North Texas Daily

North Texas drops its home opener against California

North Texas drops its home opener against California

North Texas drops its home opener against California
September 02
23:20 2023

The Mean Green fell in their home season opening match to the California Golden Bears, 58-21, on Saturday at DATCU Stadium.

The North Texas offense was shut out in the second half while the Mean Green defense fell short against Cal sophomore running back Jaydn Ott and company. The Golden Bears combined for 357 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns.

“Yeah, atrocious, not another word comes to my mind,” North Texas Head Coach Eric Morris said.  “Just really, really bad on a lot of different levels.”

Cal (1-0) amassed over 650 yards of total offense, while its defense held a prolific Mean Green running game to only 41 yards, averaging 1.5 per carry.

In the first half Ott ran for 166 yards on 14 carries and two touchdowns.

“We just didn’t tackle well, a ton of early missed tackles,” Morris said. “We knew [Ott] was a really good back. I think he exposed us early.”

North Texas junior linebacker Jaylen Smith said he felt the team “just made a lot of mistakes.”

“We got to play better,” Smith said. “We got to know our assignments.”

The Mean Green (0-1) did not roll over in the first half as sophomore wide receiver Ja’Mori Maclin hauled in four catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns. The score going into halftime was 33-21. 

“We lost,” Maclin said. “We’ve got a lot of mistakes. We, as an offense, got to get better.”

North Texas’ performance in the second half sent Mean Green fans home earlier than expected after a promising first half. 

“The crowd was great,” Morris said. “You know, we’ve busted our tails around here to get some excitement, to be able to get people here. And then the environment was awesome early.”

North Texas quarterback Stone Earle started off completing six of his first seven passes before throwing his first interception. Earle ended the game passing 12-of-19 for 174 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.

Cal starting quarterback Sam Jackson was 3-of-4 for 33 yards and a touchdown before going down with an injury early in the second quarter, which left open a window of opportunity for the Mean Green. 

“[Cal quarterbak Ben Finley] wasn’t as much of an athletic threat to us,” Smith said. “So we knew that we weren’t going to worry about the scrambling.”

Though the change in quarterback on Cal’s side may have initially seemed like a positive to North Texas, it ended up being proven incorrect.

Cal opened the second half with a nine-play drive capped with a touchdown run by running back Isaiah Ifanse, his third of the day. The ensuing Mean Green drive ended with a Stone Earle interception, his second of the day.

“We just got spooked,” Morris said. “We just called probably one of the first plays we installed when we got here, quick gameplay that we threw an interception on after that long drive. And from that point on, it’s almost like we put our heads down and we said, ‘Hey, this game’s over.’ We didn’t respond the right way.”

The second half also saw the debut of quarterback Chandler Rogers, a University of Louisiana-Monroe transfer, after a rough quarter from Earle in the third. Rogers’ first outing led to a quick three-and-out while leaving more questions than answers for the quarterback position.

“Stone is still going to be our starter, and when we have trust in him,” Morris said. “He’s earned it. The ball didn’t move particularly well when he was in there and made some key mistakes there late and some bonehead stuff.”

The Mean Green will travel to Miami as they play their first away game of the season against Florida International University on Saturday, Sept. 9 at 5:30 p.m. CST at FIU Stadium. 

Featured Image: Mean Green Football defends the ball at their first game of the season in DATCU Stadium on Sept. 2, 2023. Makayla Brown

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Daleon James

Daleon James

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