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Carolina Trojan
10-04-2005, 08:11 AM
UNT reaches judgment time

02:03 AM CDT on Tuesday, October 4, 2005

By BRETT VITO / Denton Record-Chronicle

DENTON – Just a few weeks ago, North Texas was on course to roll into its first nationally televised game at Fouts Field tonight.

UNT won its opener against Middle Tennessee and appeared as if it had a shot at carrying that momentum into a 6:30 p.m. game against the Trojans with wins – or at least competitive showings – against Tulsa and Kansas State.

That opportunity slipped away when UNT gave up 108 points in a pair of lopsided losses that left the Mean Green scrambling to get back on track heading into a Sun Belt Conference game against the Trojans on ESPN2.

"It would help us to get a win after what we have been through the last two weeks," defensive end Eli Hutchinson said. "It would lift everyone's spirits, but we don't have our heads down. There was a lot of good that came out of those games. We saw a lot of wrinkles that we need to take care of."

Those flaws became apparent when UNT needed a late interception return for a touchdown to knock off MTSU. The Mean Green then lost to Tulsa (54-2) and KSU (54-7) in its last two games.

A pair of landslide losses raised questions about UNT's ability to top Troy and extend its 26-game conference winning streak that is tied with Boise State of the WAC for the longest in the nation.

Victories have been elusive for UNT, which is trying to win a fifth straight league title but has struggled to execute on both sides of the ball.

"Our biggest problem right now is that we are making too many mistakes to beat anyone," UNT coach Darrell Dickey said. "The ability of our team is not hurting us as much as knowing what to do play after play, down after down."

Patrick Cobbs has rushed for 100 yards twice and broke the school's career rushing record against Kansas State. That milestone has been one of the lone highlights this season for the Mean Green, which has scored just two offensive touchdowns.

Cobbs is averaging 79.0 yards a game while Thomas is posting 44.3. Both totals are well off the averages each player tallied while winning the national rushing title the last two seasons. Cobbs averaged 152.7 yards a game in 2003 before Thomas posted 180.1 yards a game last season.

"We have shown improvement every week running the ball," Cobbs said. "Last week we had some chances against K-State, but missed some holes and missed some blocks."

UNT won't be able to afford the same types of mistakes against Troy. The Trojans were competitive against Missouri and South Carolina and rank second in the Sun Belt in total defense, averaging 374.2 yards allowed per game.

Troy's defense led the Trojans to the Silicon Valley Football Classic last season when the Sun Belt sent two teams to bowl games for the first time in its history. UNT won the league title and played in the New Orleans Bowl.

The winner of tonight's game will sit atop the Sun Belt standings and have an inside track on a trip to the New Orleans Bowl. That advantage and the glaring lights of national television make tonight's game a critical juncture for UNT.

UNT to recognize Fry: The UNT athletic department will honor Hayden Fry during tonight's game.

Fry was the head coach at UNT from 1973-78. He led the Mean Green to the 1973 Missouri Valley Conference title and posted 40 wins at UNT, including an upset of Tennessee in 1975.

Fry went on to coach Iowa for 20 seasons and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2003.

E-mail bvito@dentonrc.com

Troy (1-3, 0-0) at North Texas (1-2, 1-0)

6:30 p.m., Fouts Field, Denton (ESPN2, KWRD-FM 100.7, KNTU-FM 88.1)

WHAT'S ON THE LINE

UNT –A win would extend the Mean Green's Sun Belt Conference winning streak to 27 games and give UNT a boost in pursuit of a fifth straight league title.

Troy –The Trojans would become the favorite to win the Sun Belt title.

WHO'S HOT

UNT –Sophomore safety Aaron Weathers ranks 27th nationally with an average of 10.3 tackles a game.

Troy –Sophomore Leodis McKelvin won the Sun Belt Conference's Special Teams Player of the Week honor for the third time this season after returning a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown against South Carolina last week.

WHO'S NOT

UNT –UNT's receivers dropped five passes last week in a loss to Kansas State in which UNTfinished with 74 passing yards.

Troy –Senior running back Joel Whinghter rushed for a career high 102 yards, but lost a pair of key fumbles last week in a loss to South Carolina.

STAT THAT TELLS THE STORY

UNT has had 17 possessions in its last two games that have lasted three plays or less. The Mean Green's average drive in its last two games has lasted 3.8 plays covering 8.9 yards.

KEY MATCHUP: UNT'S offensive line vs. Troy's defensive front. UNT's offensive line has struggled to create any running room for running backs Patrick Cobbs and Jamario Thomas this season. Cobbs has two 100-yard games, but the Mean Green is averaging just 103 yards rushing per outing.

UNT WINS IF: Cobbs and Thomas can get UNT's running game rolling to take pressure off redshirt freshman quarterback Daniel Meager and the Mean Green's defense.

TROY WINS IF: They can overcome turnover problems. Troy has turned the ball over 10 times in its last three games while not forcing a turnover.

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: UNT 24, Troy 21