North Texas Daily

North Texas finish record-setting regular season

North Texas finish record-setting regular season

North Texas finish record-setting regular season
November 26
09:56 2018

The North Texas Mean Green football team narrowly held off archrival Texas-San Antonio this past Saturday during a 24-21 win to finish the regular season with an overall record of 9-3.

The Mean Green have now won nine games in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1977-78. North Texas will have a chance to win 10 games for the first time since that 1977 season when they play in their bowl game during December.

“As seniors, to leave here with a 10-win season would be phenomenal,” senior linebacker E.J. Ejiya said. “That just shows that you can truly make [a] change in a culture if you just buy in.”

Head coach Seth Littrell wrapped up his third regular season with North Texas. He inherited a squad that finished 1-11 in 2015, and in his first season with the Mean Green, Littrell led North Texas to a bowl appearance.

“You don’t have a ton of these opportunities,” Littrell said. “I tell our guys time is not on your side. This thing goes quick, so you have to make the most out of every opportunity and enjoy the process. We can still accomplish a lot with this group.”

To go along with a potential 10-win season, the Mean Green achieved numerous milestones throughout the regular season. North Texas started with a 4-0 record for the first time since 1966 after defeating non-conference opponents Southern Methodist, Incarnate Word, Arkansas and Liberty.

The 44-17 victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks during week three marked the first time North Texas defeated a Southeastern Conference opponent since 1975 and the first time the Mean Green had beaten a Power Five program since the 21-14 win against Texas Tech in 1999.

In 2017, the North Texas defense gave up 35 points per game. This season, the defense has allowed 21 points per game, due in large part to an increased turnover margin. The Mean Green intercepted six passes against Arkansas and reeled in 16 total interceptions on the year, tied for second in the nation and only one behind the national leaders.

Senior cornerbacks Kemon Hall and Nate Brooks are tied for No. 5 in the nation with five interceptions.

Junior quarterback Mason Fine became the program’s all-time leading passer this season. Fine currently has 9,358 career passing yards, which passed Mitch Maher’s 8,519 yards attained from 1991-94. He will look to build on that mark in the future, as he tweeted out last week that he would return for his senior season.

Fine threw for 27 touchdowns this season, which is second in school history and only trails his own tally of 31 touchdowns from last season. Fine is No. 6 in the nation with 3,734 passing yards, better than Heisman hopeful Kyler Murray from Oklahoma.

“These guys bought into what Coach Littrell was saying when he first got here,” Fine said. “Now, it’s just the standard. We expect to win every week and we expect to have high win seasons. The coaches have done a great job of changing the culture and changing our mindset.”

Junior receiver Rico Bussey Jr. finished the regular season with 1,017 receiving yards and is the seventh player in North Texas history to have a 1,000-yard season.

The Mean Green offense set school records for points per game (36.4), total yards per game (472.8) and most passing yards per game (316.3).

Graduate transfer kicker Cole Hedlund made 19 field goals this year, which ties Keith Chapman for the second most in a season at North Texas. He has accumulated 107 points this season, which sits fourth in program history.

Another player who has found his way into the record books in his debut season with the Mean Green this year is DeAndre Torrey.

The Gulf Coast Junior College transfer didn’t become a starter until Loren Easly injured his knee during week five of the season. Despite the limited carries during the first half of the season, Torrey has scored 17 total touchdowns this season, which ties Jamario Thomas for third-best in program history.

E.J. Ejiya finished the season with 16 sacks in his career with one final bowl game to play. He has been a captain for a much-improved North Texas defense and has led his team in total tackles in back-to-back seasons.

“Back when Coach Littrell was recruiting me, I looked into his eyes and he looked into mine and I just believed in the vision,” Ejiya said. “We all just make this one big family and keep pushing to bring experience to the younger guys. We want to set a standard here and keep it as long as this university is up and running.”

Featured Image: Junior defensive back Chris Jackson and junior offensive lineman Elex Woodworth during game against Florida Atlantic. Jessika Hardy

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Bronte Hermesmeyer

Bronte Hermesmeyer

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