North Texas Daily

Football team closes season with best finish since 2004

Football team closes season with best finish since 2004

Football team closes season with best finish since 2004
December 05
12:11 2013

Brett Medeiros / Senior Staff Writer

The 2013 football season started with a season opener in Apogee Stadium that celebrated 100 years of football at UNT and a senior class that would be the final group of student athletes to play at Fouts Field.

UNT was not a team that many expected to make an impact in the conference. At best, predictions had the Mean Green finishing fifth in the West Division. Instead, with its 42-10 win against the University of Tulsa in the regular season finale last weekend, UNT finished tied for second with an 8-4 record – the best the team has finished in nine years.

“When you pick preseason as low as we were and expectations were so low you just feel so great about the positives that happen looking back on a season,” head coach Dan McCarney said.

UNT finished 2-2 in the nonconference schedule with three games coming against teams that had been in a bowl game last season. All three teams – Ball State University, the University of Ohio and the University of Georgia – are also bowl-eligible this year.

Starting with the 34-27 come-from-behind victory against Ball State, it seemed clear UNT was primed for a better season. Ball State finished the year receiving votes to be nationally ranked in the top 25 with only two losses.

With 231 rushing yards against the Cardinals, UNT established an effective running game that became a consistent pattern throughout the season. The Mean Green rushed for more than 150 yards in a game seven times and won every time.

Through a running back combination of senior Brandin Byrd, sophomore Antoinne Jimmerson and junior Reggie Pegram, the Mean Green posted 1,798 yards on the ground. Byrd became the tenth player in program history to have a 1,000-yard rushing season and first player with three 80-plus-yard touchdown runs in his career.

A loss against Tulane University triggered something that hadn’t happened since 2004 – a winning streak.

“We should have won that game and you could tell in the locker room after the game that something special was about to happen,” senior quarterback Derek Thompson said. “After that game we weren’t going to be denied and we knew that we weren’t going to lose.”

The Mean Green rattled off five wins in a row, clinching bowl eligibility for the first time since 2004 and placing them in contention for a conference championship during the streak. Until a 21-13 loss to the University of Texas-San Antonio on Nov. 23, UNT was in a position to win its division and play in the Conference USA championship game.

Instead, UNT will settle for a bowl game in the coming month for the first time since 2004. The team hasn’t won a bowl game since 2002.

The defense was an identity of Mean Green football that finished ninth in the country in points allowed per game and third in turnovers forced. However, an incredible eight-play goal line stand against Rice University is something that stands out.

“Who will ever forget for as many years as we all live, that goal line stand against Rice,” McCarney said. “That series alone represents this team more than any other series this whole year.”

On special teams, UNT turned a corner with eight blocked kicks and punts.

“We feel that to win games you have to do it on every play and every down,” senior safety Marcus Trice said. “Playing special teams is a part of winning just like the rest of a game.”

Senior Brelan Chancellor finished last year with 619 kick return yards and 370 punt return yards. In contrast, his punt return yardage is more than the previous five years combined.

“I saw a team that was destined to be great,” Trice said. “Before the season started and after the two-a-days you could really see something special in this team.”

Feature photo: Junior defensive back James Jones tackles a University of Texas at San Antonio opponent out of bonds while another mean green football player falls behind during a home game at Apogee Stadium on Nov. 23. Photo by Ryan Vance / Staff Photographer 

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