North Texas Daily

Football looks to reset with Cal matchup

Football looks to reset with Cal matchup

Football looks to reset with Cal matchup
September 12
12:03 2019

The Mean Green football team (1-1) will exit the metroplex for the first time this season as they travel to Berkeley, California for their matchup against the Cal Golden Bears (2-0) on Sept. 14. Following games against Abilene Christian and Southern Methodist, this is the first and only regular season matchup against a Power 5 opponent. This is the first time in program history North Texas and Cal will go head-to-head.

Coming off the 49-27 loss to the Mustangs, head coach Seth Littrell identified issues in all three phases of the game as well as problems from the coaching staff.

“There were definitely some positives that we got to continue to build on,” Littrell said. “There were also some negatives that we got to get in the film room, we got to get corrected and make sure that we’re not coming back again next week talking about the same things.”

The Golden Bears have two wins under their belt so far in the 2019 season — a 27-13 victory over California-Davis and a 20-19 win over No. 23 Washington (No. 13 at the time). This is the third season in a row that Cal has started off the year 2-0.

In the game against California-Davis, the Golden Bears amassed 471 total yards, splitting the offense almost evenly with 233 rushing yards and 238 passing yards. Sophomore running back Christopher Brown, Jr. contributed 197 of those rushing yards and one rushing touchdown. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Chase Garbers went 16-of-28 for 238 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

The win over No. 23 Washington saw a decrease in yards through the air and on the ground. Cal put up 186 rushing yards and 162 passing yards in the one-point victory. Following the game, senior interior linebacker Evan Weaver earned the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week award for the second time in his career. Weaver racked up 18 tackles (14 solo and two for a loss) and one forced fumble.

“Cal has a lot of great players,” senior quarterback Mason Fine said. “They have an All-American linebacker, an honorable mention All-American in the secondary. They’re fast, they’re well-coached, they’re disciplined, they’re ballhawks and playmakers all around.”

For comparison, sophomore linebacker KD Davis led North Texas with 10 tackles (two solo). Junior linebacker Tyreke Davis followed KD Davis with seven tackles (three solo) and then three players (senior defensive end LaDarius Hamilton, senior safety Khairi Muhammad and senior cornerback Jameel Moore) each accumulated six tackles against SMU.

“We just had too many mistakes and penalties in the first half, they were a little more excited to play than we were in the beginning. We’ve got to come in with a little more enthusiasm and be more physical,” Hamilton said in an interview with the Daily.

Fine is coming off his lowest passing yard performance in a game he has played at least three quarters of since the 47-7 victory over Liberty in 2018. Fine totaled 152 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception on a 53 percent completion percentage in last week’s 49-27 loss to Southern Methodist. Fine is owning up to his mistakes from week two and plans to learn from them.

“I gotta do better [at] distributing the ball and finding my playmakers around me,” Fine said. “I have a lot of great talent around me and I [have to] do a better job at executing that.”

Fine is currently tied with former Mean Green quarterback Steve Ramsey for the program record for career passing touchdowns with 69. He is on pace to throw 30 touchdowns this season, which would cement him in the history books with a substantial lead over Ramsey. Despite the prospect of setting the record, Fine said he feels no pressure heading into the matchup with Cal.

“No pressure,” Fine said. “I’m putting the pressure on me to be the best quarterback that I can be for this team. This week, I’m 100 percent focused on Cal and being a better quarterback than I was last Saturday.”

Historically, the Mean Green are 2-6 in matchups against Pac-12 opponents. Their last game against a member of the Pac-12 (then Pac-10) was a 2002 matchup against Arizona in which North Texas lost 14-9. The Mean Green also have a losing record in games played in California (3-6-1). Their most recent matchup was in 1981, when North Texas travelled to San Jose State and lost 28-16.

Both teams have put up over 400 yards of rushing within their first two games, with the Golden Bears (425) having the advantage over the Mean Green (403). Through the air, North Texas has out-gained Cal 568 yards to 349. The Golden Bears have an 87.9 percent chance to win and are a 13.5-point favorite, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index.

“All our goals are still in front of us as a team,” Littrell said. “We got to make sure we refocus and make sure that we win every single day, every single rep, every single practice and make sure we’re focused in on going 1-0 every week.”

Featured ImageReshirt sophomore running back Tre Siggers celebrates with teammates Jason Pirtle and Jacob Brammer after completing a touchdown at the game against Southern Methodist at Gerald J. Ford Stadium on Sept. 7, 2019. Image by Jordan Collard

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Zachary Cottam

Zachary Cottam

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