North Texas wasn’t the favorite to beat Georgia on Saturday, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t give itself a chance.
North Texas running back Brandin Byrd (24) looks for a hole as Georgia takes on North Texas at Sanford Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, in Athens.
The Mean Green had a solid showing at Sanford Stadium, but its special teams play stood out.
North Texas coach Dan McCarney wasn’t content with the 45-21 loss, but he said his team viewed Georgia as just another opponent prior to Saturday’s matchup.
“It’s hard to swallow, obviously,” McCarney said. “Everybody put a lot into it and we never sensed one minute of the David and Goliath with this matchup today. It was North Texas and Georgia, and they’ve been winning a lot and we haven’t. We’re moving in the right direction. They’ve been very successful every since Mark Richt has been at Georgia and we’re trying to get to that point.”
North Texas (2-2) was in the running for a win until late in the third quarter, and it wasn’t because of the Mean Green offense, which accounted for seven points in the game.
“We had opportunities to make more plays, but rarely are you ever going to win a game on Saturday when you only score seven points with your offense,” McCarney said.
For a team looking to pitch an upset in an SEC stadium, North Texas couldn’t get into a rhythm on offense. But the special teams did.
“Thank God our special teams were outstanding most of the day,” McCarney said. “We were pathetic most of the times on special teams last year. It was embarrassing. We’re making up a lot of ground from last year. We’re much improved.”
The first of two turning points for the Mean Green came late in the second quarter on a Brelan Chancellor kickoff return for 99 yards and a touchdown.
“The kickoff return guys gave me great blocks and I just ran to where it was open,” Chancellor said. “It was a big momentum shift. We were wanting a big play and we got one. Everyone was ready to play and had a different kind of attitude.”
More would come from the same unit later in the game.
Marcus Trice, an Oklahoma transfer, blocked Collin Barber’s punt near Georgia’s end zone. The punt was then recovered in the end zone by Zac Whitfield for a North Texas touchdown that tied the game up at 21.
Chancellor said special teams is an area where the Mean Green has worked hard and takes pride in this season.
“Guys really care about being good or being great on special teams,” Chancellor said. “It’s just about everybody having the want to to be good.”
The game was tied. But Georgia’s offense turned it back on late in the third quarter and the defense followed suit.
The lead was stretched, the crowd was loud and North Texas seemed to lose that rhythm it arrived at Sanford Stadium with. However, it wasn’t the crowd that took North Texas out of the game.
Quarterback Derek Thompson said the crowd noise at Sanford Stadium didn’t bother him, but Georgia defense did have an effect on his play.
“They’re an SEC defense,” Thompson said. “They put a lot of pressure on you and we kind of expected that coming in. We made good plays, but we struggled in the run game. We have to get that going in a way it can be more balanced and more effective for both run and pass.”
The senior quarterback said North Texas stands to gain a lot from its loss to Georgia.
“We were still in the game in the second half and when we come into these types of games that’s all you can really ask for,” Thompson said.
For McCarney, getting better before the start of conference play begins with improving North Texas’ offense.
“We have to execute better and we have to score more than seven points when we get into college football on Saturdays,” McCarney said.