A couple of coaches show notes

McCarney

I try to make a habit of making it to Dan McCarney’s show on Monday nights during bye weeks for one very important reason: There is no press conference during bye weeks.

Therefore if there is any big news to report, it comes out then.

McCarney was nice enough to have me on for a segment, which allowed me to get a couple of key questions in.

First off, there are no key injuries (ones that are going to keep guys out) that we don’t already know about.

I also got the obvious question in about UNT’s quarterback situation.

Andrew McNulty heads into the bye week as UNT’s starter. That was no big surprise.

McNulty and Dajon Williams will compete during the bye week. Again, no surprise.

What is a bit of a change is that McCarney said he we will likely see both McNulty and Williams in UNT’s game against Florida Atlantic in two weeks. That one did surprise me a little bit.

When we see Williams will depend on the way the game unfolds.

That leaves a whole lot of room for interpretation and it certainly cranks up the pressure on McNulty. That’s part of the deal as a quarterback, but one has to wonder about anyone’s confidence at this point, especially McNulty.

Outside of that news tidbit, there were some other overall state of the program comments. UNT wants to finish strong and have something positive for its graduating seniors to remember. McCarney doesn’t sense anyone giving up.

McCarney also took time out to congratulate UNT’s soccer team and its coach John Hedlund. He’s terrific about things like that. There are a lot of college football coaches who don’t have a clue what is going on outside of their little world, and understandably so.

McCarney knows what’s going on, is a terrific cheerleader for the rest of the department and took time to acknowledge UNT’s soccer team and Hedlund, who has never had a losing season and has been to three NCAA tournaments.

Classy move.

Monday morning notes (no press conference this week)

Former Lake Dallas standout Graysen Schantz hits North Texas quarterback Andrew McNulty in the Owls win over the Mean Green on Saturday. (Associated Press)

UNT only holds press conferences during football season on Mondays of game weeks. Thus there’s nothing to report right now on the UNT football front.

With that being said, I did have my weekly column in the paper today and talked about how UNT really misses the solid, steady — and yes, above average — play of former quarterback Derek Thompson.

It’s been a talking point all season. And since it can sometimes be tough to come up with a column topic that both one that elicits a response and opinions without burning bridges, I went ahead and wrote it.

This is the last time we will make the point that Thompson was an above average quarterback in C-USA and a really good player for UNT, but I will admit it has been entertaining to watch people back track.

For those of you keeping score, we have gone from:

– UNT won’t miss Thompson. Josh Greer or Dajon Williams will be better … BETTER … to …

– Well, Ok, maybe they won’t be better, but at least as good.

– Check that, maybe UNT won’t be as good this year at quarterback, but eight to 10. EIGHT TO 10. That would be Thompson’s touchdowns to interceptions in conference play last season. It’s become the mantra of the other side of the argument and the point people make while trying to say that Thompson was below average. That isn’t all that great, but continually pointing to that one stat kind of glosses over the fact that Thompson ranked third in C-USA in passing efficiency on the entire season (133.6) and seventh in conference play (126.0), third in completion percentage in league play (61.5), third in passing yards on the season (2,896) and fifth in conference play (1,620).

Now, I’m not all that good at math, but there were 14 teams in C-USA last year. Any way one looks at it, Thompson was better than average last season. Considering UNT currently ranks 10th out of 13 teams in C-USA in passing offense (184.1 yards a game) and 11th in passing efficiency (114.0), above average, which is what Thompson was, looks pretty darn good right now.

That’s my point. Now that I’ve made it, I’ll let it rest.

And in other news …

Ryan Pollard’s interception return for a touchdown was one of Conference USA’s top five plays of the week. I bring it up because it looks like Pollard read that play all the way and read Andrew McNulty.

Karla Pineda was named the Conference USA offensive player of the week in soccer, while Jackie Kerestine was named the defensive player of the week. UNT knocked off Old Dominion on Sunday to capture at least a share of the conference title. UNT can win it outright with a win or tie against Western Kentucky on Friday.

We pointed out not too long ago that UNT picked up a surprisingly high rating for its game against Southern Miss that was broadcast locally. Barry Horn has put up his weekly look at the numbers. Preliminary numbers had UNT-Rice rated last among the eight games of local interest Horn listed this week.

The Sunday leftovers (UNT soccer team grabs share of title)

Hedlund

It’s Sunday night and time for the weekly leftovers, where we hit on the highs and lows of the weekend and try to cover the ground we haven’t gotten to yet.

The big news of the day is that the UNT soccer team beat Old Dominion 2-0 this afternoon and grabbed a share of the Conference USA regular season title.

UNT (13-4-1) has a 7-1-1 record in conference play and can clinch the title outright with a win or a tie over Western Kentucky on Friday at the Mean Green Soccer Complex.

If you had John Hedlund’s crew in the pool for which UNT team would win the first conference title in the C-USA era, congratulation. If not … well, I can’t imagine that you didn’t. It was the obvious pick.

Karla Pineda scored both of UNT’s goals, including one on a corner kick she bent that went in to the net. I wrote about how Pineda can bend the ball like few others earlier this fall.

UNT’s loss to Rice had a morning kickoff, which allowed me to get pretty much everything I wanted to shoehorn into the paper in there. The big question now is how UNT will respond.

The Mean Green have hung in there so far. It’s been a tough year, but guys like Mason Y’Barbo, Carlos Harris and Derek Akunne have kept UNT on track. UNT will have to lean on those guys more than ever now.

 

And in other news, UNT has offered Tatum linebacker Kyshaun Smith.

What makes Smith particularly interesting is that he is a solid player who has been offered by Houston, Texas State and Memphis, which means there’s a pretty good chance that former UNT assistant Ryan Walters or former UNT head coach Darrell Dickey are involved. Both are on Memphis’ staff.

Memphis is 4-3 and is sitting pretty as far as getting to a bowl this year. The Tigers have four games left with teams that are currently under .500. The Tigers also have three more home games. Chances look good that Dickey and Walters are headed somewhere for the holidays.

Both are among the good guys who have rolled through town over the last decade or so.

I have a message in to Smith and hope to catch up with him in the next couple of days.

And finally, the UNT volleyball team swept Florida International today to get to 6-5 in C-USA play.

Five quick thoughts

Here are five quick thoughts following North Texas’ loss to Rice.

1. UNT is in a really tough spot now

UNT was already in a bad position coming into its game against Rice, but is really tough spot now. UNT could point to last season when it rallied from a 2-3 start to get to a bowl game and finish 9-4. UNT will have to win out now just to break even at 6-6. That seems highly unlikely to say the least.

2. Turnovers killed UNT yet again

The entire game turned early in the second half when Carlos Harris fumbled a kickoff to set up a Rice field goal and Ryan Pollard intercepted an Andrew McNulty pass and returned it 60 yards for a touchdown. Those two plays erased a 21-14 UNT lead and left the Mean Green in a 24-21 hole.

3. Rice was out for revenge and got it

Rice came into its game against UNT looking for revenge after a tough loss to the Mean Green last year, when UNT posted an eight-play goal-line stand. Several of the Owls who played in that game talked about avenging that loss and played a big part in the win, including defensive tackle Christian Covington, who gave the Mean Green fits.

4. UNT just doesn’t make enough big plays

UNT just doesn’t have the playmakers it had last year outside of Carlos Harris on either side of the ball. Wide receiver Carlos Harris is UNT’s best offensive player and UNT has a couple of guys who jump up and make plays, including Derek Akunne. UNT just doesn’t have the talent across the board.

5. UNT will have to focus on the magic No. 6 now

No one outside of UNT’s locker room will believe the Mean Green have what it takes to go on a big run and win its last four games. UNT has to keep the faith and will turn to a host of seniors to lead the way.

UNT-Rice preview, running blog

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.

13:10 — Rice has tacked on a touchdown o a Darrik Dillard run. UNT is down 31-21. The Mean Green picked up a first down on the ensuing possession, but will have to punt. Rice fielded it and will have the ball at its 25-yard line.

12:50 — Rice has the ball and a 10-point lead. The Owls will run some clock here if they can. UNT has been good against the run all day, though.

10:48 — Rice has called a timeout on second-and-7 from its 38-yard line. The Owls have picked up a first down on this drive and have started to run the clock here a bit.

6:41 — Rice tacked on a field goal at the end of its last possession and is up 34-21. UNT punted the ball away on its last drive. Rice has the ball back up 34-21 and will look to run the clock out now.

I’m out. My five quick thoughts will be up in a few minutes.

Friday afternoon notes on the way out of town

Most of the attention this week at UNT has been focused on the Mean Green’s efforts to snap a three-game losing streak at Rice tomorrow, and rightly so.

Football drives the bus at UNT.

With that being said, there is a huge game at UNT tonight that I wanted to be sure to mention on the blog.

The UNT soccer team takes on Charlotte at 7 p.m. over the the Mean Green Soccer Complex. UNT is 5-1-1 in league play and has a three-point lead in the standings over four other teams, including Charlotte.

The 49ers were picked to win the league in the preseason coaches’ poll, which didn’t sit well with UNT’s players or coach John Hedlund. We talked a little about where UNT stands in our weekly all-sports notebook earlier this week.

UNT has three games left in the regular season and can win the conference title by winning out. Our money was on Hedlund and his crew to win the first C-USA title for the Mean Green after the program was shut out across the board in its first season in the league. UNT can take a key step toward that goal tonight.

Trust in the remain John (Now that Johnny Jones has set up shop at LSU). And speaking of the other John …

There were a select few doubters among UNT fans that Jones would get it going at LSU. Jones has a 19-win season and a 20-win season that included an NIT win last year in his first two seasons with the Tigers. It appears as if he has things heading in the right direction in Baton Rouge.

I never understood why anyone doubted he would win at LSU. He took UNT to the NCAA tournament — twice. Those two trips matched the total number of NCAA tournament appearances in the history of both the UNT men’s and women’s basketball programs combined before he showed up.

On the football front, I wrote this story for today’s paper on Kishawn McClain, an impressive freshman defensive back, who played well last week in a loss to Southern Miss.

 

I had an update on Trinity Valley wide receiver Jarvis Baxter a while back.

I will think he’s UNT’s to lose.

And finally, the UNT volleyball team is in seventh place in the C-USA standings and fighting for a spot in the conference tournament heading into a key home match against Florida Atlantic tonight. UNT is 4-5 in conference play and needs to finish in the top eight to make the postseason.

Q&A with Joseph Duarte of the Houston Chronicle

We are lucky today to welcome Joseph Duarte of the Houston Chronicle to the blog for our weekly Q&A on UNT’s up coming game. If you want to know about Rice or Houston football, Joseph is your guy. Here is a link to the Chronicle website’s Rice section. Be sure to check it out. It includes some telling comments on Rice looking at this game as a shot at revenge.

Here’s what Joseph had to say about tomorrow’s game:

1. How has Rice turned it around since a slow start?

First, let’s keep in mind that two losses during the 0-3 start were on the road against Notre Dame and Texas A&M, two programs that have been ranked in the top 10 this season. The biggest differences between that Owls squad and the one that has won three in a row is finally getting key players back from injuries, namely all-conference nose tackle Christian Covington and wide receiver Jordan Taylor. The Owls have also gotten better-than-expected play from first-year starting quarterback Driphus Jackson, who is completing 61.1 percent of his passes with 11 touchdowns and only three interceptions. The running game remains tough behind Jowan Davis (517 yards) and Darik Dillard (407).

2. How much did a week off help Rice heading into this game?

At the halfway point of the season, the Owls, like most programs across the nation, used the break to heal. They lost tight end Connor Cella to a season-ending ankle injury in the Army game and wide receiver Zach Patt will be out 1-2 weeks after hurting his foot in practice. But on a positive note, defensive end Zach Patt, who missed four games with a leg injury, has been cleared to play, although it remains to be seen how much time he will see against North Texas. Having Covington back is huge for a Rice defense that ranks in the top 25 nationally with 42 tackles for loss. His presence alone disrupts offenses, as he’s almost impossible to stop one-on-one. The Owls have also received breakout seasons from two first-year starters at defensive end Brian Nordstrom (8.5 tackles for loss and three sacks) and Graysen Schantz (seven tackles for loss and three sacks).

3. Rice seems really balanced this year. Is that the case?

Yes, the Owls have been a balanced offense this season, but make no mistake: There’s a reason the Owls are among the top rushing team (201.2 yards) in Conference USA. Rice likes to control the clock (34:45) and has a deep enough backfield to rotate 3-4 players throughout the game. Davis is a workhorse and Dillard provides speed on the edges. Luke Turner, a former high school quarterback, is used primarily out of the ‘Wild Owl’ formation, which keeps defenses off-balanced with his ability to run or pass. With Taylor back, the Owls have several options in the passing game, including Mario Hull (three touchdowns), Dennis Parks and James Mayden.

4. Is Rice looking for revenge after last season?

The players who spoke this week said last year’s game  – the Owls’ only conference loss on the way to the C-USA title – would be on their mind. “How can it not be?” Covington said. Most of all, the players said they remember not being able to score despite eight plays near the goal line and the fumble and punt returns for touchdowns that wiped out an early lead in Denton.

5. How do you see this playing out?

Rice had a week off to prepare and rest and is playing its best football of the season. This is beginning to look like the team many picked to contend for the C-USA West division title. The Owls will look to establish the run, and expect Jackson to take a few shots down field. One matchup to watch is Owls senior cornerback Bryce Callahan vs. North Texas wide receiver Carlos Harris. In the end, I think the Owls are riding so much momentum and eager for payback.

My pick: Rice 31, North Texas 17

UNT Hoops Madness wrap-up thoughts

I know this comes as a huge shock, but both the UNT men’s and women’s basketball teams came out of their annual tipoff event feeling really good about their chances to be better this year.

I wrote about Jeremy Combs’ big night for the paper. He looked like he could help UNT right away with his athletic ability and the way he chases rebounds. He also won the dunk contest.

I talked to Jordan Williams after it was all over. He told me that he firmly believes UNT will win 20 games this year.

He said I could quote him on it.

Williams is among a host of UNT players who firmly believe this team will be better that it has been since Johnny Jones took his talents to Baton Rouge and LSU.

UNT still has a long way to go to get there, but there were a few good signs tonight:

– Combs played well and looked like he could be a key part.

– Greg Wesley showed flashes of why he was a top recruit in the state.

– UNT is really athletic

There are still plenty of reasons for pause:

– I’m not buying for a minute that UNT won’t get pummeled on the glass and inside until the Mean Green go against a team with some decent big guys and make it out alive.

– UNT didn’t exactly light it up shooting the ball. UNT hit one 3 in 15 minutes and by my unofficial count went 1-for-7 at the line. Williams hit that one 3. We know he can shoot the ball. Can anyone else? Eaglin shot the ball well in the 3-point contest, but UNT didn’t shoot it well overall. Is there a guy on this team UNT can toss it to in the post who can score inside? This team is going to be vulnerable to off shooting nights if that isn’t the case.

And in a very important side note, key recruit Rickey Brice was on hand and said hello. I think he’s UNT’s to lose at this point. The big guy from Arlington would be a big addition.

The UNT women will be something of a mystery as well, even after tonight. Acheil Tac and Joh’vonna Darrington both missed the who deal with injuries. They will be back soon, but it isn’t a good sign that they weren’t around tonight.

LIke the UNT men, the Mean Green women will depend quite a bit on newcomers. The good news is JUCO guards Kasiney Williams and Teandra Jones both looked like they could help quite a bit this year.

Freshman forwards Megan Womack and Bria Frierson both have good size and also look like they could help.

Well find out soon enough if either team will have a shot to turn it around this year. What we do know is both teams feel good about their chances.

No surprise there.

UNT basketball madness running blog

UNT will host its basketball madness event tonight.

We previewed the festivities earlier this week.

UNT women’s coach Mike Petersen swung by on his way in to the locker room to provide a little information.

Acheil Tac is having some pain in her knee after suffering a season-ending injury a year ago and will not play tonight. Joh’Vonna Darrington is also having some knee trouble and will undergo and MRI. Neither player should be out long.

It looks like the free food bribe aimed at UNT’s students is paying off to a certain degree. There are several hundred people here.

As far as the festivities go, I wouldn’t read a whole lot into it. Armani Flannigan was the big start of last season’s event. He averaged 2.4 points a game for a team that finished 16-16.

We will get to at least see some of the newcomers UNT is depending on, including the ballyhooed guard tandem of J-Mychal Reese and DeAndre Harris. Reese played for Texas A&M last year. There is a track record there. Harris sat out last season with a case of tonsillitis and hasn’t played since his freshman year at Tyler JC.

We could find out more tonight.

As far as the UNT women go, we will see a partial return of the body bag squad in point guard Candice Adams and BreAnna Dawkins. We will also see a few key recruits.

Stay tuned.

7:33 — I was going to try to keep unofficial stats on the women’s scrimmage, but there isn’t a roster around. UNT is going to be a work in progress early in the year. There is some talent out there. Candice Adams is moving around pretty well and BreAnna Dawkins looks good out there. JUCO transfer Teandra Jones looks like she should help UNT this year.

7:58 — We had to sit through some dance groups, cheerleader and dance team appearances. Tony Benford is up and has the microphone.

8: 00 — Benford is appealing to UNT’s students to come to games and is asking them to stand this year instead of sit. He promised that UNT’s guys will play hard this season.

8:03 — UNT is going through warmups. I had forgotten this, but DeAndre Harris will not play tonight due to a minor injury.

8:21 — The white team beat the green 23-15 in the scrimmage. Greg Wesely and Jeremy Combs both played pretty well. Combs looks as advertised. He just goes and gets the ball. By my unofficial count, UNT went an atrocious 2-for-9 from the line and made just one 3 in 15 minutes. Jordan Williams hit it, which makes sense.

