North Texas visiting Georgia for more than a paycheck

Posted Friday, Sep. 20, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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North Texas probably took the biggest step in years in resurrecting its football program with its victory last week against Ball State.

The Mean Green won, coach Dan McCarney said, because of a belief that they could and should, a crucial part of the rebuilding equation.

A losing mentality is a hard fire to extinguish for the culture of any program, and in the coming years, one might well look back at the Mean Green’s 34-27 victory as a defining moment, a triumph that also gave North Texas (2-1) its best record to open a season since 1994.

“If they didn’t have that belief and confidence, there’s no way we could have come back and won that game,” McCarney said. “There’s a different look, feel and sound” about this team.

With all that said, McCarney said, there’s no time for blustering braggadocio even after defeating a team that had won 11 of its past 14 games.

“We have a long ways to go,” the coach cautioned, using the common terminology heard on Bonnie Brae over the past few years.

Yet, North Texas has grown over the past two games and will no doubt learn more on Saturday in a road game at No. 9 Georgia.

By this time next week, the Mean Green will have finished off a brutal three weeks against teams that won a combined 30 games in 2012.

The best of that bunch, of course, is Georgia, a perennial top-10 program out of the Southeastern Conference. North Texas has faced a top-10 opponent in 13 of the past 14 seasons.

Those schools serve as opponents but also as paymaster. North Texas will return to Denton with about $975,000 hard-earned cash for the university.

“We’re in this to win,” McCarney said. “The feelings of that locker room on Saturday are unmatched. When you do experience that, we want to do it again.”

Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga.

To match wits on Saturday, the Mean Green knows it will need to bring out the defense that is hovering around the top of FBS schools.

No other team in the nation has forced as many turnovers as the Mean Green’s 11 after collecting five turnovers Saturday against the Cardinals.

North Texas’ seven forced fumbles also lead the nation.

North Texas ranks second in the nation in red-zone defense, allowing its three opponents this season to score just 50 percent of the time inside the Mean Green 20-yard line.

Idaho, Ohio and Ball State made eight trips inside the 20 and scored three touchdowns and a field goal.

North Texas will also need the perseverance it showed in overcoming a 17-point deficit against Ball State.

Adversity will be common on Saturday.

They’ll need that same belief.

“What we need to do is execute what we believe in,” McCarney said. “Execute against some really quality players and a good system.

“What we can control is to make sure we’re ready to go.”

North Texas at Georgia

11 a.m. Saturday

TV: KTXA/Ch. 21

Radio: KHYI/95.3 FM, KNTU/88.1 FM

Head to head

Category North Texas (2-1) Georgia (1-1)
Points per game31.738
Total offense465540.5
Pass offense291316
Rush offense174224.5
3rd down conv.46.8%35.7%
Points allowed2034
Total defense435.7460.5
Pass defense267.3249
Rush defense168.3211.5
3rd down conv.42.5%44.4%

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