By Craig Fields
The Mean Green scored touchdowns, rushing, passing, defensively and on special teams as they beat the Rice Owls 28-16 in a homecoming game on Halloween night. Halloween night was fitting for this game because the Mean Green defense was scary good. The Mean Green “Hit 6” wins for the first time in nine years.
“It’s confidence, it’s trust, it’s respect that you want when you’re out there on that football field,” said Head Coach Dan McCarney. “There is a lot of hunger and desire in that locker room right now. Six games means you’re qualified or eligible for a bowl game, it doesn’t guarantee you anything. This was a major accomplishment tonight but we still have more work to do.”
Some of the work that needs to be done was evident as a miscue from the Mean Green special team’s unit had them down early. A safety was called after freshman deep snapper, Tony Johnson snapped the ball over punter, Blake Macek’s head to give the Owls a 2-0 lead.
However they would not hold that lead for long. On the ensuing drive, Mean Green linebacker Marcus Trice caused a fumble that linebacker Zach Orr would scoop up and take back to the house to give the Mean Green a 7-2 lead.
After not being able to get an offensive score in the first quarter, the Rice Owls score quickly in the second quarter in the first two plays to take a 9-7 lead. The Owls would score quickly yet again with a six play, 88-yard drive to take a 16-7 lead.
From the start of the game the Mean Green offense looked less than interested in a game that could have given them their sixth win of the season. The “Hit 6” mantra, which has been the Mean Green’s source of dedication this season, seemed to be in trouble early against a team that was starting to find its legs offensively.
Antoinne Jimmerson would change that however, as he would score in the second frame to get the Mean Green closer to taking the lead. But what can be said about this kid Brelan Chancellor? He is the epitome of the all-around guy. He had some receiving yards, some rushing yards, and some punt return/kick return yards. There were no yards bigger than the latter however, as he would give the Mean Green the lead with a 65-yard punt return for a touchdown, 21-16.
The third quarter had a sloppy start as penalties and turnovers were the only stats that the Owls were building. An interception by Marcus Trice, after the tip drill by Zach Orr and James Jones gave the Mean Green the ball back early in the third quarter. Out of an inverted wishbone formation, Derek Thompson would throw a 46-yard completion to running back Antoinne Jimmerson, who ran with impunity down the sideline to give the Mean Green a 28-16 lead.
The Mean Green defense was again stout as usual as this was the sixth time this year that an opponent has gone scoreless in the third quarter. Attribute that to the half time adjustments made by this very cognizant coaching staff led by Head Coach Dan McCarney.
However the highlight of the defense’s night and maybe the highlight of this game came about in the fourth quarter when this defense stood tall and stopped seven plays inside the three yard line to finally make the Owls turn it over on downs when the quarterback scrambled madly around the field desperately trying to find an open receiver.
The Rice Owls score when they get first and goal. It is what they do. They are 6-2 for a reason, and that is because of goaline and red zone efficiency. Those things did not matter however as the Mean Green shut them down on third down and in the red zone.
“I just want people to start to recognize that we have a good team out here,” Coach McCarney said. “And we are going to continue to strive and get better.”
One thing that is certain, and has been certain for a while, is that this team is no longer the same UNT team of old. This organization is not the same organization that fell into futility for nine years. Dan McCarey has successfully changed the culture here in just one season. Is the next step double digit wins for the team this season? I don’t know but I do know that with this team, this senior class, anything is possible.