Frisco Bowl: First Look at the North Texas Mean Green
North Texas made the Conference USA title game and fired its head coach. Wild! Here’s our first look at the Mean Green’s journey to Frisco.
An up and down year, to say the least.
The Boise State Broncos will close out the 2022 season with an appearance in the Frisco Bowl on December 17, where they will face off with Conference USA’s North Texas Mean Green.
The two teams haven’t met on the field in over 20 years, but both sides have experienced their share of chaos throughout the fall. One big difference, though: UNT is headed into the postseason, and its future in the American Athletic Conference beginning next year, with an interim head coach, a quarterback set to take on the pro ranks after the bowl’s conclusion, and a whole lot of questions about what kind of team will show up in what is essentially a home game.
So what should Broncos fans expect when they gear up for Saturday? Here is our first look at North Texas.
2022 North Texas Mean Green — Team Profile
Conference: Conference USA
2020 Record: 7-6 (6-2 CUSA)
SP+ ranking: 78th (51th offense, 108th defense)
FEI ranking: 87th
Sagarin rating: 108th
Head coach: Phil Bennett (interim head coach, 19-52 overall)
2022 in a nutshell: Much like Boise State, North Texas did not have a good time of things in non-conference play. After opening the season with a road victory against UTEP, the Mean Green were routed by SMU, UNLV, and Memphis and entered October with a 2-3 record. After that, much as they had done in 2021, UNT rallied in conference play and scored a key road upset at Western Kentucky to earn a rematch with UTSA in Conference USA’s title game. They could not avenge their October loss to the Roadrunners, though, and would fire head coach Seth Littrell shortly after the conclusion of championship week.
With new head coach Eric Morris already hired away from Washington State, the Mean Green are at present a team very much in transition. If the Broncos don’t have their heads in the game after losing a conference championship game themselves, however, UNT can do some damage with its potent, if mercurial, offense.
Best wins: at Western Kentucky (8-5), at UTEP (5-7), vs. Florida Atlantic (5-7)
LB KD Davis
After considering an exit through the transfer portal, Davis decided to stick it out with the Mean Green in 2022 and rewarded UNT by becoming Conference USA’s defensive player of the year. He posted an overall PFF grade of 72.9 by racking up 132 total tackles, which was the most by any CUSA defender since 2018 and marked the second straight year he’d paced the conference in that category, as well as three tackles for loss and an interception. It’s likely you’ll hear his name quite a bit on Saturday, one way or another, because he can run sideline to sideline with the best of them.
— North Texas Football (@MeanGreenFB) December 3, 2022
QB Austin Aune
“Go big or go home” may well be Aune’s mantra under center for the Mean Green. That’s because, among Conference USA quarterbacks, his 8.7 yards per attempt ranked third while his 32 passing touchdowns, 13 interceptions, and 54 pass plays of 20 or more yards all ranked second. He also has five games this year with over 300 passing yards, so North Texas may live or die on his ability to stretch the field one last time.
CB Ridge Texada
Texada, like Davis, landed on Conference USA’s postseason first-team defense this year. A native of Frisco, he’ll play the bowl game in his hometown after finishing the regular season with three interceptions and 15 passes defended, both of which led the Mean Green, while also accumulating 40 total tackles and two tackles for loss.
What a day for Frisco’s own Ridge Texada:
– Pick Six: ✅
– TD saving PBU: ✅
– Second INT (below): ✅
– Mean Green W: ✅
— Kyle Youmans (@Kyle_Youmans) October 2, 2022
TE Var’Keyes Gumms
If you’re looking for a big target who can stretch the field, you can do a lot worse than throwing it up to the 6-foot-3, 230-pound redshirt freshman from Houston. In his first full year of action, Gumms led all CUSA players at the position with 33 receptions and 451 yards while catching five touchdowns, so he’ll represent a unique kind of challenge to Boise State’s seasoned secondary.
LB Mazin Richards
Richards had to settle for a spot on CUSA’s second-team defense this year, but he’s far and away the most disruptive player on North Texas’s defense. He finished fourth in Conference USA with 12.5 tackles for loss and fifth with 7.5 sacks, so Taylen Green will want to be aware of where he is at all times.
On average, the Mean Green offense was a pretty good unit in 2022. UNT ranked 35th in FBS with 2.61 points per drive, 42nd in earning 50.8% of available yards per drive, and 15th with 6.76 yards per play, but the week-to-week performances tell a different story. In the team’s seven wins, North Texas erupted for 7.61 YPP and 42.1 points per game, but in their six losses those numbers fell to 5.75 and 24.3, respectively.
Aune, despite his impressive passing numbers, is one big culprit for this because his 3.4% interception rate is significantly higher than that of his QB counterpart in this bowl game, Green, who comes in at 2.4%. The running game, led by Ayo Adeyi, Oscar Adaway III, and Ikaika Ragsdale, has also been inconsistent: The Mean Green averaged 6.27 yards per carry and had 16 rushing touchdowns in their seven wins, but just 3.84 YPC and six scores in six defeats.
On the other hand, one element of the game that UNT can probably count upon is solid play from the offensive line. Led by senior center Manase Mose and junior left tackle Kaci Moreka, they allowed a sack rate of 2.7% which ranks 11th among FBS teams.
In spite of some strong individual performances, this side of the ball languished a bit more throughout the season: UNT has allowed 2.55 points per drive, which ranks 101st, and 54.3% of available yards per drive, which is 112th.
Down in the trenches, Richards and Davis lead a front seven that also includes sophomore nose guard Roderick Brown and defensive ends Kadren Johnson and Tom Trieb, who combined for 16.5 tackles for loss and ten sacks in the regular season. On the back end, cornerback Deshawn Gaddie had 11 passes defended opposite Texada while safety Logan Wilson had two interceptions and 46 tackles in his sophomore campaign.
Will North Texas be able to keep Boise State from moving the ball at will, though? The Mean Green allowed opponents to convert 46.3% of the third downs this year, next-to-last among CUSA teams, and allowed 199 total plays of more than ten yards, which was not only tied for last in their conference but ranks in a tie for 122nd among all FBS defenses.