North Texas coach Seth Littrell maintained through the tough times the Mean Green have gone through defensively this season that it was just a matter of time before it all started to click under coordinator Clint Bowen.
That time appears as if it could be at hand following UNT’s 27-17 win over Rice on Saturday at Apogee Stadium.
UNT allowed just seven points in the final three quarters of its win over the Owls. That performance came on the heels of a win over Middle Tennessee back on Oct. 17 that saw the Mean Green allow just seven points in the second half.
“I am proud of Bowen, his staff and players,” Littrell said. “It’s pretty amazing what they have been through. He is getting comfortable with his players. We have had great weeks of practices.”
UNT has been forced to play without several of its top players this season for a variety of reasons and has been hit hard on defense. The Mean Green were without eight players during their win over Rice due to a host of issues, including coronavirus infections, contract tracing protocols and injuries.
UNT was without two starters on defense, linebacker Tyreke Davis and safety DeShawn Gaddie.
The Mean Green excelled despite those players being out.
“This shows what we can do defensively,” UNT safety Makyle Sanders said.
Defensive tackle Dion Novil finished with five tackles for loss and forced two fumbles. Defensive end Grayson Murphy posted two of UNT’s seven sacks.
“We are starting to communicate,” Novil said. “Guys are watching film on their own and doing what it takes to win.”
Rare turnover aids UNT in first half
UNT entered its game against Rice having forced just two turnovers on the season.
The Mean Green came up with a third that helped them take their first lead late in the first half.
UNT trailed 10-7 when the Mean Green punted to the Owls. Rice return man Austin Trammell muffed the punt before Alex Morris fell on the ball at the Owls 38-yard line.
UNT scored six plays later on a 25-yard pass from Jason Bean to Jaelon Darden.
The Mean Green recovered two fumbles on the day.
Adaway returns to UNT’s RB rotation
Running back Oscar Adaway returned to action for UNT for the first time since the Mean Green’s loss to SMU in the second week of the season.
Adaway cleared the 100-yard mark rushing in each of UNT’s first two games before suffering a hand injury that required surgery.
The redshirt freshman converted in a key third-and-6 situation in the third quarter with a 14-yard run. Adaway went on to rush for 72 yards.
UNT honors seniors before kickoff
UNT normally honors its seniors before their final home game.
School officials bumped up the ceremony to the moments before its game against Rice. Each senior had a video tribute from family members played on the Jumbotron.
The Mean Green have one home game left on their schedule, on Dec. 3 against Louisiana Tech.
UNT has seen five games either postponed or called off this season.