North Texas 28 Rice 16 — BOWL ELIGIBILITY!

pic via @Christin_Nicole

My favorite statistic is this one: North Texas has only allowed one touchdown in the second half in the last five games. That includes tonight’s game. Rice scored their last touchdown (and point) with nine minutes remaining in the second quarter to take a 16-7 lead.

Tonight was epic. It was amazing. It was the greatest game I’ve watched North Texas football play since last year, where Antoinne Jimmerson danced into the end zone after catching a screen. It made lots of people proud to be associated with the university. Sports is silly like that.

Also silly? The crowd. More specifically the student crowd. It was the most packed the student section has been ever. They were loud and boisterous and someone even said they got David Bailiff to turn and curse at them.

Awesome.

As someone said on twitter, this is what a home field advantage should be.

After 8 years, North Texas is bowl eligible and has a realistic chance of going 9-3 and having a shot at a CUSA championship in year one. For long suffering fans, this was a dream come true. For new fans, this was hopefully a sign of things to come. For both, it is a demonstration of the full power of a Dan McCarney coached team. That guy. He’s good.

It was also a game where the offense got out gained by 100 yards, the run game failed to get 150 yards, the pass game got only 100+ yards and threw a pick. The defense and special teams (read: Brelan Chancellor) were the stars of the game and that’s okay. That’s what teams are. Petros Papadakis said it best: this team is built around the defense and plays to their strengths. They run to eat up clock. They score when they get set up by the defense. They punt when they can’t get a first down. Tonight, that’s all they needed to do.

Things To Be Excited About

The defense. I can’t remember a goal line stand in North Texas history that is better. Maybe the Tobe Nwigwe 97-yard interception return to win the game against WKU a few years back is the nearest one to this. But tonight’s epic, 8-down display was likely the best I’ll ever see. After Rice’s McHargue scampered his way down to the NT 3-yard line it looked like the good guys would be giving up just their second TD in a second half in five game. Instead Marcus Trice #hitstick’d Chuck Ross on a speed option. Then Sarge McCoy and Zach Orr shut down the next two runs. On 4th down Zac Whitfied was called for holding and Rice had second life. They proceeded to more runs and one more pass that had a net gain of all of one yard. After that, in a fourth down play that seemed to last 100 seconds, McHargue escaped two D-lineman ran back to the 30, scrambled up, pump faked, and finally was nailed by Lairamie Lee with a perfect form tackle. Taylor McHargue lay prone on the field from exhaustion for a few moments after that.

Here is the play-by-play. Print it out and look at it from time to time. I might.

Rice at 15:00

1st and 10 at RICE 49
NORTH TEXAS penalty 15 yard personal foul on LaChris Anyiam accepted.
1st and 10 at UNT 36
Taylor McHargue pass complete to Jordan Taylor for 1 yard to the NoTex 35, tackled by Kenny Buyers.
2nd and 9 at UNT 35
Darik Dillard rush for 1 yard to the NoTex 34, tackled by Will Wright.
 3rd and 8 at UNT 34
Taylor McHargue pass complete to Jordan Taylor for 5 yards to the NoTex 29.
 4th and 3 at UNT 29
NORTH TEXAS penalty 5 yard offside on Brandon McCoy accepted.
 1st and 10 at UNT 24
Taylor McHargue rush for 23 yards to the NoTex 1, tackled by Marcus Trice for a 1ST down.
 1st and Goal at UNT 1
Darik Dillard rush for a loss of 2 yards to the NoTex 3, tackled by Marcus Trice.
 2nd and Goal at UNT 3
Taylor McHargue rush for 2 yards to the NoTex 1, tackled by Brandon McCoy.
 3rd and Goal at UNT 1
Jeremy Eddington rush for a loss of 5 yards to the NoTex 6, tackled by Zach Orr.
 4th and Goal at UNT 6
NORTH TEXAS penalty 3 yard holding on N/A accepted.
 1st and Goal at UNT 3
Darik Dillard rush for 1 yard to the NoTex 2, tackled by Will Wright.
2nd and Goal at UNT 2
Taylor McHargue pass incomplete to Jordan Taylor.
 3rd and Goal at UNT 2
Darik Dillard rush for no gain to the NoTex 2, tackled by James Jones.
 4th and Goal at UNT 2
Timeout RICE, clock 08:26.
4th and Goal at UNT 2
Taylor McHargue sacked by Lairamie Lee for a loss of 11 yards to the NoTex 13.
 
 
DRIVE TOTALS: RICE drive: 11 plays 38 yards, 05:55 RICE DOWNS

What is amazing is that the defense isn’t overly aggressive in bringing numbers in the backfield. A good percentage of the pressure is from the defensive line. That tremendous play has allowed Zach Orr and Will Wright to wreak havoc. They have been quick to eat up inside runs and attack short passes. The corners have been great in shedding wide-receiver blocks and containing edge runs. That goal line stand had about four or five attempts to the edge that were swallowed up by great run defense from the d-backs. In the pass game, Kenny Buyers has been excellent in stepping into short passes and making tackles. Defensive Coordinator John Skledany has the corners play with some cushion, in classic bend-but-don’t break philosophy. They have barely bent in the last five games. A big reason has been the tackling ability of the corner backs. With Bellazin, Sarge, Lincoln, and Abbe getting such good pressure, Zach Orr, Will Wright, and Derek Akunne making plays, and the corners making tackles and taking away deep passes you leave Lairamie Lee and Marcus Trice to fly around the field, make big hits, and get interceptions. Marcus Trice ended the night with two picks, and probably should have had a third. It has gotten to a point where I know that the defense will make a big play. I mean, after all they have had nine straight with a fumble recovery.

They have been amazing to watch this year. So fun.

Also, BRELAN!!!!!

Yeah he took one to the house again, showing the speed that might get him a chance to play on Sundays. That guy. He’s good.

Things to Be Concerned About

Turnovers. We ended yet another game with yet another turnover. If the guys can clean that up, we’d might see even bigger margins of victory. Scary.

That said, although the offense was pretty anemic out there, it doesn’t need to do much more than what it did — control the ball and score once or twice. With the way the other two phases of the game are playing right now, and the upcoming schedule, we don’t need much more from this group beside that. As it is, there are nine days or so until the next game against a struggling UTEP, which should give Mike Canales and company some time to tweak things a bit. I don’t expect to see Baylor type stuff out there, but it would be nice to get a few more drives longer than 3 to 7 plays.

Other Thoughts

Once again, it is worth mentioning how awesome tonight’s game was. Getting to six wins, getting such a great student turnout the week before Homecoming, beating the division leaders and doing it all on national television was like hitting all green lights on the way home. I hope this feeling never goes away.

For more on the game be sure to check on the live-blog archive.