Soaring High

Brandin Byrd led the way in UNT's victory over UTEP on Saturday. Photo Courtesy: Sandy McAnally
Brandin Byrd led the way in UNT’s victory over UTEP on Saturday. Photo Courtesy: Sandy McAnally

By Craig Fields

Brandin Byrd rushed for 202 yards and two scores and the North Texas Mean Green massacred the UTEP Miners 41-7 in a game that may not even have been as the close as the score suggests. That’s right, it was that lopsided.

A 35-yard rush by UNT’s running back Brandin Byrd on the first play of the game pretty much tells the story about how this one went. Complete dominance by the Mean Green. The special teams unit provided an early spark when they blocked a 47-yard field goal attempt by the UTEP Miners.

The Mean Green offense would get on the board first after that block by basically running it down the Miners throats. Brandin Byrd would end the drive scoring a 2-yard touchdown. The Miners looked defeated early.

If it wasn’t obvious then, it definitely became obvious later, as the Miners would then have a punt blocked and returned for a score during their last drive of the first quarter to make it 14-0, Mean Green. The special teams unit was definitely the story of the first half for North Texas.

The second quarter though a defensive struggle, found North Texas able to cross the pylon once with Antoinne Jimmerson. The score at halftime 21-0 had to seem insurmountable as the Miners could not dig themselves out of their offensive rut all half long.

The defense was brilliant. They held the anemic offense of the UTEP Miners to 75 first half yards. They just could not seem to get anything going. The Mean Green defense tends to eat teams like this up. Teams that are one dimensional, have a very hard time against this aggressive, turnover causing defense.

With that being said, the Miners showed that there were still some sharp points on their pickaxes, as they had about 100-yards of total offense in the third quarter, culminated by a 22-yard touchdown reception by wide receiver Jordan Leslie.

However that would be the highlight for the Miners as the Mean Green would buckle down and not allow another score. The second largest crowd in Apogee Stadium history and the fourth largest home crowd in UNT’s history, 26,119, was treated to a homecoming slaughter of a team that just was not that good.

The defense bullied the offensive line all afternoon as they were able to sack the quarterback eight times. They were also able to hold the 26th ranked running back in the NCAA, Aaron Jones, to just six yards from the line of scrimmage. UTEP really did try to rush against this team. They ran a total of 42 times for a grand total of 56 yards. North Texas ran the ball 43 times for a total of 317 yards.

This coaching staff has this team ready to play each and every week. The hunger and aggressiveness that is displayed each and every week starts with Head Coach Dan McCarney and trickles on down to the water boy.

“We hit seven and have a great chance to going to a bowl somewhere in the country,” Coach McCarney said when asked about winning game number seven. “It was a great win. Let’s enjoy it for 24 hours and then go back to work to get number eight. There’s still a lot of football to play. We’ve still got a chance to get some more wins.”

Sounds extremely reminiscent of what was said two weeks ago after the win over Southern Mississippi; which is eerily similar to what was said after last week’s win over Rice; which is about the same thing that has been said after every win this year. This coaching staff has these kids playing at a high level while maintaining their level-headedness.

With this win, North Texas now sits atop the Western Division of Conference USA, with the chance to actually win the division their first year in the conference as well as contend for a conference title. This would be an impressive feat to go with a season that has captured success not seen since 2004 for the Mean Green.

This team is scoring in a conglomerate of ways is the major reason why they are so tough to beat. This Mean Green team is the only team in North Texas history to that has scored 21 or more in each of the first nine games of the season. Wide receiver Brelan Chancellor is always a threat to take it to the house during punt and kickoff returns. This defense causes turnovers and can and have turned some of those turnovers into instant offense this season. They turn blocked punts (3) and blocked field goals (2) to points at a whim. And I haven’t even gotten to the offense yet.

Senior quarterback Derek Thompson is more of a game manager than anything else. If I could compare him to a current quarterback in the NFL right now it would have to be Alex Smith of the Kansas City Chiefs. Thompson knows where his bread and butter is. That run offense can take over a game at any point and Derek Thompson is more than happy to hand the ball off to the numerous dangerous running backs that North Texas has.

There is no doubt that there will be upheaval when the current seniors that this team is littered with leave and pursue other goals in life. However, for now, lets just enjoy the Mean Green and their current success.