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What to watch for in North Texas’ season opener vs. Lamar

What to watch for in North Texas’ season opener vs. Lamar

North Texas junior running back Andrew Tucker (25) celebrates after scoring a defensive touchdown against Bethune-Cookman. Colin Mitchell

What to watch for in North Texas’ season opener vs. Lamar
August 30
20:02 2017

The Lamar Cardinals will travel to Denton to face North Texas Saturday Sept. 2, with hopes that this year’s lone FBS game goes much better than last season’s 42-0 loss to Houston. The Cardinals ended the 2016 season with a 3-8 record while the Mean Green finished 5-8 with an appearance in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

Under new head coach Mike Schultz, who is just the second head coach since the football program was revived in 2010, Lamar has several new faces on its team this season. They return 13 starters and have only two players on the roster with three years of experience.

In addition, Schultz brought in almost an entirely new coaching staff in to assist him this season.

“Obviously it’s a new coaching staff, but I’ve known Schultz for a long time and he’s very respected in the coaching community,” head coach Seth Littrell said. “He’s done some unbelievable things as an offensive coordinator, and I know [Lamar] will be a tough, disciplined football team.”

Schultz has a strong offensive reputation from his time as the offensive coordinator at Texas Christian University and Texas State University, but he’ll have his work cut out for him this year. Lamar’s offensive line returns just two starters and is also without its two top running backs  from last year.

North Texas senior defensive back James Gray tackles Marshall sophomore running back Anthony Anderson. The North Texas defense held Marshall to only 13 rushing yards in their 38-21 win.

The Mean Green defensive line is primed to show what its made of in this week one matchup after an offseason full of hype. They face an offense that ran the ball for just 131 yards per game and managed just 3.5 yards per carry last season.

The Cardinals most dangerous offensive player is likely Zae Giles, who as accumulated 847 all-purpose yards and seven total touchdowns as a freshman last season.

North Texas will look to exploit the Cardinals’ tendency to turn the ball over, as Lamar turned the ball over 21 times in 11 games last year. Such miscues appear to be a point of concern in the days leading up to the season opener, and Schultz pointed out the team’s struggles after their second scrimmage less than two weeks ago.

“We had too many mistakes this afternoon,” Schultz told LamarCardinals.com on Aug. 19. “Defense was offsides three times on third down conversions and we gave up the first down. We have to eliminate the mistakes.”

North Texas has a more experienced roster than Lamar, especially on the line of scrimmage. The Mean Green offensive line should have its way up front, as Lamar allowed 29 rushing touchdowns as well as 230 yards per game in 2016 – an average of just under three touchdowns on the ground each night.

Look for senior running back Jeffrey Wilson and company to have a monster day in the run game.

North Texas will look to get Wilson going early and often, as Lamar is susceptible to slow performances out of the gate. The Cardinals averaged just 7.7 points per game in the first half last year, while the Mean Green averaged more than 17 points in the first two quarters – a disparity that could present itself on game day.

While the Cardinals have been heavily affected by Hurricane Harvey in their preparation for Saturday, both Lamar and North Texas have a lot of excitement surrounding their season opener. Both are in the early stages of a rebuild and are led by coaches who have been at the helm of their respective program for less than two years.

Only one team can start the season 1-0.

“It’s exciting to go against someone else and it’s exciting to play in Apogee in front of the fans,” Fine said. “I feel like the energy is going to be great and it’s going to be fun to get that Saturday game day experience.”

Score prediction: North Texas 34, Lamar 7

Featured Image: North Texas junior running back Andrew Tucker (25) celebrates after scoring a special teams touchdown against Bethune-Cookman. Colin Mitchell

About Author

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune is the Senior Sports Writer for the North Texas Daily, covering football and men's basketball.

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