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Harry
DENTON - North Texas signed one of its highest-rated classes since recruiting services started grading prospects, on the first day of the early signing period for college football.
 The Mean Green inked 23 recruits Wednesday for its 2019 signing class, 11 on offense and 12 on defense, the majority of which are rated 3-star prospects. ESPN graded 17 of the signees as 3-star, 247Sports graded 20 as 3-star, and the more conservative Rivals graded 10 prospects as 3-star. Add one more 3-star signee, a graduate transfer who is not graded this year but was a 3-star prospect out of high school.
All three services ranked the North Texas class as No. 1 in Conference USA and among the best of schools from the Group of 5 conferences.
"The North Texas football program definitely got a lot better today," Mean Green coach Seth Littrell said. "I feel like it was a great day."
The 23 signings fill the Mean Green's available scholarships.
"We want everyone to sign early and be a part of this family," Littrell said. "We sent 23 scholarships out and we got all of them back."
The approach to recruiting of past North Texas football regimes was to focus on those players largely ignored by Power 5 programs. No longer. Littrell and his staff adopted an aggressive strategy, going toe-to-toe with schools from the Big 12, Big 10, SEC, ACC, Pac 12 and perennially bowl-bound Group of 5 teams and making offers a plethora of 4- and 3-star athletes.
That game plan is paying off. North Texas scored recruiting victories over TCU, Texas Tech, SMU, West Virginia, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Houston, Kansas, Syracuse, Indiana, Virginia, Louisville, Memphis, Oregon State, Northwestern, Maryland, San Diego State, Army, Navy, Air Force, and C-USA schools.
This year marks a significant rise in UNT's recent returns as Littrell builds recruiting momentum. The 2017 class was rated No. 115 in the nation with six 3-star recruits by 247Sports and No. 94 with four 3-stars by Rivals. Last year, UNT's class was up to No. 102 with 12 3-stars according to 247Sports and No. 93 with six 3-stars per Rivals. ESPN graded none of the UNT recruits in either year as 3-star.
But the 2019 class is garnering rave reviews from the recruiting services. Rivals ranked the Mean Green's class No. 55 in the nation and 247Sports ranked North Texas No. 62. Both services grade the UNT class as one of the top classes of Group of 5 programs. ESPN only ranks the top 40 programs nationally, and no Group of 5 program cracked that level.
 

2019 North Texas Early Signing Class
 
High School Signees
Name                                    Pos.       Ht.          Wt.        Hometown (High School)                                                            
Oscar Adaway III               RB           6’0”        208         North Little Rock, Arkansas (North Little Rock HS)
Asher Alberding                TE           6’4”        230         Houston, Texas (Clear Lake HS)
John Brunner                     OL           6’5”        300         Brock, Texas (Brock HS)
Daxton Byers                     OL           6’5”        295         Edmond, Oklahoma (Deer Creek HS)
Chris Cassidy                      OL           6’4”        275         Angleton, Texas (Angleton HS)
Leandre Davis                    DB          5’10”      190         Rosenberg, Texas (Terry HS)
Kenneth Dotson               DL           6’3”        255         Houston, Texas (Lamar HS)
DeShawn Gaddie             DB          6’0”        170         Arlington, Texas (Lamarl HS)
Kealon Jackson                  WR         5’9”        163         Pearland, Texas (Shadow Creek HS)
Taylor Jacobs                     LB           6’2”        215         Grand Prairie, Texas (South Grand Prairie HS)
Will Kuehne                       QB          6’1”        190         Owasso, Oklahoma (Owasso HS)
Khatib Lyles                        WR         6’2”        190         El Paso, Texas (Parkland HS)
