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Big West newcomer North Texas arrives for Saturday's noon game in Romney Stadium with a 3-5 record that's been on the wrong side of scores like 52-7, 55-0 and 40-13.

But that may be a smoke screen in this first-ever meeting with Utah State.Those losses were at Arizona State, at Texas A&M and to Big West favorite Nevada, a mad outfit the week after it blew a game to Idaho. UNT was only down 20-13 late in the third quarter last week. "They've had a very tough schedule," says USU coach John L. Smith.

At 1-1, North Texas is still in the hunt for the league's Las Vegas Bowl berth.

Despite 147 points in the three games, UNT's No. 2 in Big West scoring defense (28.5 ppg) and gives up the BWC's least yards per play (4.9). "The defense has a lot of good kids who run around and hit you," says Smith. "They'll bring some pressure. They don't do it a ton, but they do it enough you've got to be able to pick it up." It comes out of a zone with quickness up-front.

Third-year coach Matt Simon spent two years as New Mexico offensive coordinator. Last spring, he brought in Fred Bleil from New Mexico as defensive coordinator. Bleil was Chuck Shelton's assistant head coach at USU. Simon also picked up two of Shelton's offensive linemen (Jayson Blaine, Darrin Faler) when Pacific dropped football last year, and they're starters.

UNT has typical Southern speed, a big-time returner (165-pound Tubby Coleman, 20.6 KOR, 7.3 PR), the league's top punter (Toby Gowin, 44.9, BWC special-teams POW four times already), a scrambling QB (Jason Mills) and, says Smith, "A wideout (Coylin Grimes) who was the (prep) 200- and 400-meter champ in Texas, and he's only second-fastest (to Coleman)."