By Will Martin
New Year’s Eve was quiet and uneventful. Catch a Stars game and hurry home for a good night of sleep before making the trek to downtown Dallas for the 4th annual Heart of Dallas Bowl game at Historic Cotton Bowl in Fair Park.
With a new year now in the mirror here’s a question I get asked periodically. “Why do you so immerse yourself in what looks to be the many aspects of a given event?”
That’s a simple answer. Since the beginning at a small radio station in Southwest Washington the fascination with trying to tell a story with words, pictures, and video has always burned within.
That being said, yesterday came quickly and passed just as quickly. An early arrival allows for time to awaken, sip the super strong joe, and get shaken by the early morning January chill before the day blossoms into a 63 degree gem of perfection with sunshine and blue skies. Mmmm, quite the mix!
It also makes for the ideal time to get onto the sidelines to get a feel for the energy, the players, coaches, and fans. All of them getting ready for an 11am start. Camera shots taken care of in addition to some quick videos to share with a curious sports fan base. The audio and podcasting comes later…
The 2014 Heart Of Dallas Bowl of course featured two programs who have returned to prominence after years of struggle with the Mean Green of North Texas and the Running Rebels of UNLV. A matchup between Bobby Hauck and Dan McCarney. Not since 2000 (when John Robinson was coaching in Las Vegas) had these two teams actually met with North Texas 8-4 against the Running Rebels (7-6).
Being 44 miles away from home it figured this bowl game would be a slam dunk for the Mean Green. It would be, yet it took over three quarters to actually get the ball rolling.
UNLV would draw first blood when quarterback Caleb Herring went a perfect five for five passing on a 95 yard drive before connecting with Marcus Sullivan on a 9-yard pass and a 7-0 score. North Texas then got on the board courtesy of a muffed punt by Keith Whitely. The Mean Green recovered it and converted that into a score when Antoinne Jimmerson hit paydirt on a 1-yard run.
A 7-7 deadlock would continue until the third period was nine minutes old before Derek Thompson found Drew Miller on a seven yard slant for a 14-7 lead. A lead that would build to 28-7 as North Texas (9-4) scored on three straight possessions after UNLV couldn’t convert a score. Twenty two 4th quarter points placed Dan McCarney’s crew well in command to appease the partisan North Texas crowd of 38,380 by a 36-14 final. North Texas’ first bowl win since the New Orleans Bowl back in 2002.
A victory for 36 year veteran Dan McCarney in his first ever visit to the Cotton Bowl in Fair Park. An even bigger victory for the North Texas program after gaining only it’s third trophy in their 100 year history.
“Walking into one of the great stadiums in the history of college football, you have a whole sea of green, it’s unbelievable,” said McCarney. “I’ll have that in my mind forever.”
Derek Thompson earned the MVP plaque after his 256 yard two touchdown game. 1 vote better than his receiver Brelan Chancellor who had two touchdowns of his own on 121 combined yards on the ground and in the air.
While Caleb Herring, Tim Cornett, and Devante Davis came up short on this date in Dallas there was reason for optimism within the Running Rebels program now and for the immediate future.
“I told them I was proud of them and in particular our seniors for having turned the ship around,” Bobby Hauck said. “We were not good when we all came together a few years ago.” Prior to this year UNLV had three straight seasons of only winning two games. Consequently the 2013 North Texas Mean Green won more games than the previous five combined.
Huge kudos to Coach Dan. “We sent a message that this is a program on the rise,” said Dan McCarney. “I think we’re a good example for other football teams that if you do things the right way, it can pay off.”
Those who were in attendance can lay claim to some special history. The Rebels final score came on a touchdown pass to Jerry Rice Jr. son of the famous 49er/Raider/Bronco superstar. It was his first collegiate touchdown and on Dallas soil.
As for the 4th quarter meltdown for the Rebels Bobby Hauck offered the following. “Our yards per carry just weren’t good enough and defensively, we weren’t good enough on third down,” Hauck said. “We got into some third-down situations where we had the upper hand and they converted.”
Caleb Herring tossed for 196 yards in defeat while Devante Davis added 96 yards on ten catches. It was quite a contrast to be in the middle of a mass of bodies near the trophy presentations after the game ended and then to watch Devante Davis answer a question choking with emotion and regretting his team had lost.
My second visit to the Heart Of Dallas Bowl was an absolute blast. The staff who handle all the media amenities from Armed Forces Bowl to the New Years Day event do mighty fine work. My thanks to Tim Simmons, Dominic Clark, Tim Bell, and Mr. Bo for all they do.
2014 promises to be a heck of a year for the local guys in Denton and the kids out in Sin City. Where’s Tark when I need him?