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COLUMN: A look at football’s impeccable comeback in the face of failure

COLUMN: A look at football’s impeccable comeback in the face of failure

COLUMN: A look at football’s impeccable comeback in the face of failure
December 02
13:30 2021

When North Texas football began the 2021 season 1-6 with six straight losses, those associated with the university expected a number of events to occur. Sure, five straight wins was possible but unlikely.

A 45-23 blowout win over the No. 22 ranked team in the country? Impossible.

In many minds, the impeccable comeback that the Mean Green have mounted the last month was a lot more than a pleasant surprise, it was a miracle.

After a 44-14 victory over Northwestern State, North Texas traveled to Dallas to take on main rivals, Southern Methodist University. A 7-6 SMU lead going into halftime gave a false impression that the second half would be close. SMU pulled away to a comfortable 35-12 victory in the Safeway Bowl.

The next seven weeks – including one bye week – saw the Mean Green drop six-in-a-row.

Losses versus Louisiana Tech University (24-17) and the University of Missouri (48-35) seemed to show that the team had life with both games being close via way of a comeback, but were ultimately capped with North Texas falling short.

When Liberty University rolled into Denton with Malik Willis, one of the nation’s top quarterbacks, a blowout seemed imminent.

However, the Mean Green, who had lost five straight, went into halftime with a 20-13 lead over the Flames.

While the second half entailed the Flames overcoming their deficit and come away with the 35-26 victory, momentum seemed to change for North Texas.

The team’s backs were to the wall. Sure, they gave Liberty a good game, but the loss turned the season into a do-or-die situation to reach bowl eligibility. Sitting at 1-6, North Texas travelled to Houston to play division rivals, Rice University.

Holding a slim 17-10 lead through three quarters, Rice outscored North Texas 14-7 in the fourth quarter to force an overtime period.

Starting on defense–which had been a particular issue for North Texas in the first seven games of the season–the Mean Green were able to hold Rice’s surging offense, forcing the Owls to attempt and miss a long field goal that could have ended UNT’s season.

With renewed life, freshman running back Ayo Adeyi walked off the contest with a 2-yard rushing touchdown, giving the Mean Green their first win since Sept. 11.

The team had tasted victory again, a feeling that they didn’t want to lose.

With one win down, North Texas had four to go in order to reach their objective of bowl eligibility.

A 38-14 thrashing of the University of Southern Mississippi led North Texas into a tough matchup with the University of Texas-El Paso.

A close game throughout, sophomore quarterback Austin Aune took the field with the game knotted at 17 and just over a minute to play.

As time ticked down, North Texas opted to avoid overtime, instead choosing to throw the ball downfield in an effort to win the game in its dying embers.

On 3rd and 8 at their own 32, Aune took the snap in shotgun formation, quickly being flushed out of the pocket. Forced to run to his left, Aune unleashed a 58-yard pass down the sideline to freshman receiver Detraveon Brown with 10 seconds left to go.

Junior kicker Ethan Mooney completed the magical drive with a 27-yard field goal to extend the win streak to three.

A tune-up 49-7 win versus Florida International University led into a matchup with the University of Texas-San Antonio, the top school in C-USA ranked No. 22 nationally at the time.

Undefeated coming into the game, UTSA was expected to win handily versus North Texas. The last time the teams faced off, the Roadrunners dominated North Texas by a score of 49-17, and the last time North Texas had beaten a nationally ranked team was 1974.

Nonetheless, on a rain-soaked day, the Mean Green instead gave the Roadrunners a repeat of 2019 rather than 2020, blowing the west division champions out by a lopsided score of 45-23, reaching the apex of their journey to bowl eligibility.

The fight North Texas showed was the most impressive feat the team had shown since 2018, a 9-4 season. Fighting back from what felt like a hopeless season, the Mean Green exhibited nerves of steel when at the brink of a failure of a season.

Now North Texas must await their bowl game fate, one that the team earned through hard work and resilience in the face of adversity.

Featured Image: Mean Green quarterback Austin Aune (2) throws a pass to wider receiver Roderic Burns (14) in Houston, Texas on Oct. 30, 2021. Photo by Zach Del Bello

About Author

Reed Smith

Reed Smith

Senior Sports Writer.

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