Dorian Morris                    DB          5’10”      162         Mesquite, Texas (Poteet HS)
Gabriel Murphy                LB           6’2”        215         Dallas, Texas (Bishop Lynch HS)
Grayson Murphy              LB           6’2”        215         Dallas, Texas (Bishop Lynch HS)
Jevin Murray                      DB          5’11”      175         Pearland, Texas (Shadow Creek HS)
Deonte Simpson               WR         6’0”        192         Beaumont, Texas (West Brook HS)
Jimmy Walker                    DL           6’3”        255         Houston, Texas (Lutheran North HS)
Damon Ward                     WR         6’0”        192         Beaumont, Texas (West Brook HS)
Kevin Wood                        LB           6’0”        200         Converse, Texas (Judson HS)
 
Junior College/Grad Transfers
Name                                    Pos.       Ht.          Wt.        Hometown (Previous School)                                                   
D’Andre Plantin                OL           6’5”        301         Norcross, Georgia (Virginia Tech)
David Sow                           DL           6’4”        240         Dallas, Texas (Navarro CC)
Quinn Whitlock                 DB          6’0”        195         Pinola, Mississippi (Copiah-Lincoln CC)

High School Signees
 
Oscar Adaway III | RB | 6’0" | 208 | North Little Rock, Arkansas (North Little Rock HS)
Rated a 3-star recruit by ESPN, 247Sports and 247Sports Composite, and a 2-star recruit by Rivals. Ranked the No. 95 running back in the nation and the No. 9 recruit in Arkansas by ESPN. Ranked the No. 100 running back in the nation and No. 12 recruit in Arkansas by 247Sports Composite. Ranked the No. 69 running back in the nation and No. 11 recruit in Arkansas by 247Sports. As a senior, had 139 rushes for 953 yards and 12 touchdowns; and had 42 receptions for 656 yards and six touchdowns. Received offers from Colorado State, Southern Miss, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Central Arkansas, Eastern Illinois, Indiana State, Southeast Missouri State, Tennessee-Martin and Texas State.  
Asher Alberding | TE | 6'4" | 230 | Houston, Texas (Clear Lake HS) | @Asher_Alb89
Rated a 3-star recruit by ESPN, 247Sports, Rivals and 247Sports Composite. Ranked the No. 24 tight end in the nation and No. 145 recruit in Texas by ESPN. Ranked the No. 64 tight end in the nation and No. 205 recruit in Texas by 247Sports Composite. Ranked the No. 57 tight end in the nation and No. 188 recruit in Texas by 247Sports. As a senior, split time on offense and defense. On offense, had three receptions for 80 yards and a touchdown; on defense, had 27 solo tackles, 15 assists, seven tackles for loss and six QB hurries. Recorded at 4.99 seconds in the 40-yard dash, 4.46 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle and 32.5 inches in vertical jump according to ESPN. Recorded at 4.65 seconds in the 40-yard dash and 4.25 seconds in the shuttle according to HUDL. Also competes in 200- and 400-meter dashes and discus in high school. Received offers from Air Force, Kansas, Louisiana-Monroe, Rice, Texas State and Yale.  
John Brunner | OL | 6'5" | 300 | Brock, Texas (Brock HS) | @JohnBrunner66
Rated a 3-star recruit by ESPN and 247Sports Composite and a 2-star recruit by 247Sports and Rivals. Ranked the No. 126 offensive tackle in the nation and the No. 205 recruit in Texas by ESPN. Ranked the No. 203 offensive tackle in the nation and the No. 362 recruit in Texas by 247Sports Composite. Ranked the No. 223 offensive tackle in the nation and the No. 356 recruit in Texas by 247Sports. In 2017, was Texas All State first team (Padilla), second team (TSWA), All District first team, and All County Offensive MVP for Parker County. Recorded at 5.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash, 330-pound bench press, 550-pound squat according to HUDL. Received offers from Abilene Christian, Houston Baptist, Incarnate Word, Stephen F. Austin and Texas State.  
