SMU Football Begins New Era Against UNT

SMU Football Begins New Era Against UNT
SMU plays UNT | Image by George Walker/SMU Athletics

The SMU Mustangs open their 2022 football season and a new era with a trip to Denton to face the North Texas Mean Green this Saturday.

SMU is entering its first season under head coach Rhett Lashlee, the Mustangs’ former offensive coordinator. Lashlee returned to SMU after a two-year stint as Miami’s offensive coordinator to replace Sonny Dykes, who left the Mustangs and is now the head coach at TCU.

Lashlee has made a reputation for himself as an offensive guru. In his first season at Miami in 2020, the Hurricanes’ offense saw significant improvement, jumping to No. 32 in Division I in total offense (from No. 98), No. 29 in passing offense (from No. 52), and No. 26 in scoring offense (from No. 90).

In 2021, Miami again ranked 26th in scoring, improving to 34.1 average points per game, and jumping to 22nd in total offense at 448.8 yards per game.

Before heading to Miami, Lashlee helped lead the Mustangs to a 10-3 finish in 2019, guiding an offense that ranked No. 7 in Division I in scoring (41.8 points per game), No. 13 in passing offense (309 yards per game), and No. 9 in total offense (489.8 yards per game).

SMU’s 10 wins in 2019 were the school’s most since the 1984 season, and its 35 rushing touchdowns set a school record.

Lashlee gets a familiar opponent in his first game leading the Mustangs, as North Texas played against SMU in 2018 and 2019 when Lashlee was the Mustangs’ offensive coordinator.

Overall, it will be the 42nd meeting between SMU and UNT, with the Mustangs holding a 34-6-1 all-time advantage. SMU has won the last three meetings, including a 35-12 victory last season.

SMU also won 65-35 when the two teams last played in Denton in 2020.

The Mustangs finished last season 8-4 with a 4-4 record in American Athletic Conference play and earned a bid to the Fenway Bowl.

It was the third consecutive season the Mustangs earned a spot in the bowl game. However, the bowl game was canceled due to COVID-19 issues amid their scheduled opponent, Virginia’s football program.

SMU has won at least eight games in two of the past three seasons and started 5-0 in each of the last three seasons for the first time since the 1981-83 seasons.

Lashlee will hope the Mustangs exceed their accomplishments from previous seasons and start the season with another winning streak.

The Mustangs will have a proven quarterback in senior Tanner Mordecai to help lead the Mustangs’ offense under Lashlee. The transfer from Oklahoma threw for 3,698 yards and 39 touchdowns last season.

That includes 311 yards and four touchdowns in the win over North Texas last season.

Mordecai has the full attention of North Texas’ defense heading into Saturday’s game.

“He’s a really good football player and understands their systems,” North Texas head coach Seth Littrell said of Mordecai. “He’s played a lot of football under a couple of different staffs, he has weapons and does a great job of managing the game.”

While most teams in college football have not played a game until this week, including SMU, the Mean Green already got their season-opener out of the way last Saturday with a win over UTEP.

Littrell and UNT’s players see both sides of the equation regarding the benefits and drawbacks of having played last week when most teams did not.

“You can look at it both ways,” UNT quarterback Austin Aune said. “We have a game under our belts and can make corrections. They have a game that they can watch of us.”

SMU and North Texas will kick off on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. CT from Apogee Stadium in Denton. The game will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.

After the road opener against the Mean Green, SMU will return for their home opener against Lamar on September 10. The Mustangs will go on the road to face Maryland the following week before returning home for the Battle for the Iron Skillet against their former head coach and TCU on September 24.

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