TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - North Texas might have picked the worst time to run into one of the best defenses in the country.
The Mean Green seemed to have worked out some of its issues after being shut out offensively in its season-opening loss to Florida International last week when it scored its first three touchdowns of the season that were not posted by its defense or special teams units against Houston.
That progress came to a quick halt on Saturday when the Mean Green ran headlong into second-ranked Alabama and its elite defense. That group shut UNT out again, this time by a 41-0 count at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
"We don't have any identity right now, that is pretty obvious," UNT head coach Dan McCarney said. "It would be fun to go out and play a really bad Division I team or a bad to mediocre I-AA team. We didn't get a chance to do that. We had to play the No. 2-ranked team in the country with as good a defense as there is in college football."
The Crimson Tide came into its game against the Mean Green having given up a grand total of two touchdowns and 18 points so far this season, including the 11 nationally ranked Penn State managed to scratch out last week.
Alabama (3-0) shut down UNT's running game, bottled up the nation's leader in all-purpose yards in Brelan Chancellor and made life generally miserable for the Mean Green.
UNT (0-3) finished with just 169 yards of total offense - its lowest total since finishing with 95 yards in its 2006 season-opener against Texas.
Chancellor, who came into the night averaging 297 yards a game, had just 86 against Alabama.
Lance Dunbar finished with 16 rushing yards on 17 carries and was held under 100 yards in three straight games for the first time since becoming a starter during his sophomore season.
"They are the No. 2 team in the nation for a reason," said UNT quarterback Derek Thompson, who led UNT with 80 passing yards. "They had a great scheme and a good plan for us."
UNT's performance continued a season-long trend that has seen the Mean Green struggle while starting three freshman offensive linemen and Thompson at quarterback who, prior to this season, had made just one start in his college career.
The Crimson Tide headed into the night ranked fifth nationally in total defense, giving up an average of just 170.5 yards a game, and looked like one of the nation's elite defensive units from the outset.
Alabama shut UNT's offense down completely in the first half and built a 20-0 lead. The Mean Green went three-and-out on four of its first five possessions.
UNT had two good scoring chances in the second half. The Mean Green missed on the first when Zach Olen's 42-yard field goal was blocked by Alabama defensive back Robert Lester.
UNT had a second chance after Alabama was called for pass interference in the end zone. The Mean Green took over at the Alabama 2-yard-line, but came up empty when freshman quarterback Andrew McNulty's fourth-down pass fell incomplete.
UNT couldn't keep pace while facing a potent Alabama running attack led by Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy, who finished with 167 and 161 yards, respectively.
"We had some positives," Dunbar said. "We have to take them and move forward. We had some plays where everyone took care of their assignments. It's a tough time to play Alabama, but that was the schedule. We couldn't change it."
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.