2016 Army game
HOUSTON (Sept. 22) -- One
thing's perfectly clear about Saturday's 5 p.m. tilt at Rice Stadium
between the homestanding Owls and the visitors from North Texas.
They don't do ties in college football anymore; there's going to be
a winner, and there's going to be a loser.
the Owls are winless in three tries -- as all of us who keep track
of the grid Bottom 10 and Bottom 25 columns know -- the Mean Green
are 1-2, but with their lone win coming against FCS entrant
Each side will be pretty much desperate
for a victory -- the players, their fans, and, lord knows, certainly
the respective coaches of each team.
This one's a head-scratcher. Last week
against monster opponent Florida, UNT lost "only" 32-0, but in so
doing they gained a grand total of 53 yards total offense. Turns out
that's the stingiest defensive effort ever put up by Gator gridders
in their over-century-long history.
UNT's true freshman quarterback, Mason
Fine, was sacked seven times by the Florida defense, but arose to
fight again each time -- no mean feat, given that he checks in at
only 5-11, 170 pounds soaking wet, and just a season ago was bowing
under as QB for the Pirates of Locust Grove High School in rural
As a schoolboy, Fine put up some
beyond-impressive numbers, accumulating 13,081 yards passing, which
ranks number eight, all-time, in national high school ranks. He also
ran or passed for 166 touchdowns, fifth all-time in high school
Shades of Kenneth Hall. (Is anyone out
there old enough to remember who Kenneth Hall was? Sugar Land
Actually, “shades of Kyle Herm” would be
a more accurate analogy, and a much more recent reference.
The greenhorn was sent onto the field
for the first time in fourth quarter UNT's open-game loss to SMU,
immediately leading his team on a face-saving TD drive. Once he got
the job, he's kept it.
He did show some reflections of his
prolific high school career in the Eagles' easy 41-20 win over
outmanned and overmatched Bethune-Cookman, not exactly one of your
small-college football powers.
But last week the hard times came at
Gainesville. Suffice it to say that his ability and performance
level stands to land somewhere between the varying results he
displayed in the Bethune-Cookman and the Florida games.
Ah, but where?
Rookie head coach Seth Littrell has gone
about installing a new spread offensive scheme in Denton this
season. The Owls have been notoriously susceptible to even fairly
feeble spread attacks when they're run by a mobile quarterback with
speedy wideouts who can push the attack downfield.
Yet the South Main boys, after whiffing
against Western Kentucky's passing game and Army's running game,
showed signs of life defensively against Baylor last week,
especially early in the contest.
Ironically, then, it may the defenses of
the two teams upon which the game's outcome ultimately turns.
Mean Green defenders put up a third-quarter goose egg against the
Gators, and two times put up goal line defenses stopping the
Floridians on fourth down inside the ten.
Defensive back Nate Brooks was key in the effort, intercepting a
pass, breaking up a couple other passing attempts, and putting up
eight tackles on the night.
Elsewhere on defense, the Meanies are
paced by junior safety Kishawn McClain (Rosenberg, Texas), a
preseason All-Conference USA selection, who led the team in tackles
in 2015, recording 110 as a sophomore, which ranked within the top
There’s also Junior linebacker Joshua
Wheeler (Grand Prairie, Texas), a transfer from Tyler JC, where he
excelled as a juco All-American pass rusher.
With those guys roaming the turf, in
their 41-20 win against Bethune-Cookman, the UNT defense gave up
only a single score.
Bethune-Cookman took an early lead via
an 88-yard punt return, and later registered a pick-six for their
second score of the game. Were it not for an 83-yard touchdown run
by backup quarterback Akevious Williams with 2:42 remaining in the
fourth, North Texas' defense would have pitched a shutout.
But that was against Bethune-Cookman.