In ranking life’s disappointments, North Texas’ loss last Saturday ratesabout as high for Mean Green players as any in their football careers.
But life in football goes on despite the disappearance of the Mean Green’s five-game winning streak and hopes of a Conference USA championship after a 21-13 defeat to UT San Antonio in North Texas’ home finale.
Dwelling on the disappointment puts North Texas at risk of losing to UTSA a second time, coach Dan McCarney said.
The Mean Green closes the regular season at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Tulsa (3-8, 2-5 C-USA).
North Texas (7-4, 5-2), which has clinched a bowl game, can still win a share of the C-USA West Division title with a victory and a Rice loss. UTSA needs a win and a Rice loss to clinch a C-USA title berth.
An eighth victory would also mark the biggest turnaround in consecutive seasons for the Mean Green since 1984.
“Let’s not limp into bowl season,” said McCarney, whose team can also be just the 13th in school history with eight victories. “It’s time to move on. Hopefully, we’ve done a good job of that.
“This will be a hungry Tulsa team.”
Tulsa and North Texas have both defied expectations.
The Golden Hurricane were picked to win the West Division in a preseason survey of the league’s coaches. North Texas was picked fifth.
The difference in the teams’ fates lie in experience. While North Texas starts 13 seniors, Tulsa’s top lines include 11 underclassmen.
Though it won’t meet those preseason expectations, Tulsa welcomes North Texas playing better football than the record indicates.
Tulsa forced 13 turnovers in its first nine games, but nine in its last two, including five in a close loss to East Division co-leader Marshall and four last week in a 10-point victory on the road against Louisiana Tech.
The Golden Hurricane has 26 sacks in the past eight games, led by Shawn Jackson and Derrick Alexander. Tulsa had six sacks a week ago.
History is on Tulsa’s side.
The Golden Hurricane has won the last 10 meetings between the schools, including the most recent in 2011.
Trey Watts leads the conference in rushing with more than 1,200 yards. He’s also a finalist for the Burlsworth Trophy, presented to college football’s most outstanding player who began his career as a walk-on.
North Texas’ turnaround has centered on playing well at home, but the Mean Green is vying for a third consecutive victory on the road.
Protecting quarterback Derek Thompson against the Golden Hurricane’s front starts with getting the running game back up and running.
North Texas running backs Brandin Byrd and Antoinne Jimmerson stumbled a week ago, combining for 92 yards on 22 carries.
The UTSA game is “over and done with,” McCarney said. “Don’t think we don’t have a lot to play for. We do. Let’s go get that eighth win.”
Head to head
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