Longhorns Rocket Past Mean Green 38-7 in Strong’s Debut


College football is heavy on the tradition and pageantry, so naturally the biggest spectacle at DKR before kickoff Saturday night was … a guy on a jetpack. Taking off from the northeast corner of field and landing in the endzone, the rocketeer spent a few seconds in the air before coming back to earth, though a few seconds were enough. It was pretty weird, but something just felt different to kick off this Longhorn football season. It felt … fun.

“I’m looking forward to this matchup,” Charlie Strong said, and he wasn’t talking about North Texas. No, this was at the presser after the Longhorns’ season opener against the Mean Green, an annihilation by the Longhorns, 38-7, and Strong, after his first win as Texas coach was already looking ahead to next week’s revenge game against BYU. Last year, BYU embarrassed UT.

As for Strong’s debut, the score doesn’t tell the complete story, because it wasn’t even that close, as the Longhorn defense sucked the life out of North Texas, holding the Mean Green to 94 total yards. The Longhorn D picked off four Mean Green passes, made open-field tackles, and sacked the UNT QBs four times. New defensive coordinator Vance Bedford looked very happy, especially after Demarco Cobbs took the Horns’ final interception 28 yards to the house. Not to be dramatic—it was a UNT in a tune-up game at home—but this is what Horns fans had been clamoring for with the defense-first Charlie Strong taking the helm for Texas. Here’s what UNT’s stat line looked like at the end of the first half: four passing yards, 27 plays for 31 total yards, 0-6 on third down. Their punter, Eric Keena, with 5 punts for 210 yards, was the first-half MVP for the Mean Green.

The Texas offense played conservatively, especially to start the game, which ended up paying dividends with 9:00 left in the second quarter. David Ash sold a play-action pass, connecting with John Harris, who streaked down the field for a 28-yard gain, setting up a three-yard TD run for Malcolm Brown, who had a pair of his own on the day. Harris, who had five total receptions last season, finished the game with seven receptions for 110 yards and a score. The senior wide receiver had two easy drops early, catching the ire of Strong, and he quickly turned it around. Paired with Jaxon Shipley (6-43), the receiving corps looks to have more than a couple of viable options for a healthy David Ash, especially with the double-headed monster of Brown (13-65, 2TD) and Johnathan Gray (16-84) pounding away on the ground.

And then there’s the bad news. The anchor of the offensive line, senior Dominic Espinosa, had to leave the game with an ankle injury and did not return. Last night was the center’s 40th start for the Longhorns, by far the most on the young offensive line. He was replaced by backup redshirt freshman Jake Raulerson, whose iffy snap deep in Horns’ territory led to the Mean Green’s lone points of the game. Initially diagnosed as a high ankle sprain, Brian Davis at the Statesman tweeted this afternoon that Espinosa has a broken right ankle, which likely means he is done for the year. The OL will have a huge hole to fill with the loss of Espinosa, who will likely apply for a medical redshirt and rejoin the Horns in 2015.

To cap off the victory, DT Malcom Brown and DE Cedric Reed celebrated Strong’s first victory at Texas with an ice-cold exclamation point, giving him an orange Gatorade bath. He probably didn’t mind.

Photo by Alan Cundy


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