In a matchup between two programs that haven't been bowling in a while, North Texas came away with an impressive 36-14 win over UNLV in the Heart of Dallas Bowl on Wednesday afternoon at the Cotton Bowl. Let's take a look at how it all went down:
It was over when: North Texas quarterback Derek Thompson dropped a dime over the head of UNLV defensive back Kenneth Penny and safely into the hands of receiver Darnell Smith for a picturesque 34-yard touchdown pass to give the Mean Green a 28-7 lead with 6:59 left in the game. The Rebels scored another touchdown, but the way the Mean Green were playing on D, they weren't going to relinquish that kind of lead.
Game ball goes to: The Mean Green defense. It constantly pressured UNLV quarterback Caleb Herring, sacking him six times. The Mean Green shut down the Rebels' running game, holding it to just 66 yards. After a 9-yard touchdown pass from Herring to Marcus Sullivan in the first quarter, the Rebels were quiet on offense the rest of the way.
Stat of the game: North Texas held UNLV to a minuscule 2.4 yards per carry rushing. Any time a defense does that, it helps keep the opposing offense in difficult down-and-distance situations and aids the defense's overall strong effort. The Mean Green were able to pin their ears back and relentlessly rush Herring with the running game not being much of a factor.
Unsung hero of the game: Not really unsung, but definitely game-ball worthy is North Texas quarterback Derek Thompson. The senior played through a knee injury and finished 21-of-30 for 256 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Mean Green offense. It was a gutsy performance by the veteran quarterback.
What it means: This is a huge win for North Texas. It marks the Mean Green's third bowl win in school history and first since 2002. It had been a while since they've even been to a bowl game (2004 was their last trip) but Dan McCarney and Co. appear to be headed in the right direction. After finishing 4-8 a year ago, finishing 9-4 this season is a nice turnaround for the Mean Green.
To watch the trophy presentation, click here.