Back to the Belt

When Howard Schnellenberger and Todd Dodge shake hands prior to Saturday’s game between FAU and North Texas it will connect one of college football’s most famous faces with one of its freshest.

This season, Dodge makes the quantum leap from high school to the Football Bowl Subdivision. While Schnellenberger is coming off his latest big win, Dodge is still searching for his first – at this level. As Head Coach of Southlake Carroll High School in Texas he compiled a 79-1 record, including a 48-game winning streak and four state championships at the 5A level.

Dodge’s first two games for his new employer haven’t gone as well. He has already lost more games as coach of the Mean Green than he did in his entire tenure at Carroll. Already this season North Texas has been bludgeoned by Oklahoma and cross-town rival Southern Methodist.

While new to college football’s highest division as a coach, Dodge does have a wealth of experience as a player. He was starting quarterback for the Texas Longhorns in the mid- 1980’s and his name still frequents that historic school’s record books. Dodge is top-ten all-time on the Longhorns’ passing yards and touchdown passes lists and he is tied for second place for the longest-ever pass play, a 96-yarder against Rice in 1985.

Daniel Meager is the Mean Green starting quarterback. In the two losses this season he has completed 67 percent of his passes and thrown four interceptions and three touchdowns. Meager’s favorite target is Casey Fitzgerald, who has caught 25 passes, three of them for touchdowns. The defense has given up 124 points in two games, both on the road.

“The best thing for us is to come out with an offense of our own, keep the ball for three to four minutes at a time and put seven points on the board and do that about three times in the first quarter, then again in the second quarter and then put the game in a one-dimensional situation,” said Schnellenberger.

The Mean Green used to be the kings of the Sun Belt. They finished first in four consecutive years (2001-04) and only lost one conference game during that span. Of late, North Texas has faltered, finishing last and next-to-last in each of the past two seasons. They won only four Sun Belt games in the last two years combined. The game against FAU is the conference opener for UNT, while it is the second Sun Belt contest for the Owls, who are 3-0 all-time against North Texas. A win would set FAU perched atop the Sun Belt standings.

Game time is set for 7 p.m. Saturday at Fouts Field in Denton, Texas, located just north of Dallas.