Coming off a tough loss against the Houston Cougars, the North Texas Mean Green looked to right the ship against the 4-1 Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns on a nationally televised Tuesday night game. The 2-4 record isn’t an indication of how well the Mean Green have played this season facing national title contenders LSU and Kansas State. In both cases, they fought hard before ultimately losing. A win would move them up in the Sun Belt standings and continue their quest for a conference title, while a loss could hurt all things Coach Dan McCarney has attempted to build this season.
The game started with ULL winning the toss and choosing to take the ball to start the second half. This left UNT with a chance to strike first, but they could only manage one first down before punting the ball away. The Ragin’ Cajuns looked very good early as QB Terrance Broadway started the game 11-12 for 112 yards, leading ULL to a score on their first drive. Broadway, who played well all night, also scored on a 75-yard run halfway through the second quarter and at that point it looked like ULL was blowing the game open. The ULL offense was able to throw a lot of screen passes early that seemed to move the UNT defense up, which allowed then to connect on quite a few big plays to start the game.
The Mean Green went into the half trailing 13-6 and had to be kicking themselves. They had multiple opportunities to make big plays, including a dropped 50+ yard pass by Brelan Chancellor and a false start just before the end of the half on a 4th and 1 from the 2 that forced them to try a field goal instead of go for the TD. The offense didn’t look great until the last drive of the first half when the running game began to gain some ground against ULL led by Antoinne Jimmerson’s 5 carries for 32 yards. Holding the ULL offense to just two scores in the half was great considering how well they moved the ball and the quick strike they had in the second quarter. Zack Orr came up with a huge interception that led to UNT scoring on a FG by Olen to get them on the board in the 2nd. UNT controlled the ball in the second quarter as ULL had the ball for just 2:52, which did include the big run, but the defense was moving in the right direction heading into the second half.
In the second half the defense really needed to cut down on big plays and keep UNT in the game, but at first that didn’t look like it was going to happen. ULL gained 55 yard on a third down to start the 3rd quarter and scored on the next play to take a 20-6 lead. At this point, I was wondered if the young Mean Green team would be able fight back and hold ULL off the board to try and get back into this game. ULL was able to gain just 89 yards the rest of the second half and scored just 3 more points.
From that point on, the Mean Green offense took over, outscoring ULL 24-3 the rest of the way. Derek Thompson managed the second half well going 9-13 with two TDs. The running game was on once again as the three-headed backfield of Antoinne Jimmerson, Brandin Byrd, and Jeremy Brown rushed for 242 yards while averaging almost 5 YPC. Jimmerson wasn’t only key in the run game, he was also great catching the ball out of the backfield grabbing 2 passes for 106 yard and 2 TDs.
Do it all widout Brelan Chancellor scored on a 34-yard end around at the end of the 3rd quarter to tie the game at 20. Going into the 4th quarter all squared up at 20, UNT continued to control the ball and completed the comeback. They took the lead 23-20 on Zack Olen’s 22-yard field goal at the start of the 4th quarter. Olen and punter Will Atterberry played as good as they could have with Olen going 3-3 on FG’s and Atterberry making two very tough punts out of the end zone late in the game. ULL did add a long 47-yard field goal with 3 minutes left to tie the game once again at 23-23. Antoinne Jimmerson took a 78-yard screen pass all the way to the house with just two minutes remaining to cap off a fantastic game for the Mean Green. The team fought and showed resiliency in the second half as they stormed back from a 20-6 deficit to outscore ULL 24-13 down the stretch.
It was hard to imagine this outcome with what the Mean Green were looking at during halftime, but this team continues to get better and this game is a huge step.
Coach McCarney said, “We’re improving as a football team, we have a long way to go, but we are getting there”.
Zack Orr, who had 9 tackles in the game, said that the team watched Muhammad Ali highlights this week and the team expected this game to be in a “15 round fight”. The Mean Green took some body shots in the first half but hung in there and kept fighting. The offense and defense combined to throw some big knockout punches in the second half to put ULL down for the count.