Mean Green Notebook: Momentum Continues After Dramatic Win


That special moment, one which can change the course of a season and a program, happened Saturday night in Denton.

Trailing 26-22 with a 1:07 left in the fourth quarter, North Texas started what would be “The Drive.” The end result was magical. Mean Green quarterback Mason Fine connected with Rico Bussey, Jr. for the 22-yard touchdown strike with 10 seconds remaining for the 29-26 comeback win over UT-San Antonio.

The end result was no surprise for the Mean Green, nor was there any doubt in the huddle that the job would get done.

“I don’t know how to explain it,” Fine said. “The guys knew we were going down there and score. There’s no doubt that I saw from anyone. The guys made plays when they needed to.”

A key moment in the game-winning drive was when Fine found wide receiver Michael Lawrence for a 49-yard strike, helping set up the dramatic finish.

“When Mason throws the ball, he gives you a chance every time,” Lawrence said. “I just knew I had to be in the place where he threw the ball. I know I’m going to make the play. As a team, if there is time left on the clock, we know we go down there and score. No matter if there is ten seconds left or a minute left. That’s the mentality we have as a team.”

North Texas improved to 4-2 and remain unbeaten in Conference USA play at 3-0.  The Mean Green currently sit in first place in the C-USA West Division.

“I feel like we are starting to learn how to win football games,” said head coach Seth Littrell. “The momentum and confidence are always a big help. Once you start getting on a roll, you don’t want it to end. It locks you in and continues to keep you focused. Every game gets bigger.”

TAKING A TRIP TO FLORIDA: The Mean Green now take their three-game winning streak and hit the road for a trip to Boca Raton to face Florida Atlantic. The Owls go into the game with a 3-3 record under first-year head coach Lane Kiffin but are also tied with Marshall for first in the C-USA East Division. Both teams are 2-0 in conference play.

Florida Atlantic is also coming off a bye week. The Owls beat Old Dominion 58-28 two weeks ago on the road for their second consecutive win.

GETTING NOTICED: The honors started rolling in for Fine after the comeback win over UTSA. The sophomore signal-caller was named C-USA Offensive Player of the Week for the first time in his career. He was also named as a finalist for The Manning Award “Star of the Week” as well as the Davey O’Brien Award’s “Great Eight” list.

“It’s a great accomplishment but more importantly it’s a team accomplishment,” Fine said. “I couldn’t do it without those guys, without the offensive line, without the receivers making plays.”

Fine has thrown for 300-plus yards three times this season, including 354 yards and three touchdowns against UTSA.  He leads the conference in passing yards per game with 299.3 and in passing yards in 1,796.

“It’s a team effort,” Fine said. “Everyone is doing their job. I think that’s what it all comes down to. Everyone is focused on doing their job, not worrying about ‘me, me, me.’ That starts with the culture. That starts with the head man himself. Coach Littrell establishing our core values and it just trickles down to the players. We all believe in our core values and I think that’s the biggest thing right now.”

YEAR TWO: North Texas continues to improve under Littrell. Through six games, the Mean Green are averaging 37.2 points per game, which leads C-USA. That’s a dramatic increase from last season when they averaged 24.8 points per game.

“Year Two you can usually put a lot more on them,” explained LIttrell. “They know the system. You keep it as simple as possible in Year One so they can at least play fast. But it is also growing and making sure you know who your personnel is. Year Two in the system, the coaches are more comfortable with the system. The players, they start figuring out and knowing what the adjustments are. We’ve got a great group. Our coaches have done an unbelievable job. All the credit to them.”

Senior running back Jeffery Wilson is another player that has flourished under Littrell’s system. The two-time C-USA Player of the Week ranks tenth in the nation in rushing yards per game. Through six games, Wilson has 749 yards rushing and nine touchdowns.

“We understand the offense,” Wilson said. “We understand what the coaches are trying to accomplish and we understand what we’ve got to do to be successful. Knowing all that makes it a lot easy for us.”

ALL THE BUZZ: The buzz around the Mean Green football program not only continues, but stepped up a notch after the comeback win.

“I’ve had more students come up to me on campus and say ‘Hey, good job. Keep it up.’ I think the sport is growing around Denton,” Fine said.

And while that growth and excitement continues around Denton, the players are soaking it all in but remain focused on the tasks at hand.

“It’s a lot of fun,” added Lawrence. “You can tell things are changing but the atmosphere has been different. It’s been pretty cool.”


Mean Green Creating Buzz Going Into Showdown With UTSA

North Texas v Iowa

Courtesy: Getty Images

The work never stops at North Texas, even during the bye week.

Practices rolled on in Denton for the Mean Green with conference rival UT-San Antonio making the trip to Apogee Stadium this weekend.

“We didn’t have an off week, we had a week to get better,” said head coach Seth Littrell. “There was a lot of energy and enthusiasm throughout the week of practice. I think our guys did a great job last week understanding what we are trying to get accomplished. It’s not hard to get excited and get ready to play.”

North Texas sits at the top of the Conference USA West Division with a 2-0 conference record and 3-2 overall. UTSA is 3-1 and 0-1 in C-USA play. The Mean Green are 1-3 all-time against the Roadrunners.

“We know the challenge lying ahead,” Littrell said. “There’s a lot of great teams in this league. Tremendous challenge every single week.”

KEEPING THE MOMENTUM GOING: After starting off 1-2, North Texas has won their last two games, including the 43-28 win at Southern Miss during the last weekend of September.

How do they keep that momentum going coming off a bye week?

“The momentum never stops,” said wide receiver Jalen Guyton. “We used the week to get better. We try to build on something that we needed to improve on last week. You don’t stop momentum.”

“Just staying focused and staying locked in,” added safety Kishawn McClain. “You can’t settle down. You have to keep pushing and keep going at it every week and every day.”

McClain continues to be the anchor on defense with 27 tackles, an interception and two pass-break-ups this season. He is a preseason All-Conference selection for the second straight year.

MAKING AN IMPACT: The Mean Green have a talented group at the wide receiver position, which got a boost when Guyton transferred to North Texas. Needless to say, the sophomore wide receiver is having a blast during his first year in Denton.

“It’s exciting,” Guyton said. “Football is the love of my life. I can’t even put it in words. It’s just fun being out there with that group of guys and go show everybody in Denton what we’ve been working on all spring and summer.”

The Allen native spent a semester at Notre Dame before transferring to Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Texas. After a strong 2016 season at Trinity Valley CC, there were no shortage of opportunities from other schools. However, North Texas turned out to be the best fit.

Guyton currently leads the team with 24 catches, 244 yards receiving and five touchdowns. He’s also a deep threat for the Mean Green, with three of his five TD catches being 25 yards or longer.

“The first two weeks when we played Lamar and SMU, I was just smiling, having a lot of fun and trying to soak it all in,” Guyton said. “Then I focused on trying to elevate my play, just like every one of us out on the field is doing. “

Guyton was named C-USA Offensive Player of the Week for the week after the win over Southern Miss. He had a career-high 14 catches for 211 yards against the Golden Eagles.

ALL THE BUZZ: All this success has created some buzz around Denton. North Texas has won both of their games played in the friendly confines of Apogee Stadium and look to keep the good times going against UTSA.

“Everybody is excited, everybody is talking about it,” McClain said. “It’s going to be a very important game for both teams, especially for us. We are trying to stay undefeated in conference and bring this conference championship back to Denton.”

The school is also putting some money on the line this Saturday. If at least 40 percent of a student organization’s membership is in attendance at the end of the 3rd quarter, it will be entered to win $1,000. When it’s all said and done, there will be five $1,000 giveaways. Two students will also have a chance to win an Apple MacBook Pro computer.

Apogee Stadium has never been sold out since it opened the doors in 2011.

“There’s been buzz, especially this week, trying to get Apogee packed out,” Guyton said. “We’ve got great fans. I feel like our fans are the best in Texas. If we can get them to Apogee and get everybody ‘turnt’ up, that’s going to be exciting.”

HONORING FRY: Former North Texas head coach Hayden Fry will be honored at halftime on Saturday. Fry was the Mean Green head coach from 1973-1978 and won 40 games during that period, including a 10-win season and national ranking in 1977. Fry then left North Texas to become head coach at Iowa.