North Texas Smashes Football Glass Ceiling Not Seen Since 2004

by BoCarter | Posted on Thursday, October 31st, 2013

It was one of the surreal evenings in the histories of North Texas and Rice football.
It also was game nine of the season, and both squads had ample season “plus” implications on the line – uncharacteristic for these schools in some recent years.
Rice came to Denton Halloween night, Oct 31, with 11 wins in its last 13 contests – its best mark over that period since NFF College Hall of Fame head coach Jess Neely had the Owls in contention for Southwest Conference crowns in the mid-1950s.
The result: a bowl-eligibility-clinching sixth win for the Eagles 28-16 and Rice’s first Conference USA setback.
UNT was seeking to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2004 and Sun Belt Conference, and head coach Dan McCarney’s had exorcised many previous demons in his third season at the Mean Green helm. And both programs were in the running at kickoff for a possible Conference USA crown (Rice at 4-0 in league play and North Texas at 3-1 in the C-USA West Division).
And both schools lived up to the hype of one of the biggest bouts in Denton since the early 2000s.
In fact, UNT’s often-opportunistic defense under McCarney and defensive coordinator John Skladany again earned its kudos with a 55-yard fumble return by Zach Orr for a touchdown to overcome an early 2-0 Rice lead and a 65-yard punt return by Brelan Chancellor to jump ahead 21-16 in a seesaw first half.
Rice’s 254 yards of total offense in the first 30 minutes paled just a bit with the two big plays, but Owls’ QB Taylor McHargue was an uncharacteristic 10-of-15 passing for 159 yards and two TDs before intermission.
The innovative McCarney even inserted “secret weapon” DT/FB Richard Abbe, a mere, 6-4, 320 pounds, at fullback for the first time in 2013. It gave the Owls nightmares of former Clemson and Chicago Bears’ behemoth back William “Refrigerator” Perry.
And North Texas also maintained a streak of success when the team has scored at least 21 points – something the Eagles accomplished for the first time in school annals through nine contests. UNT now is 14-3 in its last 17 games when the squad hit the 21-point mark.
Among all the other hoopla, Mean Green radio play-by-play man George Dunham and assistant athletics director Eric Capper predicted in pregame commentary that soph RB standout Antoine Jimmerson of DeSoto was due for a big night. He rushed for 57 yards through two quarters, rushed for a 45-yard TD and then caught a 46-yard pass from record-setting QB Derek Thompson (who now has seven 300-plus-yards passing performances in his career) to give the Eagles a bit of breathing room with a 28-16 advantage on the only scoring play of the third period.
Ironically, Rice maintained that 100-yard edge in total offense well into the fourth quarter, but another near-goalline stand in the final stanza (UNT appeared to have the Owls stopped at the seven-yard line on an incomplete pass but was thwarted by a penalty). That resulted in eight plays inside the six-yard stripe where North Texas held the Owls without points.
McCarney, always the enthusiastic type, was typically juiced after guiding his squad to a program-assisting sixth victory.
“It was just a great effort all-around,” he said with a smile. “It was a complete victory, and I was really impressed when we stopped Rice eight times inside the six-yard line. We beat a darned good Rice team, coming off a bowl win (Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth), and this team knows it has not reached the ceiling. We have gotten bowl-eligible, but we have a lot of work to do.
“We are going places we have not gone under this staff,” he added. “Our seniors are having a winning season, we’re proud of what they accomplished, and this is another major milestone. We’re 11-4 at Apogee Stadium since it opened, and the team was 1-16 in home games before we came.
“This team has made the most of every opportunity,” McCarney continued. “We had a short week (four days after beating Southern Miss 55-14 on the road), and for the first time in my career we took off the pads all week before the game. I know what this team can do, and how tough they are. They have constantly reached down and dug down deeper when we have had injuries and adversity. They’re very coachable, and they have their sights on bigger and better things.”
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