North Texas Daily

Excitement building for UNT football season

Excitement building for UNT football season

August 28
01:05 2014

Editor’s note: This story originally ran in Thursday’s paper as saying that last season’s average attendance at Apogee Stadium was 21,093. This number was incorrect as the actual average attendance was 21,030. The story has been corrected online. 

Ehsan Azad / Staff Writer

Anticipation is rising on campus as the Mean Green football team prepares to begin its upcoming season, a year after winning the first bowl game at North Texas in 12 years. The team will kickoff the season in Austin on Saturday to play the University of Texas Longhorns at 7 p.m.

The Mean Green will enter its second season in Conference USA and could be a contender to win its division. Head coach Dan McCarney said this team is too different from last year’s team to definitely say it is going to have similar success.

The team lost 14 starters to graduation, including quarterback and Heart of Dallas Bowl MVP Derek Thompson. Sophomore quarterback Josh Greer, who transferred from Navarro Junior College earlier this year, was named the starting quarterback on Monday.

Despite the changes, fans of the Mean Green are still intrigued with the team’s potential this season.

“I’m excited to see their first game against UT,” mechanical engineering junior Brandon Leney said.

The recent success of the football team led to a dramatic improvement in attendance, averaging 21,030 people per game at Apogee Stadium last season. Now it seems there is a buzz around campus and the Denton area about the upcoming season. McCarney remembers the lacking excitement for football when he first arrived in Denton in 2010.

“Kind of low is an understatement,” McCarney said. “It was hard to generate much interest; to be honest with you, on campus, in the stadium. It has been a process long and tough, probably harder than I thought it was going to be.”

The work paid off as last year’s team won seven out of its last eight games including the Heart of Dallas Bowl, giving McCarney an 18-19 record over the last three seasons.

“The way we did it, how we did it, the manner in which we did it, it all matters to our fans,” McCarney said. “Caring, wanting, hoping, believing that there is another good team this year means a lot to me and to all of us here.”

Leney, who went to three games last season, said the team could do just as well as it did last year. He said the atmosphere at games was fun and it could continue into next season.

“I think everyone was excited about last year and everyone will come back to support them,” Leney said. “I will try to go as many games as possible.

One of the signs that football is on the rise is the presence of support on social media. Last year, the Twitter hashtag #hitsix quickly spread among fans and was tweeted for much of the football season. It was the team’s motto last season and meant their goal was to win six games and become bowl eligible. Having fans eager to come to games is something that is important to the players.

“We have to be able to give our supporting cast a good show every time they come out and give them entertainment,” junior defensive back Zac Whitfield said.

There isn’t just excitement among the fans to get the season started, but the players too. The last time the Mean Green took the field was on New Year’s Day and senior linebacker Derek Akunne said the team is ready to play in an actual game again.

“We haven’t played ball since Jan. 1 in the bowl game,” senior linebacker Derek Akunne said. “We are just excited to get on the field and see what we can do.”

When McCarney got to North Texas, he wanted to change things up. He wanted to generate more interest and make the Mean Green a program on the rise. Last season was a step in doing that, and this season the team will try and build off that.

“Football was a collegiate joke,” McCarney said. “If you want respect, you want people to look at you and hold you in high esteem as far as being a program that people should look at and respect, then go and do it on the field between the white lines.”

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