Scenes From North Texas' 34-16 Heart of Dallas Bowl Victory Over UNLV Today.
All season long, University of North Texas head coach Dan McCarney hammered the message home to his football team: Losing is no longer acceptable.
And his players heard him: In 2013, the Mean Green made a commitment to tough, physical football play. In turn, they put their program in prime position to cap one of the best seasons in the school's 100 years of football play with a strong showing at the Heart of Dallas Bowl, which was played at Fair Park's Cotton Bowl this afternoon.
Coming into its first bowl game in 10 years with an 8-4 record, North Texas faced a 7-5 University of Nevada, Las Vegas team entering a similar rebounding period and appearing in their own first bowl game since 2000.
And, shortly after kickoff, UNLV held the early advantage as North Texas hurt itself with costly penalties on both sides of the ball — mistakes that stalled the team's own drives and kept UNLV's alive, especially during the Rebels' opening 95-yard scoring drive, which was aided by a personal foul penalty that put the Rebels in the red zone. North Texas quickly countered, though, with a rushing touchdown from sophomore running back Antoinne Jimmerson Jr. that tied the game at seven apiece, which is where the score would remain until after halftime.
But, soon as the third quarter began, North Texas began to pull away and put the game out of reach, scoring touchdowns on four of six second-half drives en route to a final 36-14 score.
In the win, senior quarterback Derek Thompson looked like the leader North Texas had been waiting for him to become all season long. He completed 21 of his 30 attempts for 256 yards and two touchdowns, picked apart the UNLV secondary and earned the game's MVP award. Senior wide receiver Brelan Chancellor finished second in MVP voting thanks to 74 yards receiving on the day, but his biggest contributions came in rushing the ball, as he scored two touchdowns on the ground. The Mean Green's stout defense played its part, too, stifling UNLV's scrambling quarterback Caleb Herring with five sacks and an interception.
These performances no doubt benefited from the strong North Texas fan attendance at the game. In total, the game drew 38,380 fans — a respectable figure, even if it looked paltry in the Cotton Bowl's 92,000-plus capacity space. The majority of crowd was there in support of the Mean Green, though, and green-clad fans crowding the stands behind North Texas' bench made for a sight to be seen, for sure.
“You saw the kind of support the team brought,” North Texas quarterback Derek Thompson said after the game. “It was so exciting, running on the field and seeing a sea of green.”
Head coach Dan McCarney echoed that sentiment in his own remarks, saying that the North Texas fans' reaction during the post-game trophy ceremony will be a lasting memory of his and promising, too, that this is not the end, but only the beginning.
UNLV defensive lineman Alex Klorman lead his teammates onto the Cotton Bowl field.
North Texas tight end Drew Miller leads his teammates onto the Cotton Bowl field.
North Texas running back Brandin Byrd breaks away from the Rebels defense early in the first quarter.
North Texas safety Marcus Trice reads the UNLV offense before the snap.
North Texas running back Antoinne Jimmerson Jr. eludes UNLV linebacker Siuea Vaseau.
North Texas wide receiver Brelan Chancellor attempts to run through the UNLV defense.
North Texas lineman Cyril Lemon holds up running back Antoinne Jimmerson Jr. after his rushing touchdown.
North Texas linebacker Jamal Marshall attempts to block a UNLV field goal in the third quarter.
North Texas defensive end Aaron Bellazin sacks UNLV quarterback Caleb Herring.
North Texas wide receiver Will Wright celebrates a catch made for a first down.
North Texas wide receiver Brelan Chancellor reads the UNLV defense on an option keeper in the wildcat formation.
North Texas defensive end Aaron Bellazin chases down UNLV quarterback Caleb Herring
North Texas wide receiver Carlos Harris tip-toes down the sideline in the fourth quarter.
North Texas wide receiver Darnell Smith catches a pass over his shoulder from quarterback Derek Thompson for a touchdown.
UNLV wide receiver Marcus Sullivan returns a kickoff in the third quarter. Sullivan tripped in the open field.
North Texas wide receiver Brelan Chancellor turns up the field on a run play and leaps into the end zone for his second touchdown.
North Texas head coach Dan McCarney delivers a post-game speech after his North Texas football team defeated UNLV 34-16 in the Heart of Dallas bowl.
North Texas head coach Dan McCarney and quarterback Derek Thompson address the media after the Heart of Dallas bowl.