North Texas Daily

COLUMN: SMU is beating the football team on and off the field

COLUMN: SMU is beating the football team on and off the field

COLUMN: SMU is beating the football team on and off the field
July 23
13:00 2021

On a warm September night at Apogee Stadium, an offense led by then-junior quarterback Mason Fine put up 46 points for North Texas compared to Southern Methodist University’s 26. The aforementioned game was in 2018 and it is the last time North Texas had a significant triumph versus SMU on or off the field.

Starting with its on-field performance, football has not found a way to make the annual Safeway Bowl close in the last two years, losing 49-27 in 2019 and 65-35 in 2020 — the latter of which was on the Mean Green’s home turf. Giving up a combined 114 points in the last two contests, North Texas’ defense has failed in stopping the likes of sophomore running back Ulysses Bentley IV who posted 19 carries for 227 yards and three touchdowns in 2020. It was the same story in 2019 when former SMU running back Xavier Jones tallied 16 carries for 127 yards and three touchdowns. 

To make matters worse, however, the damage is not just being done on the ground. The Mean Green were likely ecstatic to see former SMU quarterback Shane Buechele enter the NFL draft this year. In two career games against North Texas, Buechele threw for a combined 636 yards and seven touchdowns while dismantling the Mean Green defense. The lone standout performer for North Texas in either game was former running back Tre Siggers who in 2019 rushed for 164 yards and a touchdown versus SMU. This offseason, Siggers joined the Mustangs via the transfer portal.

Siggers is not the only player to pick SMU over North Texas recently. An astounding eight class of 2021 players North Texas offered instead chose to commit to their Dallas rivals. North Texas is losing recruiting battles, including the vital Dallas-Fort Worth ones. SMU continues to run the table among the Group of Five DFW colleges and the trend is hurting the Mean Green profusely. Both North Texas and SMU recruit mostly three-star players, with an occasional four-star recruit mixed in (mostly for SMU). 

However, SMU is playing at a higher level in a much better conference than the Mean Green, meaning North Texas is recruiting with one arm tied behind its back. For a DFW prospect, playing at an American Athletic Conference competitor compared to a middle-of-the-pack Conference USA squad provides a lot more opportunities for exposure and success. It is possible North Texas could counter this with a silver tongue, assuring prospects of the same opportunities, a tactic coaches and scouts likely use to persuade players to Denton. Ultimately, the coaching staff’s efforts do not seem to be enough to steal prospects from SMU at the moment.

The upcoming season will be an integral one for the so-called rivalry between North Texas and SMU. Pandemic football is over and a normal season means fewer excuses for failure. For the Mean Green, it is an opportunity to prove they can beat SMU with a revitalized defense and quarterback room. In 2020, North Texas attacked the Mustangs with multiple quarterbacks, giving both Jason Bean and Austin Aune chances at the helm. Going into this season, Aune looks likely to be the starter over North Carolina transfer Jace Ruder. 

Having Aune as the starter allows the Mean Green to have a more organized game plan, which they will need in order to take on SMU in the season’s second week. A win versus SMU in 2021 could mean more for North Texas than just on-field success, it could also mean more recruits who choose the Mean Green instead of SMU.

While the future could tell otherwise, SMU runs the show versus North Texas right now, a trend that has been in place for a number of years. A change is needed for the Mean Green to flip the script and it must come soon.

Featured Illustration by J. Robynn Aviles

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Reed Smith

Reed Smith

sports editor

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