the scoreboard in the 59-14 win over Lamar. The 668 yards of total offense set a new school record.

The offense was led by running back Jeffery Wilson, who finished the game with 176 yards rushing and three touchdowns. His performance was impressive enough to be named Conference USA Offensive Player of the Week.

Just as important, the senior running back didn’t appear to lose a step after coming back from knee surgery that caused him to miss part of last season.

“I’ve got to dedicate that to the people who took their time out to work with me during the summer,” Wilson said. “I’m forever thankful to those people. They know who they are. They will always be there in my heart.”

His leadership and toughness was also on display Tuesday after practice. Despite being sick, Wilson still made it to the media room to answer questions in front of the camera.

Another bright spot on the offensive side of the ball was the continued progress of quarterback Mason Fine. The sophomore from Locust Grove, Oklahoma threw for 224 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Lamar. Fine credits the improvement on having a full year under the system for not only himself but the entire team.

“I think a lot of progress has been made, even since spring ball,” Fine said. “We had great summer workouts and a great fall camp. Mainly it’s just being here another year and everybody has experience.”

In the win over Lamar, the defense was led by former DeSoto standout Khairi Muhammad. The sophomore safety led the team in tackles with seven (four solo) and also forced and recovered a fumble. Muhammad feels that playing for a high school program like DeSoto helped him make the adjustments necessary to playing college ball at North Texas.

“DeSoto is a powerhouse,” Muhammad said. “I played in front of 60-thousand, 70-thousand people. The tempo at DeSoto is really fast so It’s like a small college. It prepared me a lot for this.”

Next up for North Texas is a short trip down I-35 to face off against SMU in Dallas. The Mustangs are also coming off an impressive season-opening 58-14 win over Stephen F. Austin. The Mean Green defense will have their hands full against SMU’s Courtland Sutton. The junior wide receiver was named to the Biletnikoff Preseason Watch List and is considered to be a potential first-round NFL Draft pick.

Sutton only had two catches in the win over the Lumberjacks but one of those was a 13-yard touchdown for the first score of the game. He wasn’t needed much after that as SMU was in cruise control afterwards.

“It’s a great challenge,” said North Texas head coach Seth Littrell. “He’s one of the best in the country. He’s a special player and our guys know that. I know our guys are excited about the match-up. That’s why we play the game, for the great competition.”

The Mean Green are looking to beat the Mustangs in Dallas for the first time since a 7-0 win in 1933. SMU holds a 30-5-1 advantage in the metroplex rivalry. The Mustangs won 34-21 last year in Denton. One advantage in the rivalry is that neither team has to worry too much about the travel.

“It’s pretty much a home game for us,” Littrell said. “We are doing everything pretty similar. There’s not going to be much change within the schedule. In road games, you start having to get on flights and buses. This one is pretty routine.”

A little bit of school history is also on the line Saturday as North Texas aims to get win number 500 as a program. The Mean Green also has a chance to start 2-0 for the first time since 1994. Yes, this is a rivalry game. However, emotions aside, the Mean Green remain focused on the task at hand.

“We go out there and give 100 percent all week, every week for really the whole season,” Muhammad added. “That is our mindset. SMU is like any other week.”

Kick-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Saturday at Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas.