The Sunday leftovers (Dunbar injured, et cetera)

It’s Sunday night and time for the leftovers, where we dig through the events of the weekend, reheat the good stuff — and some of the bad — while hopefully putting it all in perspective.

The bad news tonight is it looks like former UNT standout Lance Dunbar suffered a pretty serious knee injury in a game against the New Orleans Saints. Dunbar had 54 yards on three carries when he went down.

It’s been tough going for UNT this season in football in general. The Mean Green are 0-4 after falling at Southern Miss.

UNT opened as a 1-point underdog for its game against Portland State, an FCS team that the Mean Green are theoretically paying to come to Apogee Stadium because the Vikings should be an easy win.The Vikings beat Washington State this year, so that is probably not going to be the case.

One big positive to come out of the weekend is that A.J. Lawson, a top 25 player in the state, committed to the UNT men’s basketball team. Here is our post from earlier today. See Tuesday’s paper for more.

And in other news, the UNT soccer team beat Florida International and Florida Atlantic over the weekend to improve to 10-2-1 overall and 2-0-1 in C-USA play. Middle Tennessee is the only unbeaten team left in the league. UNT is in a pretty good spot.

The UNT volleyball team also picked up an important win by knocking off Rice on Friday. The Mean Green are 3-1 in C-USA play.

UNT men’s basketball team picks up commitment

The UNT men’s basketball team picked up a commitment today A.J. Lawson, a small forward at Bryan High.

Lawson was also recruited by Tulsa, Stephen F. Austin and several other schools, but quickly settled on UNT. ranks him No. 20 among players in the Class of 2016 in the state. Check back for more.

Lawson named his relationship with UNT’s coaches and a connection with UNT guard J-Mychal Reese, another Bryan product, as factors in his decision to play for the Mean Green.

“It is very family oriented and I love their style of play,” Lawson said. “I believe what the coaches are telling me about the program — that we work hard and stay on top of academics. That’s important to my family. They told me the goal is to make the NCAA tournament.”

For more on Lawson, see Tuesday’s paper.

Five quick thoughts

Here are five quick thoughts following UNT’s 49-14 loss to Southern Miss:

1. Where is the hope now?

UNT is sitting at 0-4 for the first time since 2008 and has dropped its first two games in Conference USA play. At the beginning of the year, it was hard to look at the Mean Green’s schedule and pick out the six games UNT could win to become bowl-eligible. Now, it’s hard to look down the line and pick out many wins, period.

The Mean Green have to find a way to beat FCS member Portland State on homecoming next weekend. UTSA and UTEP are games that UNT should have a shot to win. Outside of that, UNT has some tough games against Tennessee, Western Kentucky, Marshall and Louisiana Tech.

2. DaMarcus Smith showed some good signs.

Smith has some physical talent that no other quarterback on UNT’s roster possesses. He threw a  pretty strike to Carlos Harris that covered 61 yards and made some plays running the ball. The problem was he also threw an interception in the end zone. He was 3-for-11 overall, although UNT’s receivers didn’t do him many favors with some key drops.

Dan McCarney said Smith has talent after the game. He said UNT needs to develop that talent, but that Andrew McNulty has a better handle on the game and will continue to be UNT’s starter. McNulty also made some plays and threw a touchdown pass.

UNT has two guys it likes for different reasons and will continue to use both. This team just needs to develop Smith for the long-term good of the program.

3. Wilson is the real deal.

Jeffrey Wilson had a monster game against Southern Miss, rushing for 136 yards. The sophomore has all the tools and fits well in UNT’s run-first offense. UNT just has to hope he stays healthy. He could be a special player long-term for the Mean Green.

4. UNT’s defense just isn’t very good

UNT has given up at least 30 points in every game this season and surrendered seven touchdowns in its loss to Southern Miss and Nick Mullens. The Golden Eagles’ quarterback threw for 325 yards and four touchdowns and said after the game he was hit just once all night.

5. It’s gut check time for UNT.

UNT has to find something to play for now. McCarney essentially said this team is going to need to pull together and find a way to rally. UNT isn’t out of it when it comes to winning six games, but the odds get longer every week.

UNT-Southern Miss running blog

UNT will look to break through for its first win of the season today at Southern Miss. The Mean Green have lost their first three to open the season.

Picking up that first win of the year today might be a big challenge. Not only is UNT taking on a rapidly improving Southern Miss team, it’s also trying to win on the road.

The Mean Green have lost eight straight away from Apogee. UNT didn’t win a road game last year.

Southern Miss is 2-2 on the year and has a lot to play for in its Conference USA opener. The Mean Green have already dropped their first game against Rice.

The key for UNT today will be to hold up defensively against a good Southern Miss passing attack behind Nick Mullens. The junior has played a ton of football for the Golden Eagles and threw for 447 yards last week in a loss to Nebraska.

UNT will face Mullens at a time it is running short on bodies in its secondary. Cornerback Kenny Buyers is out for the year, as is backup safety Cedric Fernandes.

The Mean Green got its running game going last week, rushing for 183 yards against Iowa. UNT coach Dan McCarney said Iowa is a Top 25 team after that game. Turns out Mac knows what he is talking about. Iowa beat Wisconsin to improve to 5-0 and pretty much lock up a spot in the poll next week.

The question now is if UNT can run the ball effectively again today and take the pressure off starting quarterback Andrew McNulty.

Stay tuned. I will update the blog all night.

5:20 — The status of linebacker Blake Bean will be a game-time decision. Bean missed UNT’s last game with a shoulder injury and was replaced By Anthony Wallace, who played really well in his place.

5:43 — Kishawn McClain arrived for today’s game at 4 p.m. after attending his grandmother’s funeral back in Texas. McClain is UNT’s leading tackler with 35 stops.

5:47 — M.M. Roberts Stadium is pretty empty tonight. I’m kind of surprised. Ole Miss and Mississippi State are both on TV tonight, which probably has a lot to do with that. In a side note, it is a cool night here in Mississippi. It looks like it might rain.

5:55 — The key to this game for UNT will be the way it plays in pass coverage. Southern Miss can really throw it around and the Mean Green are without a couple of their key defensive backs. It would really help UNT if Jarrian Roberts can continue to add to his sack total. He has four through three games.

Kickoff — UNT has won the toss and will receive the ball to open the game.

14:55 — UNT will start at its 13. Andrew McNulty is in.

11:04 — UNT drove down the field on its first drive and reached the Southern Miss 22 before Andrew McNulty was sacked. Trevor Moore missed a 46-yard field goal wide right. That was a big opportunity UNT missed out on right there.

8:13 — UNT held up on Southern Miss’ first possession, thanks in part to a timely holding call on the Golden Eagles. Tyler Sarrazin rolled a perfectly executed punt down to the UNT 1-yard line. UNT will start out in a hole on this drive.

4:33 — Southern Miss came after UNT on third down and sacked Andrew McNulty. Southern Miss is going to have great field position to start this drive. UNT was called for kick catch interference. Southern Miss will start out at the Mean Green’s 45-yard line.

1:58 — Southern Miss is on the board following a Nick Mullens touchdown pass to Mike Thomas in the back of the end zone. That was a third-down play and a big one for the Golden Eagles, who are up 7-0.

End of the first quarter — UNT is down 7-0 at the end of the first quarter and will have to punt the ball away again after Andrew McNulty was sacked on third down.

13:45 — UNT has the ball back at its 5-yard line after another nice punt from Southern Miss. Looking back, it’s pretty obvious what the Golden Eagles plan here is defensively. Southern Miss has come after Andrew McNulty three times on third down and gotten there every time.

12:08 — UNT was a bit late getting its punt team on the field and had to take a timeout. UNT is still only down 7-0, but is going to give up good field position here.

12:00 — Southern Miss has the ball back at its 41-yard line early in the second quarter.

8:30 — Southern Miss has extended its lead to 14-0 on a pass from Nick Mullens to Casey Martin. UNT is in trouble now. The Mean Green have really struggled to score all year.

8:23 — Well, here we go. DaMarcus Smith is in. He threw two great balls on his first two attempts. UNT dropped both. Smith was sacked on third down. UNT has given up four third-down sacks.

1:37 — UNT had something going with Smith in the game, but he threw an interception in the end zone on the Mean Green’s last drive. He tried to fire it in there to Carlos Harris but Cornell Harris stepped in front it the pass.

Halftime — UNT is down 21-0 at halftime here at Southern Miss. The Mean Green managed 167 yards in the first half and seemed to have something going with DaMarcus Smith in at quarterback, but couldn’t punch the ball in when it had it deep in Southern Miss’ end of the field.

Start of the second half — UNT held on Southern Miss’ first possession and forced a punt. UNT would have had terrific field position, but somehow kicked the ball toward its own end zone.

8:55 — Southern Miss has extended its lead to 28-0 on a Nick Mullens touchdown pass. The Mean Green have struggled to contain him all night.

6:46 — Andrew McNulty came back into the game on UNT’s last possession and moved the Mean Green down the field. The Mean Green had the ball in Southern Miss territory and went for the first down on fourth down, but missed on a McNulty pass down the sideline.

6:35 — Southern Miss just added insult to injury there, hitting on a flea-flicker for a 62-yard touchdown pass to extend its lead to 35-0.

2:59 — Here’s a big play for UNT. It’s fourth-and-9 inside Southern Miss’ 20. UNT went for the end zone, but McNulty’s pass fell incomplete.

14:45 — UNT is on the board. Andre McNulty threw a nice ball to Carlos Harris in the end zone and he won the battle with a defensive back to hang on to it. UNT is down 35-7.

9:34 — UNT is down 42-7. I will be back later with some thoughts.

And as a bonus, here’s Jason Munz of the Hattiesburg American

Southern Miss quarterback Nick Mullens (9) tosses the ball during a loss to Nebraska last week in Lincoln, Neb. UNT faces Southern Miss on Saturday.(Associated Press/Nati Harnik)

Southern Miss quarterback Nick Mullens (9) tosses the ball during a loss to Nebraska last week in Lincoln, Neb. UNT faces Southern Miss on Saturday.(Associated Press/Nati Harnik)

And in a bonus, I also talked to Jason Munz of the Hattiesburg American about Saturday’s UNT-Southern Miss game. One can find Jason’s work on the Hattiesburg American website and catch up with him on Twitter. Here’s what he had to say.

1. Talk about the progress of Nick Mullens as Southern Miss’ quarterback.

Nick was really starting to hit his stride as a mature quarterback mid-way through last season. But he suffered a foot injury in the first quarter against Louisiana Tech, missed a couple of games and probably returned to the field before he was 100 percent. But Nick has been everything one would think a three-year starter would be thus far in 2015. His arm strength has improved. Pocket awareness is better. He’s still not very mobile. But he makes up for it with his knowledge of the offense and experience.

2. Southern Miss hung with Nebraska last week. Was that a confidence-builder?

Yeah, I think anytime a team has success – especially on the road at a place like Nebraska (no matter how down the Huskers may or may not be) – you can’t help but feel more confident going forward. But, yes, USM is feeling pretty good about themselves right now.

3. Does Todd Moken have Southern Miss on track to get back to where it used to be as a program?

No question. But it’s not something that’s happened this year. Southern Miss’ rebound or resurgence (or however people want to term it) began when Monken got here. Based on what I’ve seen from Southern Miss and observing what else has gone on around the league, it’s not an absurd notion to think Southern Miss can’t contend for the West this season.

4. UNT coach Dan McCarney said this week that Southern Miss has added a host of transfers who have helped this season. Who are the best of those players?

D’Nerius Antoine at safety has probably had the biggest impact of the transfers. He leads the team in tackles, has two forced fumbles and an interception in four games. Andrew Bolton, Quincy Russell and Naim Mustafaa (all defensive linemen) have also been big shots in the arm for the defense.

5. How do you see this game going?

Southern Miss is going to have another big game offensively. The run game will get back on track after a tough go of it at Nebraska last week. North Texas will score a few points, but Southern Miss’ offense is playing too well for this one to be all that close. I’ve got Southern Miss winning 41-20, something like that.

Q&A with Patrick Magee of the Sun Herald

Southern Miss quarterback Nick Mullens throws a pass to running back Jalen Richard (30) during a loss to Nebraska last week. North Texas will take on Southern Miss on Saturday. (Associated Press/Nati Harnik)

Southern Miss quarterback Nick Mullens throws a pass to running back Jalen Richard (30) during a loss to Nebraska last week. North Texas will take on Southern Miss on Saturday. (Associated Press/Nati Harnik)

We are fortunate today to welcome Patrick Magee of the Sun Herald to the blog to talk a little about tomorrow’s UNT-Southern Miss game. One can find Patrick’s work on the Sun Herald website and follow him on Twitter

1. Talk about the progress of Nick Mullens as Southern Miss’ quarterback.

Mullens has made a step forward in accuracy this season, improving his completion percentage from 59.7 to 63.8. However, I think the most progress has been made in his supporting cast. USM is running the ball well and receivers are doing a much better job of holding on to the ball. Also, Mullens is getting more time to throw the ball. The offense’s improvement is more of a sum of the parts.

2. Southern Miss hung with Nebraska last week. Was that a confidence-builder?

I think so. The Southern Miss offense has to believe it can score on just about anybody in Conference USA at this point. While the offense is rolling, there has to be concern about the defense. USM has given up a total of 1,201 yards over the last two games. The game took a turn Saturday when the defense began to create turnovers and they’ll have to do more of that. The Eagles have to find a way to come up with more stops on third down or they will have to win a lot of shootouts in C-USA.

3. Does Todd Monken have Southern Miss on track to get back to where it used to be as a program?

There certainly has been progress made in year three with the offense looking more and more like the group that was expected when Monken first arrived in Hattiesburg. This year’s recruiting class relied heavily on junior college transfers so they’ll likely have to stay on that path.

4. UNT coach Dan McCarney said this week that Southern Miss has added a host of transfers who have helped this season. Who are the best of those players?

As far as FBS transfers, Naim Mustafaa, Quincy Russell and Andrew Bolton have combined to make 27 tackles along the defensive line. Auburn transfer Anthony Swain has started two games at linebacker and has 12 tackles, but he is hobbled at the moment. The addition of FBS transfers has simply helped overall depth. They have options at positions where they’ve had none over the previous three seasons.

5. How do you see this game going?

I don’t see this game setting up very favorably for North Texas. For the Mean Green to win on the road Saturday, it will have to either produce several turnovers on defense or eke out a shootout. At the moment, I don’t see North Texas capable of scoring with Southern Miss, but we all know weird things tend to happen in conference play. I’ll go ahead and predict a score – Southern Miss 42, North Texas 27

Prediction: UNT won’t be able to break slide at Southern Miss

North Texas coach Dan McCarney leads the Mean Green on to the field at Kinnick Stadium before a loss to Iowa last week. UNT will face Southern Miss on Saturday. (Associated Press)

North Texas coach Dan McCarney leads the Mean Green on to the field at Kinnick Stadium before a loss to Iowa last week. UNT will face Southern Miss on Saturday. (Associated Press)

UNT at Southern Miss

When: 6 p.m. Saturday

Records: UNT 0-3, 0-1 C-USA; Southern Miss 2-2, 0-0 C-USA

Last meeting: Southern Miss 30, UNT 20 (2014)

TV/radio: Fox College Sports, KNTU-FM 88.1, KHYI-FM 95.3

What’s on the line?

UNT has backed itself into a corner rather quickly this season by dropping its first three games, including its Conference USA opener to Rice at home. The Mean Green desperately need a win to right the ship and show that they still have something to play for. Falling to 0-4 and 0-2 in conference play would leave UNT with few opportunities remaining to make a serious run at six wins.

