UNT will take on Rice in Houston this morning in matchup of teams headed in opposite directions. UNT has lost its last three games to fall into a 2-5 hole and has also lost itsfirst three games in Conference USA play. UNT is done as far as the conference title race goes.
UNT has never lost four straight under Dan McCarney.
Rice is in an entirely different spot after recovering from an 0-3 start to even its record with three straight wins.
The Owls are also coming off a bye week and have had a whole lot of time to prepare for the Mean Green.
The situation does not seem particularly advantageous for the Mean Green, which we pointed out in our weekly prediction blog.
Rice will be out for revenge today after last season’s stunning loss to the Mean Green in Denton. UNT handed Rice its only loss in C-USA play last season. Normally, I wouldn’t put a whole lot of stock in the revenge angle, which is often overplayed. What makes this different is the way Rice lost.
The Owls had a chance to jump back into the game late, but couldn’t punch the ball into the end zone while UNT came up with a memorable eight-play goal-line stand. Rice’s players talked this week about how they haven’t forgotten that game, that series and the way UNT celebrated afterward. Rice defensive tackle Christian Covington injured his hand in that game and said he hasn’t forgotten it.
UNT will look for a repeat of last season’s landmark win today and will have to slow down an effective Rice rushing attack to get there. The Owls are averaging 201.2 rushing yards a game and have one of the better running back tandems in Conference USA in Jowan Davis and Darik Dillard, who combine to average 154 yards a game.
UNT has been good against the run most of the year and come into today’s game allowing 148.7 yards a game, but did struggle last week against Southern Miss. The Mean Green coughed up 201 yards last week against the Golden Eagles, who came into the day averaging 91 yards a game on the ground.
The Mean Green are also looking to make a big jump offensively behind Andrew McNulty. The junior will make his second start of the season today after throwing for 287 yards without turning the ball over against Southern Miss.
Carlos Harris has been on a tear and posted career highs for catches (15) and receiving yards (216) last week against Southern Miss.
Stay tuned, I will update the blog all day.
10:43 — UNT will have three key defensive players back today in safety Sheldon Wade, cornerback Zac Whitfield and defensive end Tillman Johnson. Defensive tackle Dutton Watson is out, but we already knew that. Sid Moore did make the trip. Rice will be without backup defensive tackle Ross Winship and leading receiver Zach Wright. UNT will have Denison native Jordan Taylor back at wide receiver. Taylor was one of Rice’s top weapsons coming into the year.
10:50 — One aspect of this game I have always found interesting is just how many of Rice’s players were guys UNT recruited. There are a lot of guys Rice recruited who landed at UNT as well. I tend to forget who offered each guy UNT signed, but when I scan the Rice two-deep, it’s easy to think back on which guys I talked to or wrote about. There’s tight end Cole Hunt, wide receiver Jordan Taylor, Lake Dallas defensive end Graysen Shantz, defensive tackle Ross Winship and wide receiver James Mayden to name a few.
10:51 — And speaking of the former Lake Dallas standout, Shantz is starting at defensive end for Rice and seven tackles for loss, three sacks and two forced fumbles on the season. He’s having a good freshman season for the Owls.
Kickoff — UNT has won the toss and deferred its choice to the second half. Rice will have the ball first.
13:02 — Well, that didn’t start well for UNT. Jordan Taylor caught and 88-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the game. He beat Lairamie Lee on the slant and took it the whole way. UNT had to punt on its first possession after picking up a first down. Rice nearly had an interception on Andrew McNulty’s first throw. Not that this is a surprise, but that first pass went the way of Carlos Harris.
10:51 — UNT held up on Rice’s last possession. Rice picked up a first down, but had to punt. UNT has the ball back at is 25-yard line.
7:51 — UNT has tied it up at 7-7 on a 51-yard pass from Andrew McNulty to Carlos Harris. That is the longest pass play this season for UNT. Harris was wide open after a play-action fake.
6:12 — Rice just took a timeout with the play clock running down at its 39-yard line, which gives me a chance to point out that a pretty good contingent of UNT fans showed up today. There are a lot of UNT grads who live in Houston. Several hundred of them showed up today.
3:26 — Rice has answered on a 10-yard touchdown run from Jowan Davis. Rice converted on third-and-6 twice on that drive and is starting to get its running game going. The Owls last four plays on drive all went for at least eight yards.
