College Sports

November 22, 2013

North Texas looks to close out perfect home football season

The Mean Green will qualify for the Conference USA title game by winning its last two games.

North Texas closes out its home schedule Saturday against UT San Antonio, the last of three consecutive games against intrastate rivals.

The Mean Green, its coach assured, remains as hungry riding a five-game winning streak and looking for an eighth victory of the season as it was in August.

And that’s because the team has put itself in position to achieve even more.

The immediate concern Saturday at Apogee Stadium is the possibility of a first 6-0 season at home — and only the second time in the history of the school — since NFL Hall of Famer Mean Joe Greene’s sophomore season in 1966.

If North Texas (7-3, 5-1 C-USA) wins its final two games, Saturday and next week at Tulsa, the Mean Green will be in the Conference USA championship game Dec. 7, pitting the champions from the West and East divisions.

And there’s a possibility that Apogee Stadium could be the site of that game. The team with the best conference record will host.

If each divisional champion finishes with identical C-USA records, the school with the highest BCS ranking would host. The East representative is likely be East Carolina or Marshall. Those two play Nov. 29.

North Texas’ BCS ranking is 56. East Carolina is 36 and Marshall is 70.

That’s all putting the cart before the horse.

“We’re only as good as our latest game,” North Texas coach Dan McCarney said.

Complacency hasn’t been added to the North Texas playbook, especially with UTSA coming into town having won three straight under former Miami coach Larry Coker.

The Roadrunners (5-5, 4-2) have won seven of their past 11 on the road, dating to last season, and are playing for a bowl berth of their own.

Like North Texas, UTSA is coming off a bye week.

The Mean Green’s last loss was Oct. 5, 24-21 loss to Tulane in New Orleans, all the more disappointing when one considers that North Texas beat itself with two crucial mistakes, a blocked field goal and a Derek Thompson interception returned 59 yards for a touchdown.

North Texas rallied but fell short.

That loss appears to have been a turning point. North Texas has won five consecutive since.

“We let that one slip away,” McCarney said. “I think there’s been a little different edge about this team … something different about this team.

“More focus, effort, belief, confidence, hunger … I’ve seen a little bit different feel about this football team.”

Running back

Redshirt freshman running back Mark Lewis will move into the backup role behind Brandin Byrd and Antoinne Jimmerson.

Rex Rollins, a key player on special teams, will miss the rest of the season after surgery on his collarbone.

Fan support

North Texas is set to finish the season with the highest per-game attendance average in school history. With 13,153 fans Saturday, North Texas would finish the season with an average of more than 20,000 fans per game.

The Mean Green has averaged 21,369 fans per game in the 30,850-seat Apogee Stadium.

That’s not adequate for the coach, who has bemoaned the fact that Apogee hasn’t been “packed like it should be.”

“I don’t know what else we can do for the North Texas fans to come help us be a story for the ages,” McCarney said a couple of weeks ago. “You’re out of excuses. Come help us win.”

North Texas vs. UTSA

2:30 p.m. Saturday, Apogee Stadium

Records: North Texas, 7-3, 5-1 C-USA; UTSA, 5-5, 4-2

Radio: KHYI/95.3 FM, KNTU/88.1 FM

Category North Texas UTSA
Points per game 32.3 25.6
Total offense 405.5 408.1
Pass offense 232.9 235.1
Rush offense 172.6 173
3rd down conv. 46.8% 40.8%
Points allowed 18.6 29.3
Total defense 357.2 398.9
Pass defense 237.7 241.9
Rush defense 119.5 157
Def. 3rd down conv. 33.6% 48.3%

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