8:28 — In a side note, the crowd has filled in pretty well at the Super Pit. It’s pretty much all students.

8:37 — Todd Eaglin and Kasiney Williams won the 3-point contest with 11 total makes. One player from the guys team and one from the girls team paired up for the contest. Eaglin made seven.   

8:54 — Jeremy Combs wins the dunk contest. I will be back with more later.

Prediction: Rice will handle UNT at home

North Texas quarterback Andrew McNulty (5) is leveled by Southern Miss linebacker Brian Anderson (39) and defensive back Picasso Nelson last week at Apogee Stadium. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

UNT at Rice, 11 a.m. Saturday, Rice Stadium, Houston

Records: North Texas 2-5, 0-3 C-USA; Rice 3-3, 1-1 C-USA

TV: Fox Sports: Brendan Burke (play-by-play), Ben Leber (analyst), Christian Steckel (sidelines)

Radio: KHYI-FM 95.3, KNTU-FM 88.1, KGAF-AM 1580

On the line: UNT is quickly running out of hope that it can build on its Heart of Dallas Bowl win of last season heading into its game against Rice. The Mean Green have lost three straight and at 0-3 are well out of the Conference USA race. UNT’s hope now is that it can somehow manage to win four out of its last five games to become bowl-eligible with six wins or run to the table to get to 7-5. UNT did win seven of its last eight games last season, but lost most of the players who led that charge to graduation. A win over Rice would help UNT keep its hopes of another bowl bid alive. Rice is in a much better spot at 3-3 and 1-1 in C-USA play. The Owls have won three straight, but have some tough games late in the season at Marshall, which is ranked 23rd, and at Louisiana Tech, which is 3-0 in conference play. A win over UNT would improve Rice’s chances of playing in a bowl substantially.

When North Texas has the ball: UNT has elected to stick with Andrew McNulty as its starting quarterback for a second straight week. McNulty threw for 287 yards on Saturday in a loss to Southern Miss and, most importantly, didn’t turn the ball over. UNT had seven turnovers in its previous two games combined. UNT will pound away in the running game if it can, but has come to depend largely on Carlos Harris the last few weeks. Harris caught 15 passes for 216 yards last week and posted 120 yards in a loss to Indiana on Oct. 4. More often than not, Harris is UNT’s outlet when teams stack the line of scrimmage. Rice has allowed 19.3 points a game during its three-game winning streak and has allowed an average of 70.0 rushing yards in its two C-USA games against Old Dominion and Southern Miss. The Owls also have one of the top cornerbacks in C-USA in Bryce Callahan who could at least contain Harris.

When Rice has the ball: The Owls have one of the top running back duos in C-USA in Jowan Davis and Darik Dillard. Davis is averaging 86.2 rushing yards a game, while Dillard is adding 67.8. McCarney said what makes that duo particularly hard to defend is Rice also has a solid quarterback in Driphus Jackson, who is throwing for 197.5 yards a game. Jackson has 11 touchdowns and just three interceptions on the year. UNT has allowed at least 30 points in five of the six games against FBS competition it has played this year. Part of the problem has been an offense that has continually put the Mean Green in bad spots, but there are plenty of signs UNT is struggling. Southern Miss rushed for 201 yards in its win over UNT last week after coming into the game averaging 91 yards a game. UNT is hoping the return of safety Sheldon Wade, cornerback Zac Whitfield and defensive end Tillman Johnson from injury will help matters.

Prediction: Nearly everything about this game sets up horribly for UNT. The Mean Green have lost three straight, while Rice is on a roll after winning three straight to climb back into the C-USA race. The Owls had a week off to prepare for UNT and have won nine of their last 10 games at home. UNT is 6-17 on the road under McCarney and 0-3 this year. Rice also has the added motivation of trying to avenge last season’s 28-16 loss at Apogee Stadium, where UNT posted an eight-play goal line stand. Jackson told the Houston Chronicle this week that it was embarrassing not to capitalize in that situation, while defensive tackle  Christian Covington said it’s an experience he and his teammates haven’t forgotten. UNT appeared to settle in a little last week with McNulty at quarterback and has one of C-USA’s top wide receivers in Harris. The return of a few key defensive players from injury will also help matters. Even with that being the case, UNT winning would be a substantial upset. McCarney is a master at rallying his teams and getting them to rise up against great odds, but Rice will pull away in the end.

Rice 31, UNT  17