The biggest winners in UNT’s bowl game? UNT’s seniors

North Texas linebacker Zach Orr, left, celebrates with cornerback James Jones during a win over UNLV in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. (Denton Record-Chronicle/ David Minton)

UNT fans will be talking about the Mean Green’s win over UNLV in the Heart of Dallas Bowl for years. The win — and the Mean Green’s breakout season in general — changed the course of the program.

We will share our thoughts on how over the next few weeks/months.

Before we do, we ought to stop to consider the legacy of UNT’s senior class.

We wrote about it quite a bit in the days leading up to the Heart of Dallas Bowl and in the wake of UNT’s win in the paper.

What we haven’t done is talk about it much on the blog — a place where we can be a little more opinionated.

There is just no underestimating what UNT’s 22 seniors did for the program. Dan McCarney credited the group for helping him establish the culture within the program that allowed UNT to pull its way out of the ditch it was in when he arrived before the 2011 season.

UNT wasn’t too far removed from a marijuana scandal and was in terrible shape academically when McCarney arrived. UNT had lost a host of scholarships due to a poor performance on the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate report and didn’t have a full 85 scholarship players. Defense was a lost art. Special teams were a joke.

There was every reason for UNT’s veteran players to quit or transfer.

Guys like Derek Thompson, Zach Orr and Brelan Chancellor were among the players who stuck it out.

Along the way, they became some of the most productive players in UNT history and left quite a legacy. There are teams that never forgotten. The 2013 edition of the Mean Green — just like the 2002 team that won the New Orleans Bowl — will now be among them.

There is little doubt UNT’s senior class is a key reason — maybe the key reason — that is the case.

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