When UNT has the ball?

UNT has struggled all season offensively and comes into the weekend averaging 17.7 points a game, a total that ranks last in C-USA. The Mean Green’s running game has been one of the few bright spots. Antoinne Jimmerson has rushed for an even 200 yards and Jeffrey Wilson tallied 74 yards against a stout Iowa defense that was allowing just 51 rushing yards a game last week. UNT will have to complement that rushing attack with a more effective passing game. Andrew McNulty is completing just 46.7 percent of his passes and is averaging 189.3 yards a game.

Southern Miss is allowing an average of 31.5 points a game and gave up 50 points in a shootout win over Texas State. The Golden Eagles are much better on the offensive side of the ball, but did show signs of improvement in a 36-28 loss to Nebraska in their last game.

When Southern Miss has the ball?

Southern Miss quarterback Nick Mullens is having a monster season. He has already thrown for 1,366 yards and torched Nebraska for 447 yards last week. Southern Miss has a host of solid wide receivers and a good running back in Jalen Richard, who is averaging 86.0 rushing yards a game.

UNT has struggled defensively this season and has allowed at least 30 points in all three games thus far. The hope is the Mean Green hit bottom last week, when Iowa pummeled UNT in a 62-16 win while rolling up 488 yards. UNT could get middle linebacker Blake Bean back this week, which would help.


This game sets up terribly for UNT. The Mean Green are struggling and have lost eight straight road games dating to last season. Southern Miss seems to have find its form behind Mullens, who will face a depleted UNT secondary. It could be a long day for the Mean Green.

Score: Southern Miss 33, UNT 23

Five things UNT fans should know about Southern Miss

Southern Miss quarterback Nick Mullens runs with the ball during a loss to Nebraska in Lincoln last week. UNT will take on the Golden Eagles on Saturday. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Southern Miss quarterback Nick Mullens runs with the ball during a loss to Nebraska in Lincoln last week. UNT will take on the Golden Eagles on Saturday. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

UNT will try to break through for its first win of the season on Saturday when the Mean Green take on Southern Miss in Hattiesburg. UNT has lost its first three games of the season, but is just 0-1 in Conference USA play and has a chance to rebound against the Golden Eagles, who are 2-2 on the year. The game is Southern Miss’ first in league play.

Here are five things UNT fans should know about the Golden Eagles:

1. Nick Mullens has improved a ton

Southern Miss’ starting quarterback experienced some tough times early in his career, but has played really well this season. Hew threw for 447 yards in a loss to Nebraska last week and has 1,366 yards and 10 touchdowns with just three interceptions so far this year.

Mullens is in his third season playing extensively for Southern Miss and has the experience necessary to exploit a UNT secondary that has been decimated by injuries.

2. Southern Miss came close to beating Nebraska

One of the more surprising results in Conference USA last week was Southern Miss taking Nebraska to the wire before falling 36-28. The Golden Eagles had the ball and an opportunity to drive for what would have been a game-tying touchdown and two-point conversion. Southern Miss’ only other loss this season was to Mississippi State.

3. The Golden Eagles have one of C-USA’s top offenses

Southern Miss coach Todd Monken came to the school from Oklahoma State with a reputation as a terrific offensive coach. His ability to construct a talented offensive unit is starting to show this season. The Golden Eagles have scored 50 points twice already this season and are averaging 38.0 points a game.

4. Ito Smith is one of C-USA’s best all-around threats

Southern Miss sophomore running back Ito Smith has rushed for 281 yards on an average of 7.8 yards a carry and has also caught 11 passes for 181 yards. UNT will have to contain Smith to have a chance to break through for its first win of the season.

5. Southern Miss has struggled at times defensively

Southern Miss gave up 50 points in a win over Texas State and also surrendered 36 points to Nebraska and 34 to Mississippi State. The Mean Green have struggled all season offensively and will look to break through against a Southern Miss defense that has struggled at times and is allowing 31.5 points a game.

