STRONG START

As promised by Charlie Strong and his players, the Texas defense played with passion, fire and was dominant in a 38-7 rout of North Texas in Strong's debut.

Here are 25 thoughts following Strong's debut as Texas coach:

#1 .... Charlie Strong promised a defense that would be flying around, punishing people and having fun, and we saw that in a 38-7 throttling of UNT. Promise kept.

The D was dominant. The game was over at the half, when UT was up 21-0 and UNT had 19 rushing plays for 27 yards and 27 plays total for 31 yards (1.1 ypp).

UNT didn't cross the 50 until 1:26 left in the half. The Mean Green wasn't so mean with 2 total first downs in the first half while going 0-of-6 on third-down conversions.

For good measure, fifth-year senior OLB Demarco Cobbs had a pick-six with 3:32 left for UT's fourth INT of the night on a pass that appeared to be tipped by LB Tim Cole.

UNT finished with 94 total yards on 60 plays (1.6 ypp), including 79 yards rushing on 43 attempts (1.84 ypc).

The only points given up by Texas came on a fumble by the offense (QB David Ash and a pulling LG Sed Flowers collided, and Ash lost the ball) coming off the goal line, and UNT recovered for a TD with 7:17 left in 4Q.

#2 .... The Texas D was facing a first-time starter at QB in UNT's JUCO transfer Josh Greer, and he did not look ready for prime time. But the Horns deserve a lot of credit for making Greer look so unsettled, leading to off-target passes.

After an INT by Jordan Hicks in 2Q, Greer was replaced by backup QB Andrew McNulty. But McNulty got beat up, too, and Greer and McNulty both saw action the rest of the way - to no avail.

#3 ... I don't know what these coaches said to fifth-year senior John Harris or if it was all just having a second chance under a new coach, but Harris was a monster.

When Harris caught an 8-yard TD pass from Ash with 10:35 left in 3Q (putting Texas up 28-0), he had 7 catches for 110 yards after catching 5 passes ALL OF LAST YEAR.

#4 .... Thought we'd see more of TE Geoff Swaim and WR Marcus Johnson in the passing game, but there was no need.

#5 .... David Ash looked like he was knocking off some rust Saturday night. He didn't always lead his receivers well enough, especially on a couple bootleg rollouts when he had Harris and TE MJ McFarland.

#6 ... But Ash made the early play of the night when facing third-and-5 from the UNT 39, he got a Mean Green blitz, alluded the rush, stepped up, then rolled right and found Harris down the right sideline for a 27-yard gain to the UNT 12.

That was a HUGE play. A UNT penalty (12 men on the field) and three Malcolm Brown rushing plays later, UT had its first TD of the Charlie Strong Era with 4:06 left in the 1Q.

#7 .... Ash took some hits and didn't flinch.

The biggest hit after trying to extend a play with an ill-conceived, incomplete shuttle pass to J Gray on third-and-8 from the UNT 16. On a play like that, where even if complete, it wouldn't have been enough for the first (Gray was covered) throw the ball away and get out of bounds instead of eating that hit.

#8 .... As if the offensive line could absorb any more depth concerns - senior C Dom Espinosa, of all people, has his right leg rolled up on by a UNT defender and ends up being carted off the field with a right ankle injury.

HornsDigest has learned X-rays reveal a hairline fracture in Espinosa's right ankle. This unit is already under construction and needed Espinosa's ability to help Ash read the defense pre-snap.

#9 .... Shortly after Espinosa left the game, Ash bobbled what appeared to be a good snap from Jake Raulerson, and UNT recovered. The Texas defense made sure the turnover didn't lead to points.

#10 .... Without Des Harrison (suspended) and all the musical chairs on the O-line, this group is definitely under major construction. Sed Flowers and Taylor Doyle both failed to pick up blocks that resulted in sacks in the 2Q.

