2014 Heart of Dallas - No Texas 36, UNLV 14
North Texas 36, UNLV 14
Basically … UNLV got up 7-0 on a nine-yard Marcus Sullivan touchdown catch, and then it was all North Texas with 28 straight points on two Derek Thompson touchdown passes and short scoring runs from Antoinne Jimmerson and Brelan Chancellor. Jerry Rice Jr. caught a 13-yard touchdown pass with under five minutes to play to pull UNLV within 14, but Chancellor put the game away on his second score of the game.
- North Texas QB Derek Thompson completed 21-of-30 passes for 256 yards and two touchdowns.
- North Texas WR Brelan Chancellor caught six passes for 74 yards and ran seven times for 47 yards and two scores.
- UNLV QB Caleb Herring completed 22-of-41 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns with a pick, and ran 15 times for 33 yards.
- UNLV WR Devante Davis caught ten passes for 96 yards.
- North Texas LB Zach Orr made nine tackles with 1.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss.
- UNLV LB Peni Vea made 11 tackles
- UNLV DT Tyler Gaston made ten tackles with a sack and two tackles for loss.
North Texas (8-4) vs. UNLV (7-5) Jan. 1, 12:00, ESPNU
Here's The Deal … To most fans of the sport, the Heart of Dallas Bowl is an underwhelming matchup. To the two participants, it's going to feel like the Rose Bowl.
North Texas and UNLV playing on New Year's Day—who'd have guessed it? TV ratings will be low, but emotions and intensity will be off the charts at Cotton Bowl Stadium. The Rebels are not only bowling for the first time since 2000, but they've snapped a nasty streak of three straight 10-loss seasons. The turnaround in Las Vegas was so good that head coach Bobby Hauck made the improbable journey from the hot seat in the preseason to a three-year contract extension that runs through 2016.
Hauck's counterpart over on the other sideline, Dan McCarney, has done an equally good job in Denton this season. North Texas is making its return to the postseason for the first time in nine years, revving up a fan base that's been pining for a return to competitiveness. The Mean Green sprinted out of the gate in its Conference USA debut, coming within a Nov. 23 stumble versus UTSA away from capturing the league's West Division. Someone is going to leave Dallas with a win that is very important to the long-term health of its program.
Players to Watch: North Texas' success in 2013 has been erected squarely on a defense that yields only 18 points a game and has forced 32 turnovers. And no one is more important to that D than senior LB Zach Orr. The heart-and-soul of the unit leads the team with 114 tackles, showcasing his big-play ability by adding 11 stops for loss, four fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles. Sure, Orr will get help from the likes of DE Aaron Bellazin and S Marcus Trice, but No. 35 is the unquestioned leader of an underrated unit.
That Mean Green defense is going to have its hands full with the balanced UNLV attack. QB Caleb Herring, who only threw four picks in the regular season, is supported by a 1,000-yard rusher, Tim Cornett, and a 1,000-yard receiver, 6-3, 210-pound Devante Davis. Both players are making their returns to Texas. If the Rebels are going to reach the end zone, they might need to dial long distance every so often. North Texas leads the nation in red-zone defense, allowing a touchdown on less than half of opponents' trips.
Since UNLV is home to one of the nation's worst defenses, North Texas ought to be able to locate a spark from a playmaker or two. If not, it can always turn to a special teams unit that's been propping up the attack all year long. Tommy Perry's unit has been responsible for five touchdowns this season, including three on blocked punts. Plus, shifty Brelan Chancellor was named the Conference USA Special Teams Player of the Year, returning both a punt and a kickoff back for six in the fall.
Hauck and his staff know that North Texas wants to establish the running game. The burden is going to fall on LB Tani Maka and S Peni Vea to alter the Mean Green's plans. Maka and Vea are UNLV's most physical defenders, pressing up to take on blocks and sift through traffic. The Rebels did not get nearly enough help from the D-line, a central reason why the team is yielding 5.2 yards per carry. Making the challenge even tougher for the Rebs is the fact that North Texas boasts Conference USA's best tandem of guards, juniors all-stars Cyril Lemon and Mason Y'Barbo.
North Texas will win if … it succeeds at running the ball.
The Mean Green doesn't have a lot of confidence in QB Derek Thompson, which is why backs Brandin Byrd and Antoinne Jimmerson are so essential to the team's overall fotunes. There was one common theme in each of North Texas' four losses this year, an inability to move the ball on the ground. In fact, in those four games, the team normed just 62 rushing yards a game. When Byrd and Jimmerson are rolling, though, that presence, coupled with the defense and the special teams, makes the Mean Green very tough to outscore.
UNLV will win if … it's able to turn this game into a track meet.
The Rebels aren't built to win low-scoring games. During the regular season, they were just 1-5 when scoring fewer than 30 points. If UNLV is dragged into the kind of alley fight that neutralizes the effectiveness of Cornett and Davis, it'll never survive against an opponent like North Texas. The Rebs need to control the tempo of the game, stretching the field with all of its offensive weapons, including RB Shaq Murray-Lawrence and complementary receivers Maika Mataele and Marcus Sullivan.
What Will Happen: UNLV has style. North Texas will bring the substance to Dallas.
Sure, Cornett and Davis will pop off a money play or two, but it won't be enough to match the more complete Mean Green program. North Texas not only has the far superior D, but it can also dictate the game's tempo with the running of Byrd and Jimmerson between the tackles. The Mean Green backs will wear down an overmatched UNLV front seven, busting through the line as the game progresses. North Texas' edge in turnovers and on special teams will ensure that an early lead remains well-protected throughout.
Prediction: North Texas 34 … UNLV 24
Line: North Texas -6.5 o/u: 54.5
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