Daxton Byers | OL | 6'5" | 295 | Edmond, Oklahoma (Deer Creek HS) | @ByersDaxton
Rated a 3-star recruit by ESPN and 247Sports, and a 2-star recruit by Rivals. Ranked the No. 113 offensive tackle in the nation and the No. 15 recruit in Oklahoma by ESPN. Ranked the No. 147 offensive tackle in the nation and the No. 21 recruit in Oklahoma by 247Sports. As a senior, was part of offensive line that paved the way for 1,451 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns. Recorded at 5.26 seconds in the 40-yard dash, 4.94 seconds in the shuttle, 315-pound bench press according to HUDL. Received offers from Navy, Ohio, Columbia, Missouri State, Eastern Michigan, Texas State, Central Oklahoma and Western Illinois.  
Chris Cassidy | OL | 6'4" | 275 | Angleton, Texas (Angleton HS) | @cacassidy70
Rated a 3-star recruit by ESPN and 247Sports Composite, and a 2-star recruit by 247Sports, and Rivals. Ranked the No. 103 offensive guard in the nation and the No. 231 recruit in Texas by ESPN. Ranked the No. 204 offensive tackle in the nation and the No. 368 recruit in Texas by 247Sports Composite. Ranked the No. 225 offensive tackle in the nation and the No. 368 recruit in Texas by 247Sports. As a senior, was part of offensive line that paved the way for 3,138 yards rushing and 38 touchdowns. Recorded at 5.2 seconds in the 40-yard dash, 4.65 seconds in the shuttle, 365-pound bench press, 605-pound squat according to HUDL. Received offers from Air Force, Louisiana-Lafayette, Houston Baptist and McNeese State.  
Leandre Davis | DB | 5'10" | 190 | Rosenberg, Texas (Terry HS) | @TUDADDY_
Rated a 3-star recruit by ESPN and 247Sports Composite and a 2-star recruit by 247Sports and Rivals. Ranked the No. 219 recruit in Texas by ESPN. Ranked the No. 218 safety in the nation and the No. 445 recruit in Texas by 247Sports Composite. Ranked the No. 209 safety in the nation and the No. 362 recruit in Texas by 247Sports. Was a three-time 1-5A first-team All-District selection (2015-17). Recorded at 4.54 seconds in the 40-yard dash, 4.13 seconds in the shuttle, 225-pound bench press according to HUDL. Also competes in the 100- and 200-meter dashes, 4x100 and 4x200 relays, and the high jump in high school. Received offers from Army, Houston Baptist, Lamar, McNeese State, Northwestern State, Texas Southern and Texas State.  
Kenneth Dotson | DL | 6'3" | 255 | Houston, Texas (Lamar HS) | @kdotsontd
Rated a 3-star recruit by ESPN, 247Sports, Rivals and 247Sports Composite. Ranked the No. 188 defensive end in the nation and the No. 226 recruit in Texas by ESPN. Ranked the No. 99 defensive end in the nation and No. 197 recruit in Texas by 247Sports Composite. Ranked the No. 131 defensive end in the nation and No. 253 recruit in Texas by 247Sports. As a senior, played in only one game and had one solo tackle, three assisted, 1.5 tackles for loss, one sack, and one QB hurry. As a junior, had 12 solo tackles, 37 assists, seven tackles for loss, two sacks, one QB hurry and one fumble recovery. Recorded at 4.9 seconds in the 40-yard dash, 38-inch vertical leap, 340-pound bench press according to HUDL. Also competes in 110-meter hurdles, 300-meter hurdles, triple jump and 4x200 relay in high school. Received an offer from Massachusets.  
