Bowl-eligible North Texas hasn’t hit ceiling, coach says

Posted Friday, Nov. 08, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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It’s hard to argue the DNA of North Texas coach Dan McCarney, who is equal parts motivational speaker Tony Robbins and gunnery sergeant Hartman of Full Metal Jacket.

Consider the following response to an onlooker who asked about the “magic” he’s performed in turning around North Texas’ football program from among the worst of the FBS to a six-win team now on the watch boards of bowl committees in less than three seasons.

There is no magic, McCarney said.

“There’s this world of entitlement that makes me sick to my stomach,” McCarney said. “Everybody walking around with their hand out ... you deal with it in football, school, social, professional life.

“When I took over this program, [players] said, ‘We’re entitled to this, we’re entitled to that.’ I said, ‘You’re not entitled to a damn thing. You haven’t done anything except embarrass the program. … If you don’t like what I’m laying out, hit the bricks. I’ll help you pack.’”

The ones who remained are playing to pack a suitcase to a bowl destination and much more because they worked and persevered, he said.

The forthright McCarney said he “almost ended up in a grave a couple of times getting here.”

By all appearances and his own testimonials, McCarney is healthy as a horse after suffering a stroke and undergoing open-heart surgery in consecutive years.

The Mean Green program appears just as robust these days after getting “here,” bowl-eligible. They’ll likely need a seventh and perhaps an eighth win to secure a spot in college football’s postseason.

That starts at 2:30 p.m. Saturday with a very winnable game against 1-7 UT El Paso at Apogee Stadium.

North Texas (6-3) enters riding a four-game winning streak and looks to remain unbeaten at home in 2013.

“This is not the ceiling, this is not the final destination,” McCarney said of his team reaching its six-win goal.

“It’s how you finish. We all know it’s what you do here in November.”

A berth in the Conference USA title game next month is now the goal.

North Texas, Rice and Tulane are all 4-1. The Mean Green split games with both. Rice and Tulane play in a season finale Nov. 30.

Much can happen between now and then, but if all three enter that week with one conference loss, North Texas would need Rice to defeat Tulane to play in the CUSA championship game.

The Mean Green own the first tiebreaker with Rice, based on head to head. Tulane, however, defeated North Texas last month.

“What we have to do is make sure we keep improving, stay focused and on task,” said McCarney, who added that he’s warned his team against overlooking the Miners, winless in C-USA. “Don’t take one thing for granted.”

Keep grinding and pushing, the coach said.

It’s the mentality that’s put them on the precipice of a major breakthrough for the program. There are no freebies in college football, especially when you’ve been a have-not like North Texas.

As long as McCarney is around, that won’t change, the coach vowed.

North Texas vs. UTEP

2:30 p.m. Saturday

Records: North Texas, 6-3, 4-1 C-USA; UTEP, 1-7, 0-4

Radio: KHYI/95.3 FM, KNTU/88.1 FM

Head to head

CategoryNorth TexasUTEP
Points per game31.325.1
Total offense398.2381.3
Pass offense241.7180.8
Rush offense156.6200.5
3rd down conv.47.5%42.9%
Points allowed19.941
Total defense376.4479.8
Pass defense249.9232.1
Rush defense126.6247.6
Def. 3rd down conv.34.7%43.2%

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