#11 .... UNT ran a stunt as DE Jarrian Roberts came inside, and Flowers, at LG, failed to pick him up, and Roberts sacked Ash for a huge loss on third down, forcing a punt with 10:31 left in the 2Q.

#12 .... Flowers needed to communicate better with the LT on the play - Marcus Hutchins - but Kennedy Estelle had started at LT and played there early in the game.

#13 .... Doyle just got beat face up while playing RG next to Kent Perkins at RT. Perkins had opened the game at RG with Hutchins starting at RT. You follow all that?

#14 .... Joe Wickline has said the O-line won't be settled until "well into the season." Yikes.

#15 .... A collision between a pulling Sed Flowers and Ash coming off Texas' goal line resulted in a fumble by Ash recovered in the end zone by UNT for the Mean Green's only points with 7:17 left to play - ruining the shutout.

#16 .... Bad personal fouls committed in the first half by Espinosa (smashing into a UNT defender from behind well after the whistle) and by CB Duke Thomas (slinging a UNT ball carrier to the ground well out of bounds). In the next two games, those flags could be critical.

UT finished with 7 flags for 65 yards.

#17 .... Despite the Texas defense picking off 4 passes, the UT offense converted only one of the first three INTs into points.

The only INT converted into points came after LB Jordan Hicks' picked off his first career pass, made a couple spin moves and give Texas the ball at the UNT 31. Ash connected on a deep crossing route for 28 yards to John Harris to the 3 and RB Malcolm Brown punched it into the end zone for his 2nd TD of the night, putting Texas up 14-0 with 9:13 left in 2Q.

#18 .... The biggest crime committed by the offense after a defensive gift came when S Dylan Haines returned UT's first INT 22 yards to the UNT 18.

Ash recovered his own fumbled snap for a 2-yard loss on first down; hit John Harris for 4 yards; then the ill-advised, incomplete shuttle pass to J Gray on third-and-8; then a delay of game causes K Nick Rose to attempt a 38-yard FG instead of a 33-yarder.

Rose missed the 38-yard attempt wide right.

#19 .... Special teams were nothing special. There were no big returns, and you have to wonder if having so many starters on special teams caused them to be gassed and late in getting blocks. About the only highlight was Will Russ dropping two punts inside UNT's 20.

#20 .... Charlie Strong, Vance Bedford and teammates had great things to say about freshman S Jason Hall (No. 31), and the depth chart said Hall was a starter.

But sophomore Adrian Colbert got the start at S opposite Mykkele Thompson. And Colbert produced with a really athletic, sliding INT. (Charlie Strong said Colbert should have had another INT as well.)

#21 .... Wow, did DT Hassan Ridgeway come to life in the second half with two really powerful, Shaun Rogers-like sacks.

#22 ... The personal foul committed by Dom Espinosa wiped out a long gain on a pass from David Ash to John Harris and put Texas back on UNT's 46 (instead of having the ball near the 25 yard line).

But Johnathan Gray ran a beautiful outside zone play to the left and went for 42 yards, setting up a 1-yard TD run by David Ash on a bootleg option on fourth down. (After O-Line failed to get enough push to get J Gray into the paint on two runs from the 4 and from the 3). Ash's TD put Texas up 21-0 with 2:41 left in 2Q.

#23 ... Gray was the most explosive of the RBs. In the first quarter, Gray had an insane spin move in the backfield to avoid a tackle for loss and then cut through traffic for an incredible, 8-yard run.

Gray finished with 16 carries for 82 yards. Malcolm Brown was powerful in picking up 65 carries on 13 yards and TD runs of 1 and 3 yards.

#24 ... Freshman D'Onta Foreman should be a lot of fun for defenses in the fourth quarter. How about his 34-yard carry on that outside zone run? (He finished with 2 carries for 37 yards)

#25 ... All in all, a lot of work to do on offense and maybe some rethinking of using so many starters on special teams, because there just weren't any plays made there. But that defense flew around, played with energy, passion and dominance.

Lots of room for improvement ... and potentially devastating news about Dom Espinosa.


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