DeShawn Gaddie | DB | 6'0" | 170 | Arlington, Texas (Lamar HS) | @DGaddie2
Rated a 3-star recruit by ESPN, 247Sports, Rivals, and 247Sports Composite. Ranked the No. 140 cornerback in the nation and the No. 220 recruit in Texas by ESPN. Ranked the No. 101 cornerback in the nation and the No. 134 recruit in Texas by 247Sports and 247Sports Composite. Ranked the No. 84 cornerback by Rivals. Ranked the No. 51 recruit in Dallas-Fort Worth by the Dallas Morning News. As a senior, had 23 solo tackles, 34 assisted, four tackles for loss, five passes defended, three interceptions, two forced fumbles and one blocked field goal. Also ran track in high school, in the high jump, long jump and 200- and 400-meter dashes. Recorded at 4.43 seconds in the 40-yard dash, 4.3 seconds in the shuttle, and 35-inch vertical leap according to HUDL. Received offers from Air Force, SMU, Wyoming, San Diego State, Tulane, UTEP, Louisiana Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, New Mexico, Texas State and Southern Illinois.  
Kealon Jackson | WR | 5'9" | 163 | Pearland, Texas (Shadow Creek HS) | @Action1Jackson_
Rated a 3-star recruit by ESPN, 247Sports, Rivals and 247Sports Composite. Ranked the No. 163 wide receiver in the nation and the No. 193 recruit in Texas by ESPN. Ranked the No. 207 wide receiver in the nation and the No. 240 recruit in Texas by 247Sports Composite. Ranked the No. 268 wide receiver in the nation and the No. 281 recruit in Texas by 247Sports. As a senior, had 51 receptions for 871 yards and seven touchdowns; and 19 punt returns for 271 yards and two touchdowns. Recorded at 4.41 seconds in the 40-yard dash, 4.13 seconds in the shuttle, 33 inch vertical jump and 265-pound bench press according to HUDL. Also competes in the 100-meter dash in high school. Received offers from West Virginia, Houston, Florida Atlantic, Hawaii, Kansas, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, Southern Miss, South Alabama, Tulsa, UNLV and Howard.  
Taylor Jacobs | LB | 6'2" | 215 | Grand Prairie, Texas (South Grand Prairie HS) | @TaylorJacobs3
Rated a 3-star recruit by ESPN, 247Sports, Rivals and 247Sports Composite. Ranked the No. 29 inside linebacker in the nation and the No. 170 recruit in Texas by ESPN. Ranked the No. 74 inside linebacker in the nation and the No. 227 recruit in Texas by 247Sports Composite. Ranked the No. 76 inside linebacker in the nation and the No. 218 recruit in Texas by 247Sports. Ranked the No. 96 recruit in Dallas-Fort Worth by the Dallas Morning News. In 2017, was 7-6A first-team All District. Recorded at 4.47 seconds in the 40-yard dash, 10.7 seconds in the 100-meter dash, 35-inch vertical jump and 280-pound bench press according to HUDL. Also competes in 110- and 300-meter hurdles, 4x200 and 4x400 relays, and 200- and 400-meter dashes in high school. Received offers from Texas Tech, McNeese State and Arkansas Tech.  
Will Kuehne | QB | 6'1" | 190 | Owasso, Oklahoma (Owasso HS) | @Will_Kuehne17
Rated a 3-star recruit by ESPN, 247Sports and 247Sports Composite, and a 2-star recruit by Rivals. Ranked the No. 45 duel-threat quarterback in the nation and the No. 17 recruit in Oklahoma by ESPN. Ranked the No. 70 pro-style quarterback in the nation and the No. 22 recruit in Oklahoma by 247Sports Composite. Ranked the No. 71 pro-style quarterback in the nation and the No. 22 recruit in Oklahoma by 247Sports. Named first team All-State by The Oklahoman. As a senior, completed 204 of 359 passes for 2,569 yards and 24 touchdowns with seven interceptions; and had 97 rushes for 459 yards and five touchdowns. Recorded at 4.66 seconds in the 40-yard dash, 4.32 seconds in the shuttle according to HUDL. Received offers from Maryland, New Mexico, Arkansas State, Brown, Columbia, Cornell and Dartmouth.  
