The SMU/North Texas series resumes on Saturday night at Gerald Ford Stadium on the Hilltop and for the 37th meeting. SMU has a strangle hold on the series record, with a 30-5-1 advantage. In spite of that, the series has seen its share of notable matchups.
North Texas and SMU met for the first time way back in 1922 when Theron Fouts, namesake of North Texas' former home field led his Eagles south to take on the Mustangs. Back then the school was known as Denton Normal College. The Eagles entered the game with SMU badly battered, even missing an assistant coach who was bed ridden with a mosquito based tropical disease called Dengue. The Mustangs ran over, around, and through the Eagles en route to a 66-0 blowout. Denton lost its first two games of the 1922 season by a combined 121-0 score before running off a six game unbeaten streak to finish the season. SMU ended the 1922 season 6-3-1. 66 isn't the largest margin of victory in the series, five years later the Mustangs won 68 to 0.
The June Jones Swan Song
On September 6, 2014, the North Texas Mean Green ran June Jones out of coaching. SMU was riding a four quarter scoreless streak, the longest in Jones' tenure at SMU when they traveled to Apogee to play North Texas. That streak extended to six quarters as North Texas blew out the Mustangs 43-6. Two days later Jones resigned, and SMU turned to his defensive coordinator Tom Mason to drag SMU through the rest of the Mustangs 1-11 2014 season.
Post Death Penalty Back and Forth
SMU tasked Forrest Gregg to rebuild the SMU program after the Death Penalty. In 1989 Gregg fielded his first squad, mostly freshman, walk-ons, and a few transfers. SMU beat UConn for their first post-death penalty victory. The Mustangs then entered SWC play and four straight losses. North Texas provided respite for the Mustangs. Still, Vegas listed the Mean Green as 11 point favorites. SMU's Mike Romo threw for 427 yards, and three scores and the Mustangs won going away 35-9.
A year later the Mean Green returned the favor, breaking a six game losing streak to the Mustangs with a 14-7 win in Denton. The great Scott Davis ran for 203 yards and ran for another 115 in the victory. North Texas' Keith Wilkerson intercepted a Romo pass with fourteen seconds left to preserve the win.
Hayden Fry's Crusade
Hayden Fry left SMU under, shall we say, controversial circumstances. He drove up I-35 and proceeded to work at turning North Texas into a powerhouse. You can read more about that here. The most notable of Fry's tussles with SMU came in 1977 as the two Universities were fighting over who would have use of the Cowboy's sparkling new stadium in Irving. SMU visited the Fry's war machine at Cowboy Stadium in September. It was Ron Meyer's second year at SMU. Fry's Mean Green beat SMU 24-13 and went on to a 10-1 season. The mid-seventies games between SMU and North Texas were the high point and hinted at a potential rivalry, but Fry's departure to Iowa ended any momentum for a couple of decades.
Meet the Pony Express
Meyer's best team at SMU may well have been his 1981 squad, with Eric Dickerson, Craig James, Lance McIlhenney, Bobby Leach, and Russell Carter. Were it not for the NCAA the 10-1 Mustangs would be more remembered. On September 12, 1981, the Mustangs welcomed North Texas and introduced them to the Pony Express. James accounted for 137 rushing yards, and Dickerson rushed for 126 yards in a 34-7 win. North Texas lone score came on a twisting, cutting Carlen Charleston 41 yard touchdown run. Meyer left SMU to take the New England Patriots' job a few months later and left an incredible buffet of talent for incoming coach Bobby Collins. He also left him a substantial payroll to meet.