Football

Reeling North Texas playing for pride at Tennessee

North Texas quarterback DaMarcus Smith rushes on a keeper during the Mean Green’s 30-13 loss at Marshall.
North Texas quarterback DaMarcus Smith rushes on a keeper during the Mean Green’s 30-13 loss at Marshall. AP

North Texas’ lone visit to Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium was as memorable a day as any in the Mean Green’s more than 100 years of football.

Under coach Hayden Fry, the Mean Green shocked even themselves in downing Goliath with a well-placed slingshot in the form of a 21-14 victory on an October day in 1975.

“We’ve just been trying to close the gap in terms of our image compared with the big boys,” Fry said after the game. “We’ve been working hard at convincing our players that they can line up with anyone.

“To do it against Tennessee is beyond our wildest dreams.”

As if the 5-4 Volunteers needed billboard material.

It would require the strangest of circumstances for North Texas (1-8) to return to Tennessee at 11 a.m. Saturday and win again. The devil’s advocate would surely point to stranger things having happened some place somewhere.

And if that’s the case those stranger things were never recorded for posterity.

If North Texas closes the season 1-11, the program would be 493-489. UNT could be at .500 or under as a program as early as next season for the first time in more than 100 years.

Fry noted in the aftermath of that victory that North Texas was just beginning to live.

Coincidentally, that’s what this team is trying to do: Breathe life, not necessarily into a wrecked season, but into the program’s future.

That’s what the final three games are about. Playing for pride and for each other.

“It’s going to be a great challenge for us,” interim coach Mike Canales said. A challenge “we’re excited about. I think our kids will play their butts off. We’re not going to fold the tent.”

North Texas did very little right in losing to Louisiana Tech last week 56-13. Tennessee is coming off a 27-24 victory over South Carolina.

An expected capacity crowd of more than 102,000 will be on hand. Or 92,000 more than the announced crowd at North Texas’ most recent home game two weeks ago.

I think our kids will play their butts off. We’re not going to fold the tent.

UNT interim coach Mike Canales

Jimmerson back

One guy who wasn’t in Louisiana last week was running back Antoinne Jimmerson, who, according to Canales, didn’t want to go.

Jimmerson, a senior, has been upset with his diminished role in the offense and “made a choice,” said Canales, who added that the player also stayed behind to be with a friend who had been wounded in a shooting.

“I said OK,” Canales said. “I want guys who want to go and contribute, whatever the situation. He made that choice. I don’t beg anybody to come play. We need Jimmerson on this team … we need him to contribute.”

Jimmerson was back at practice this week and, unless he changes his mind, is expected to be on the plane for Knoxville.

Slipping to .500

Hayden Fry had a good stint in six seasons in Denton, registering a 40-23-3 record between 1973-78. Only two other coaches in program history have better winning percentages.

J.W. Pender went 3-4 in two seasons, 1913-14. Since then, North Texas has been over .500 as a program in games not tied.

That, however, is in serious jeopardy.

If the Mean Green closes the season 1-11, a very real possibility, the program would be 493-489. North Texas could be at .500 or under as a program as early as next season for the first time in more than 100 years.

North Texas at Tennessee

11 a.m. Saturday, SEC Net.

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