Khatib Lyles | WR | 6'2" | 190 | El Paso, Texas (Parkland HS) | @khatiblyles
Rated a 3-star recruit by ESPN, 247Sports and 247Sports Composite, and a 2-star recruit by Rivals. Ranked the No. 168 wide receiver in the nation and No. 204 recruit in Texas by ESPN. Ranked the No. 144 wide receiver in the nation and No. 159 recruit in Texas by 247Sports Composite. Ranked the No. 157 wide receiver in the nation and No. 163 recruit in Texas by 247Sports. Received offers from Texas Tech, Utah, Indiana, Kansas, Air Force, New Mexico, Southern Mis, UTEP, Abilene Christian, Columbia, Dartmouth, Yale, Liberty, Louisiana-Monroe and McNeese State.  
Dorian Morris | DB | 5'10" | 163 | Mesquite, Texas (Poteet HS) | @dm6__
Rated a 3-star recruit by 247Sports, Rivals and 247Sports Composite and a 2-star recruit by ESPN. Ranked the No. 147 athlete in the nation and the No. 236 recruit in Texas by ESPN. Ranked the No. 175 cornerback in the nation and the No. 230 recruit in Texas by 247Sports Composite. Ranked the No. 175 cornerback in the nation and the No. 223 recruit in Texas by 247Sports. As a senior, played in only six games and had eight solo tackles, six assisted, eight passes defended and one interception. Also competes in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes, 4x100, 4x200 and 4x400 relays in high school. Recorded at 4.45 seconds in the 40-yard dash and 10.69 seconds in the 100-meter dash according to HUDL. Received offers from SMU, Navy, Louisiana Tech, Houston Baptist, Liberty, Tulane and Texas State.  
Gabriel Murphy | LB | 6'2" | 215 | Dallas, Texas (Bishop Lynch HS) | @GabrielMurphy_
Rated a 3-star recruit by ESPN, 247Sports, Rivals and 247Sports Composite. Ranked the No. 114 outside linebacker in the nation and the No. 202 recruit in Texas by ESPN. Ranked the No. 84 outside linebacker in the nation and the No. 142 recruit in Texas by 247Sports. Ranked the No. 78 outside linebacker in the nation and the No. 150 recruit in Texas by 247Sports Composite. Ranked the No. 66 recruit in Dallas-Fort Worth by the Dallas Morning News. As a senior, had 35 solo tackles, 54 assisted, 11 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 15 QB hurries, two forced fumbles and one interception. Received offers from Air Force, Connecticut, Navy, Texas State, Tulane and UTSA.  
Grayson Murphy | LB | 6'2" | 215 | Dallas, Texas (Bishop Lynch HS) | @GraysonMurph_
Rated a 3-star recruit by ESPN, 247Sports, Rivals and 247Sports Composite. Ranked the No. 43 inside linebacker in the nation and No. 203 recruit in Texas by ESPN. Ranked the No. 92 inside linebacker in the nation and No. 157 recruit in Texas by 247Sports. Ranked the No. 79 inside linebacker in the nation and the No. 151 recruit in Texas by 247Sports Composite. Ranked the No. 70 recruit in Dallas-Fort Worth by the Dallas Morning News. As a senior, had 35 solo tackles, 44 assisted, 15 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, 12 QB hurries, six forced fumbles and three interceptions. Received offers from Air Force, Connecticut, Navy, Texas State, Tulane and UTSA.  
Jevin Murray | DB | 5'11" | 175 | Pearland, Texas (Shadow Creek HS) | @JevinMurray
Rated a 3-star recruit by 247Sports, Rivals and 247Sports Composite. Ranked the No. 136 safety in the nation and the No. 224 recruit in Texas by 247Sports Composite. Ranked the No. 138 safety in the nation and the No. 203 recruit in Texas by 247Sports. As a senior, had 23 solo tackles, seven assisted, four tackles for loss, six passes defended, one fumble recovery and two forced fumbles. Received offers from Florida Atlantic, Louisville, Memphis, New Mexico, Oregon State, Southern Miss, Army, Arkansas State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, South Alabama, Tulane and UTSA.  
