UNT will close out its home schedule today with a game against Florida International.
The Mean Green saw their bowl hopes end last week in a loss at UTEP and are looking to go out on a positive note in their final home game. UNT has fared well in situations like this in under head coach Dan McCarney, who began the tradition of the Senior Bowl shortly after taking over at UNT.
UNT’s seniors gather around “Spiriki” the eagle statue in the entrance to the field from the Mean Green’s locker room. If UNT wins its final home game, that photo is displayed all year in the football offices. It’s tossed into the trash if UNT loses.
Their are 17 seniors in that photo, including several key players. Linebacker Derek Akunne needs eight tackles to become just the 10th player in program history to finish with 300 career stops. Cornerback James Jones and four senior offensive linemen, particularly Cyril Lemon and Mason Y’Barbo, have been key players for UNT for years.
UNT is 2-1 in Senior Bowls with its lone loss coming last year against UTSA. UNT was pretty much of assured of going to a bowl when that game was played, which reduced its importance to some degree.
Another big source of motivation today is that UNT has finished with a winning record in every season since Apogee Stadium opened in 2011. UNT finished 5-1 at home last year.
UNT is 3-2 at home this year and has to win today to finish above .500 again.
McCarney has put a huge emphasis on creating a home field advantage at Apogee. He has said numerous times over the last few months that he wouldn’t want to be part of a senior class is remembered as the first to not post a winning home record.
And speaking of a home field advantage, UNT won’t have much of one today in terms of fans. There is no one on the hill where students typically hang out and the parking lot is pretty empty. The weather is terrible now, and it’s expected to get worse.
This game could end up looking like the Mean Green’s 2011 finale against Middle Tennessee when no one was in the stands.
Stay tuned. I will update the blog all day.
2:06 — The one aspect of the weather today that really doesn’t help matters for UNT is that it is a huge weekend for visits in terms of high school prospects. If there is one thing that this season has shown us, it’s that UNT needs to upgrade its talent. Some of those players UNT really needs could be among those walking into the stands on a cold, wet, miserable day when there is absolutely no one here.
2:12 — I mentioned this in the paper today, but one of the key matchups to watch today is UNT’s linebackers and safeties against Jonnu Smith. The FIU tight end is one of the best receivers at his position in C-USA and, arguably, the country. Smith has 57 catches on the season and had three that went for touchdowns last week in a win over Middle Tennessee.
2:20 — Wondering how empty Apogee is …
UNT is introducing its seniors. Cyril Lemon and Mason Y’Barbo are last up. Seems appropriate. Those two guys have been huge for UNT throughout their careers.
Kickoff — Scott Davis is the honorary captain for today’s game. UNT has won the toss and will take the ball to start the game.
14:55 — UNT will have the ball at its 21 to start the game.
14:20 — Reggie Pegram broke free for a 54-yard touchdown run on the second play of the game. There’s a senior moment for you. UNT is up 7-0.
14:07 — Lairamie Lee intercepted a ball on the sideline here in the early going. Officials on the field ruled he was juggling it on the way out of bounds. The play stands as called. It’s third-and-10.
13:50 — In a side note, defensive end Chad Polk is sick and will not play today.
10:36 — UNT has held on FIU’s first possession and will have the ball back its its 20 after the Golden Panthers couldn’t down a pass that hit deep in the Mean Green’s end of the field and bounced into the end zone.
5:21 — UNT has driven down the field and pushed its lead to 14-0 on a 4-yard touchdown pass from Andrew McNunty to tight end Marcus Smith. FIU didn’t provide a whole lot of resistance.
3:09 — UNT has held again. FIU has punted it away. UNT will have the ball back at its 33-yard line.
1:22 — Well, this just got a whole lot more interesting. Richard Leonard took a rugby style punt, broke a couple of tackles and went 74 yards for a touchdown. UNT is up 14-7, but the Mean Green lost a bit of their momentum there.
1:14 — UNT will have the ball back at its 38-yard line.
Start of the second quarter — UNT will punt the ball to open the second quarter. UNT went three-and-out on its last possession.
12:00 — UNT caught a huge break on FIU’s last possession. A bad snap went over Alex McGough’s head for a loss to 21 yards. UNT will have the ball back at its 44-yard line.
9:36 — UNT didn’t get anything going on its last possession. FIU will have the ball back at its 13-yard line. UNT has played really well defensively so far today. A stand here could help UNT get the ball back with good field position.
6:17 — FIU has punted the ball away. UNT will have the ball back at its 41-yard line. UNT gave up a first down on that possession, but stiffened and forced a punt.
2:17 — UNT kicker Trevor Moore left a 49-yard field goal short. FIU will have the ball back.
1:28 — Welp, that changed the game. UNT cornerback Kenny Buyers intercepted an FIU pass, giving UNT great field possession. Andrew McNulty threw an interception on the ensuing possession that FIU returned for a touchdown. We are all tied up at 14-14.
Halftime — UNT dominated the first half from a statistical sense, but we are all tied up at 14-14 at the break. FIU returned a punt for a touchdown and brought an interception back for another score. UNT also had a field goal bounce off the crossbar. UNT was up 14-0, but it’s pretty clear that FIU has momentum on its side heading into the second half.
Start of the second half — We are getting ready to start the second half. FIU will have the ball to open the half. The Golden Panthers will have the ball at the 15.
12:38 — UNT’s defense held up on FIU’s first possession of the second half. The Mean Green will have the ball back at its 37-yard line.
10:33 — UNT couldn’t get anything going on its last possession, but was able to pin FIU deep in its own end of the field. The Golden Panthers will have the ball back their 9-yard line.
7:13 — UNT will have the ball back at its 33-yard line to start its next possession. The Mean Green’s defense made a solid stand on FIU’s last possession. UNT has struggled since a solid early start.
4:23 — UNT just got a terrific punt from Eric Keena. It bounced inside the 10, rolled down the sideline and skipped out of bounds at the 2.
:04 — UNT is back on top. Trevor Moore connected from 36 yards out. The Mean Green are up 17-14. The rain is coming down in buckets now.
12:51 — UNT held on FIU’s last possession and will have the ball back at its 35-yard line in a driving rain. The stands have pretty much emptied out. UNT could ice this game right here with a good drive.
11:21 — Andrew McNulty has thrown his second interception of the game. FIU has the ball at the UNT 43-yard line.
11:02 — This is a big play right here. FIU has the ball at the UNT 41 and faces third-and-8.
8:33 — That might be the play of the game right there. James Jones intercepted a ball in the end zone.
4:30 — I am headed down and will be back later. UNT is up 17-14 late.