North Texas Daily

Column: Breaking down the Heart of Dallas Bowl

Column: Breaking down the Heart of Dallas Bowl

December 31
10:51 2013

John Lugo / Sports Editor

Celebrating the 100th year of the program, the Mean Green football team will play its first bowl game in a decade against the University of Nevada-Las Vegas Wednesday at 11 a.m. in the Cotton Bowl of Dallas.

Reversing its record last season from 4-8 to 8-4, the Mean Green achieved its goal of #hitsix, beating Rice University on Oct. 31st to become bowl eligible with six wins. Beating UNLV would be the first bowl victory since 2002.

UNLV (7-5) is playing in its first bowl game in 13 years. The team has attended and won three bowl games in the program’s history and owns an undefeated 4-0 record against UNT all time, with the last meeting coming from 2000 – the same year the Rebels last went to a bowl.

Offense – UNLV

UNLV scored 31.2 points per game this season with damage nearly equal in the air and on the ground, scoring 25 passing and rushing touchdowns a piece. Junior wide receiver Devante Davis broke the team’s all-time touchdown reception record with 14, tied for fourth in the nation, while senior running back Tim Cornett scored 15 touchdowns on his way to becoming the team’s all-time leading rusher with 3,700 yards in his career.

The Rebels averaged 242 yards per game through the air, compared to 181 rushing yards a game. Senior quarterback Caleb Herring was inserted into the lineup in the third game of the season and since has thrown 2,522 yards on his way to 22 touchdowns. His 64.3 completion percentage is currently a UNLV all-time high.

Davis, Cornett and junior offensive lineman Brett Boyko made the All-Mountain West Conference second team while seven others were named as honorable mentions. The total of ten was UNLV’s highest since 2003.

Offense – UNT

The 31.5 points per game the Mean Green posted is a double-digit increase from last season’s average of 20.9 points. With rushing doing double the scoring of the passing offense, the ground game led by senior running back Brandin Byrd scored a total of 28 touchdowns, while the receivers reeled in 14 scores on the season.

Byrd led all rushers with 11 touchdowns on the year and was named an all-conference honorable mention. He rushed for 1,023 yards this season, breaking the 1,000 yard mark for the only time in his career, and is coming off a career-high 251 yards and three touchdowns in the 42-10 win against University of Tulsa.

The passing game featured a duo of senior wide receivers, Darnell Smith and Brelan Chancellor, who posted nearly identical stats. Smith had 716 reception yards and three touchdowns while Chancellor, the team’s biggest offensive weapon, recorded 718 reception yards and four touchdowns. Senior quarterback Derek Thompson threw for 14 touchdowns on the year with a 131.1 efficiency rating.

Defense – UNLV

On defense, the Mean Green needs to take advantage of the all-around Rebels defense that allowed 436.2 total yards a game, which led to an average of 31.5 points. The defense allowed 25 total rushing touchdowns and 19 total receiving touchdowns on the season.

Four players on the Rebels defense were named to honorable mention on the all-conference team, with the secondary led by senior safety Frank Crawford and his four interceptions on the season. Senior linebacker Tani Maka is a team captain and leads the team with 6.5 tackles for a loss of yardage.

Though the team forced nine fumbles and snared 11 interceptions on the year, the Rebels struggled as a whole and was unable to contain opposing offenses like the Mean Green.

Defense – UNT

The Mean Green shined defensively this season, allowing just 18.1 points per game, which is ninth best in the nation. The team will look for one more strong outing on Wednesday.

Senior defensive back Marcus Trice led the secondary with five interceptions, while junior defensive back Lairamie Lee and sophomore defensive back Zac Whitfield tied for second with three picks on the year. UNT allowed 230.8 passing yards per game but will be put to the test by UNLV.

However, the Rebels will find it difficult to make it down the field on rushing plays, as the Mean Green defense allowed 125.1 rushing yards per game – well below UNLV’s average. The defense is led by senior linebacker Zach Orr, who holds team-highs with 114 tackles and four fumble recoveries.

Orr and Trice were named to the all-Conference USA first team, while senior defensive end Aaron Bellazin made the conference second team. On special teams, Chancellor was only one of two players in the nation with three punt returns of at least 50 yards. His return work landed him the spots of all-conference punt and kickoff returner, making him the C-USA Special Teams Player of the Year.


The Mean Green has the home field advantage in Dallas, which will seat plenty of UNT fans anticipating the first bowl game victory in 11 years. Facing a team that has its best shot to win by making up on offense for its defensive lapses, UNT’s nationally ranked defense is in prime position to step in as the key to victory.

UNT 28 – UNLV 13

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