3:11 — This is starting to look like it will be a shootout. Darvin Kidsy took the kickoff following Davis’ touchdown and went 100 yards untouched to tie this game up at 14-14.
1:39 — UNT’s defense held up on that last possession. Rice will punt the ball away. UNT will have the ball back at its 26-yard line to start this possession.
End of th first quarter — We are all tied up at 14-14. UNT will face a third-and-10 situation at its 26-yard line to start the second quarter. UNT has played really well so far in what has been a game of big plays for both teams.
14:06 — Rice has the ball back at its 23 after UNT was forced to punt on its last possession.
12:38 — Rice had to punt on its last possession. Daryl Mason had a tackle for loss on that drive that really helped UNT’s cause. UNT has the ball at its 38.
11:45 — Andrw McNulty was absolutely drilled by former Lake Dallas standout Graysen Shantz on that last play and is down. I don’t think McNulty has any idea where he is at this point. And now the million dollar question. Who comes in?
11:45 (Part II) — Dajon Williams is in.
8:30 — Dajon Williams took the ball 20 yards on a quarterback draw. UNT has the ball at the Rice 1. It’s fourth-and-goal. This is a big play right here. UNT will go for it coming out of the time out.
8:26 — Carlos Harris carried the ball in on an end-around. UNT is up 21-14. Smart call right there by Mike Canales with Rice stacked up at the line of scrimmage.
5:29 — Rice has called a timeout after pushing the ball to the UNT 43-yard line. The Owls just converted on third down with a pass over the middle to Jordan Taylor.
4:04 — UNT just came up with a huge stop on fourth down at its own 37. Rice tried to pick up a yard on a running play out of its wildcat formation. Defensive end Daryl Mason came up with the stop in the middle. Great stand for UNT. I’ve never been a big fan of shotgun plays in short-yardage situations.
2:33 — UNT had a chance to really take control after that stop, but had to put it away. Rice has it back with 2:08 to work with.
1:47 — UNT came up with a stop on Rice’s last possession. The Owls tried to throw it twice and then smartly ran it on third down to force the Mean Green to use a timeout.
1:38 — Darvin Kidsy fumbled the punt, but got it back. UNT has the ball at its 33.
:41 — UNT has taken a timeout after Andrew McNulty was sacked for a loss of 11 back to the Rice 45.
:03 — Rice has taken a timeout after sacking McNulty on consecutive plays. The ball is at the UNT 46.
Halftime — We have reached halftime with UNT up 21-14, which is a pretty big surprise. Both teams hit on some big plays in the first half that made a huge difference. To its credit, UNT kept its cool after Rice scored on the first play of the game. Carlos Harris caught a 51-yard touchdown pass and Darvin Kidsy returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. UNT will have the ball to start the second half.
Start of the second half — UNT is 15-1 when leading at halftime under McCarney, including a 2-0 mark this year. Rice is 0-3 when trailing at halftime this year.
12:42 — UNT just made a huge stand deep in its own end of the field after Carlos Harris fumbled the opening kickoff of the second half. Rice cashed in with a field goal to pull to within 21-17, but UNT keep the Owls out of the end zone. Rice ran the option on third-and-2 to the short side of the field for some odd reason.
10:30 — Well, the second half is not starting well for UNT. Rice cornerback Ryan Pollard jumped a pass over the middle from Andrew McNulty, intercepted it and returned it 60 yards for a touchdown. Rice is up 24-21 now.
6:47 — UNT had to punt on its last possession, but Kenny Buyers made a key play on special teams, getting down the field to knock the punt out at the Rice 1-yard line. This is a key spot for UNT’s defense, which can get McNulty the ball back in a good spot with a stand here.
5:53 — That play by Byers looks pretty big now. Rice is punting from its end zone. UNT will have the ball back at its 45-yard line.
4:50 — UNT will have to punt after going three-and-out. Rice has the ball back at its 21-yard line. Rice picked up a sack on that last drive from defensive tackle Christian Covington. The Owls have been all over Andrew McNulty today.
2:35 — Rice just took its first timeout of the second half. The clock was running down on the Owls, who picked up a first down and have the ball at their 32-yard line.
Start of the fourth quarter — Rice has the ball at the UNT 27-yard line to start the fourth quarter. The Owls picked up a first down on their last play, a pass from Driphus Jackson to Mario Hull. UNT needs to keep Rice out of the end zone here down 24-21.