Consistency The Key For Mean Green

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Courtesy: Getty Images

Consistency. That’s what the football program at North Texas is working towards.

They took a step closer on Saturday, coming back from a 17-0 deficit in the first quarter to beat Rice 42-35 in double-overtime on the road in Houston. The Mean Green is now 2-2 on the season, doubling their win total of a season ago and is now tied with Southern Miss for the top spot in the Conference USA West Division.

“The more you win, the more confident you get and the more momentum you get,” said Mean Green head coach Seth Littrell. “Not everything went perfect. We’re still not starting as fast as I would like. But the thing I did like is the way they battled back. They stayed together and kept on grinding it out.”

Freshman quarterback Mason Fine had the best game of his young career, throwing for 224 yards and a touchdown.  The offense showed its quick-strike capability, with three touchdown drives in 2:34 or less. Fine hit wide receiver Kenny Buyers for a 75-yard scoring strike, and running back Jeffrey Wilson busted out a 75-yard touchdown run.  The 42 points were the most the Mean Green scored in a game since 2014. The players seem to be responding to the new system put in place by Littrell and the coaching staff.

“It’s great for that reason that they are buying into what we are talking about and that’s something we stress,” said Littrell. “Keep continuing to play, don’t blink, don’t look at the scoreboard, it has nothing to do with that. We’ll figure out if we won the game after the fourth quarter. It’s huge.”

Their next two C-USA games are in the friendly confines of Apogee Stadium in Denton, starting Saturday with Middle Tennessee.  The Blue Raiders are off to the best start since 2013 at 3-1 and lead the East Division. North Texas leads the series 8-6 and have a 4-3 edge at home going back to 2001. However, Middle Tennessee won the last meeting in Murfreesboro last season.

“We still have a long way to go in all three phases,” added Littrell. “We still got to just continue to work.”

Kickoff is at 6 p.m. Saturday in Denton.

Written by C. James

Is Val Nichushkin Done in Dallas?

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There’s a possibility that the days of seeing Valeri Nichushkin in a Dallas Stars uniform are over.

Reports are the 2013 first-round draft pick is considering returning home to Russia and playing in the KHL. According to Pro Hockey Talk, CSKA Moscow acquired the rights to the 21-year old winger and Nichushkin is working on a two-year deal with CSKA. Nichushkin’s agent has denied a deal has been reached, but hasn’t ruled out his client going to the KHL. Basically all options remain open.

So why the change of heart to possibly leave Dallas?

The Stars were hoping to work out a deal themselves with Nichushkin, who is a restricted free agent, but nothing ever materialized. The Stars did make a qualifying offer to retain his rights and give him one more year to prove his value. Needless to say, Nichushkin didn’t sign on the dotted line.

And then there’s this: “Big Val” reportedly doesn’t want to play for head coach Lindy Ruff.

It appears more was expected from Nichushkin after a strong rookie year, where he scored 14 goals and 34 points in 79 games while averaging almost 15 minutes of ice time with the Stars. Injuries became an issue the following year, with the winger missing almost all of the 2014-15 season due to hip surgery.

Once he returned, the ice time dropped and Nichushkin struggled to find any consistency. In an interview earlier this year with Russian news outlet Sport-Express, Nichushkin said he didn’t feel Ruff trusted him, or played enough. Other players such as Mattias Janmark and Radek Faksa soon began overtaking him on the depth chart.

It appears that Nichushkin isn’t ruling out playing for the Stars down the road, but it’s unlikely he’ll step back on the ice again in downtown Dallas with Ruff at the helm.

Written by C. James