FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Keegan Brewer causally hauled in a punt at the North Texas 10-yard line Saturday in the early stages of the Mean Green’s game at Arkansas and tried to play possum.
Brewer never called for a fair catch and hardly moved as Arkansas defensive back Nate Dalton and linebacker Grant Morgan trotted past.
“One of them asked me why they didn’t blow the whistle,” Brewer said. “I didn’t say anything. As soon as he passed, I knew it was ‘go time.’”
The former Lake Dallas standout was off and running after that. So were the Mean Green.
Brewer raced down the sideline for a 90-yard touchdown. There were plenty of highlights to look back on in UNT’s milestone 44-17 win over the Razorbacks, but none illustrated the Mean Green’s victory quite like Brewer’s dash at Razorback Stadium.
The play was smart, completely out of the ordinary and captured the attention of college football fans nationwide.
So did the Mean Green.
UNT entered the day with a 4-37 record against teams from the Southeastern Conference, and that included wins that came via forfeit after Mississippi State used ineligible players in 1976 and 1977.
The Mean Green’s two wins on the field came against Florida in 1947 and Tennessee in 1975.
UNT fans still talk about that win over Tennessee under Hayden Fry. They’ll be talking about this one for a while as well, especially after what UNT coach Seth Littrell had to say afterward.
“I don’t think it’s an upset,” Littrell said. “I’m very confident in our football team. We have done the right things. It’s three years into our culture.
“We knew it was going to be a challenging game, but we truly felt like we had the best team.”
There was little doubt that was the case after UNT got out of town with a resounding win, not to mention a $1 million check from Arkansas, the appearance fee for the Mean Green.
UNT (3-0) dominated an Arkansas team it had lost to nine straight times, including a 66-7 shellacking in 2007, the last time the Razorbacks hosted the Mean Green.
The Mean Green defense that struggled at times last season while allowing 35.0 points per game continued its rapid improvement while intercepting six passes.
Mason Fine threw for 281 yards, and UNT kept Arkansas off balance by rushing for 95 yards.
UNT’s special teams came through as well. Kicker Cole Hedlund drilled three field goals to go along with five extra points in his return to Razorback Stadium.
Hedlund, an Argyle product, came to UNT over the summer as a graduate transfer from Arkansas and shined against his former team.
UNT’s players expected nothing less than playing a complete game against the Razorbacks (1-2).
“I felt confident,” Fine said. “Our focus was there. I felt like if we came out and executed we would do well.”
UNT got started early.
Cornerback Nate Brooks intercepted a pass from Cole Kelley in the first quarter to set up a short scoring drive that Fine capped with a 2-yard touchdown run.
Fine was just getting started.
The junior who grew up just over an hour away from Fayetteville in Locust Grove, Oklahoma, spread the ball around to seven different receivers.
UNT was up 17-0 at the end of the first quarter and had all the momentum in the world after Brewer’s return.
Special teams coach Marty Biagi put the play in the last few days.
“We worked on it all week,” Brewer said. “We just had to execute it.”
Brewer admitted he was kind of nervous about being leveled by a defender.
Even Fine wasn’t all that sure about the play.
“Coach Biagi told me he was going to run it,” Fine said. “I asked him, ‘Is this going to work?’ I can’t believe that it worked, but it worked.”
UNT had momentum on its side after the return and never looked back while rolling to its first win over a Power Five conference team since toppling Indiana at home in 2011, long before any current member of the team arrived on campus.
“It’s a big deal to finally beat one of these teams,” Brooks said.
UNT’s performance raised the question of just how long the Mean Green can keep their perfect run going. UNT has just one nonconference game left next week at Liberty before entering Conference USA play.
The Mean Green finished 7-1 in C-USA last season and appear to have taken a step forward since.
Littrell left little doubt as to how big UNT’s milestone win over Arkansas is for a program that is quickly gaining national attention in his third year in Denton.
UNT’s latest win and Brewer’s return will only boost the Mean Green’s profile.
UNT players and fans celebrated the win and the way the Mean Green captured the attention of the country in a nearly empty stadium, as chants of “UNT, UNT” echoed through the stands.
“This is a huge win,” Littrell said. “Anytime you can start 3-0 and beat an SEC opponent on the road, those are program changers.”