UNLV Football: First Look At The North Texas Mean Green
The Rebels will face off with a UNT squad that has plenty of its own to prove this fall.
Two teams on the upswing?
UNLV Football: First Look at 2022 Non-conference Opponents
After taking a road trip to the Bay Area in non-conference play, the UNLV Rebels will head home in Week 2 to host the North Texas Mean Green. It will be their first meeting since the 2014 Heart of Dallas Bowl.
Location: Denton, Texas
Conference: Conference USA
Series History: UNLV leads the series over North Texas 4-1; their last meeting was in 2014.
2021 Record: 6-7 (5-3 CUSA)
Head Coach: Seth Littrell (seventh year at North Texas, 37-38 overall). After the Mean Green limped out the gate to a 1-6 start, few coaches in the country had a hotter seat in the middle of the 2021 season. Littrell and his staff engineered one of the more dramatic second-half turnarounds in recent memory, though, ripping off five straight wins (including upsets over UTSA and UTEP) to land his fifth bowl bid in six years.
Is the pressure still on? North Texas hasn’t won a division title since 2017 and are now preparing to exit Conference USA for the American in 2023, meaning that Littrell will want to accomplish big things this fall and erase the temptation of a new start for someone else.
KD Davis, LB
Davis was named Honorable Mention All-CUSA by Pro Football Focus, after leading the conference with 121 tackles in 2021. Considered the transfer portal for a Power 5 school, with visits to Texas A&M and Ole Miss, before ultimately deciding to return to North Texas. Losses on the defensive line could make 2022 a challenging year for Davis, but he is part of a strong linebacker unit that will remain the heart of this defense.
North Texas LB KD Davis is a smart and instinctive run defender who’s often making several run stops around the LOS every game. Reads his keys, gets to the guards outside shoulder to flush the RB inside, and beats the block to make the tackle. 120 tackles, 15.5 TFLs in 2021. pic.twitter.com/rMi5nzIZlj
— Bobby Football (@Rob__Paul) July 15, 2022
Roderic Burns, WR
As a slot receiver who led the team with 58 receptions for 802 yards in 2021, Burns will look to build upon his season with one of the stronger wide receiver groups in Conference USA. A former walk-on at North Texas, Burns has big-play potential, albeit within an offense looking to establish the run.
— North Texas Football (@MeanGreenFB) November 13, 2021
Austin Aune, QB
Aune comes into 2022 as the projected starter, having led North Texas on a five-game winning streak to finish the season and become bowl eligible. But after only completing 51.2% of his passes, and the expectations for this year, the critics will come quickly if Aune struggles early.
John Davis, CB
As a junior, Davis returns to what could be a promising secondary for the Mean Green. Injuries took their toll on this unit in 2021, and Davis will start 2022 looking to improve upon a passing defense that finished fifth in the conference at 230.5 yards per game.
Manase Mose, OG
Starting for a fifth straight season, Mose will be one of four starters return on the offensive line for North Texas in 2022. Named to the second team all-conference last year, Mose will play guard or center anchoring that only allowed 18 sacks last season and will look to run the ball early and often.
The Mean Green will seek to build upon a strong running attack behind an experienced offensive line. Having produced the fifth-best rushing offense in 2021, at more than 230 yards per game, North Texas returns three running backs who accounted for almost 1,400 yards and 16 touchdowns last season. Make no mistake: the running game will continue from last year to form the base of their 2022 campaign.
The questions will arise when that ground game is challenged and another way to win is needed. The passing game may require time to develop at quarterback, but the receivers should be able to move the chains as a capable, if not explosive, part of the offense.
If there is stability at quarterback, whether it be Aune or one of the others in a relatively deep quarterbacks room, this team can easily perform well enough to get to a bowl game once again. Built on a strong running game, the offense should be an entertaining team to watch in 2022.
This defense has had its share of ups and downs, from injuries last year to losses in the transfer portal this year. But North Texas gets a number of players healthy to start the 2022 campaign, players that will need to step up quickly to improve upon a difficult scoring defense (ranked 79th, at 27.5 points per game).
The defensive line will be a point of concern, with losses in the transfer portal, but improved linebacker play should fortify the front seven overall. Senior Quinn Whitlock returns from injury to the “Eagle” position (a linebacker/safety hybrid) that also bolster a defense looking to improve overall.
Any positives in the turnover department will help as well, as the team finished 70th nationally.
The Rebels should be improved on both sides of the ball this year, but it remains to be seen whether they have an impact defensive player who can disrupt week in and week out following Jacoby Windmon’s departure and, at least for now, Brennon Scott’s injury-related absence. That might be the difference against a veteran Mean Green offense that will inevitably look to run the ball and lean on what could be a UNLV defense still finding its footing.
North Texas 34, UNLV 20