Issuing the Mean Green Morale Collapse Watch

It’s been a while since it has come to this, but judging by the tone of the UNT fan base this week, it’s time to issue the Mean Green Morale Collapse Watch.

We haven’t gone this far in a long time, but the circumstances seem dire at this point.

UNT is 0-3 in football and is facing a long road to jump into the race in Conference USA. To make matters worse, UNT spit the bit in a huge season-opening game at SMU, perhaps the Mean Green’s most bitter rival.

UNT also lost at home to Rice.

A 62-16 whacking at Iowa last week only made matters worse.

The road to a winning season was going to be a tough one for UNT to begin with because of a brutal schedule and now looks even more daunting. The Mean Green still have to travel to Tennessee, Marshall and Louisiana Tech. A home game against Western Kentucky also looms.

UNT could get it turned around, but the chances don’t look all that great.

Another losing season this year would leave UNT with just one winning campaign in its last 11. The Mean Green were supposed to be heading to better times because of the addition of Apogee Stadium, the move to Conference USA and an increased budget. To some extent that has been true, but the bottom line results are not improving as quickly as most UNT fans had hoped.

This has been pointed out by a few UNT fans over the last few weeks, but even when the Mean Green were struggling in football a few years ago, the men’s basketball program was playing well. UNT won at least 18 games a year and made the NCAA tournament twice from the 2006-07 season through the 2011-12 season.

Now UNT hasn’t enjoyed a winning season since and attendance has plummeted. The hope is UNT turns it around this year, but the Mean Green lost several of their key players, including Jordan Williams, after last season.

The UNT women’s basketball team is working on a string of nine straight losing seasons heading into the first season of Jalie Mitchell’s tenure. She will have a great chance to turn the program around, but will need some time.

UNT is playing well in a lot of its Olympic sports, including soccer and volleyball. But even those coaches will tell you that it’s the Big Three that set the tone.

The Mean Green desperately need something to go right, and quickly. A win on Saturday at Southern Miss would help a ton. The odds just seem long at this point — about 10 to 15 points long, if you look at the Las Vegas odds.

I hear from UNT fans quite a bit. I just haven’t sense this much of a sense of hopelessness in a long time.

UNT hoping meetings help turn the tide



UNT head coach Dan McCarney mentioned at his press conference this week that the Mean Green had what sounded like a series of meetings with the key leaders on the roster in the hope of sparking a turnaround after an 0-3 start.

UNT has its captains and a leadership council as well.

Those key players got together with McCarney to discuss the state of matters following a 62-16 loss to Iowa. McCarney said adversity is uniting UNT’s players rather than dividing them.

I go into what was said more in the paper tomorrow, but one quote from McCarney stood out that I wanted to point out on the blog.

“Our attitude in practice has been inconsistent, which we addressed with the leaders of our football team last night,” McCarney said. “Are you going through this or are you growing through this? There is a big difference. Are you going through it, showing up, practicing, counting periods or are you growing? If you’re growing, you’re improving. If you’re growing, you are taking responsibility for what you are not doing well and are trying to do better. If you get better, then we can get better as a unit, on a side of the ball and get better as a football team.”

It was an interesting take that raises the question of if UNT has that drive and leadership in place at the top. Remember, this is a team that lost Kenny Buyers for the season already. He was one of the Mean Green’s top guys from a leadership standpoint.

UNT still has some guys who fit the profile like Kaydon Kirby and Anthony Wallace.

The question now is if the Mean Green can pull together in a tough spot.

It’s two totally different situations, but UNT really got it going after a mediocre start in 2013 behind guys like Zach Orr, Marcus Trice and Derek Thompson and ended up winning nine games. Those seniors were a big reason for that run to a bowl game.

What I thought was interesting was the fact that McCarney went to his team leaders early this week in the hope that they will provide a spark.

The Mean Green will see if they are up to the task Saturday, when UNT travels to Southern Miss.