Deonte Simpson | WR | 6'0" | 192 | Beaumont, Texas (West Brook HS) | @SimpsonDeonte
Rated a 3-star recruit by ESPN, 247Sports and 247Sports Composite. Rated a 2-star recruit by Rivals. Ranked the No. 110 wide receiver in the nation and the No. 118 recruit in Texas by ESPN. Ranked the No. 248 wide receiver in the nation and the No. 297 recruit in Texas by 247Sports Composite. Ranked the No. 237 wide receiver in the nation and the No. 248 recruit in Texas by 247Sports. As a senior, had 50 receptions for 839 yards and 10 touchdowns and 21 rushes for 215 yards and two touchdowns. Recorded at 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash, 31-inch vertical leap, 245-pound bench press according to HUDL. Received offers from Air Force, Cornell, Northwestern, Southern Miss, Lamar, Louisiana-Monroe, Tulsa, Tulane, Sam Houston State and Texas State.  
Jimmy Walker | DL | 6'3" | 255 | Houston, Texas (Lutheran North HS)
Rated a 3-star recruit by 247Sports, and a 2-star recruit by Rivals. Ranked the No. 145 defensive end in the nation and No. 305 recruit in Texas by 247Sports. In 2017, was named to VYPE's All-Houston area private school team Recorded at 4.8 seconds in the 40-yard dash, 4.1 seconds in the shuttle, 265-pound bench press according to HUDL. Received offers from New Mexico, Tulane and UTSA.  
Damon Ward | WR | 6'0" | 192 | Beaumont, Texas (West Brook HS) | @TheDamonWardJr
Rated a 3-star recruit by ESPN, 247Sports, Rivals and 247Sports Composite. Ranked the No. 177 wide receiver in the nation and the No. 220 recruit in Texas by ESPN. Ranked the No. 184 wide receiver in the nation and the No. 201 recruit in Texas by 247Sports Composite. Ranked the No. 165 wide receiver in the nation and the No. 173 recruit in texas by 247Sports. As a senior, played in only two games and had three receptions for 40 yards. Also competes in long jump and triple jump in high school. Received offers from Louisiana-Monroe, New Mexico State, Southern Miss, UTEP and Sam Houston State.  
Kevin Wood | LB | 6'0" | 200 | Converse, Texas (Judson HS) | @KevinWoodJr_
Rated a 3-star recruit by ESPN, 247Sports and 247Sports Composite. Ranked the No. 47 inside linebacker in the nation and the No. 226 recruit in Texas by ESPN. Ranked the No. 97 inside linebacker in the nation and the No. 303 recruit in Texas by 247Sports Composite. Ranked the No. 60 inside linebacker in the nation and the No. 185 recruit in Texas by 247Sports. As a senior, had 73 solo tackles, 34 assisted, 15 tackles for loss, 17 QB hurries, four sacks, one forced fumble, one blocked punt, one interception and two passes defended. Recorded at 4.65 seconds in the 40-yard dash, 4.2 seconds in the shuttle, 33-inch vertical leap, 245-pound bench press according to HUDL. As a senior, had 78 solo tackles, 38 assisted, 15 tackles for loss, 19 QB hurries, four sacks, one forced fumble, one blocked punt and one interception. As a junior, had 113 tackles, seven for loss, three sacks and two interceptions and was named first-team All-District 27-6A. Received offers from Liberty, New Mexico State and Texas State.  
Junior College/Graduate Transfers
 
D’Andre Plantin | OL | 6'5" | 301 | Norcross, Georgia (Virginia Tech) | @ERA_of_MOAM56
Graduated from Virginia Tech in December and is transferring to UNT. Will participate in spring drills and be able to play in 2019 as a redshirt senior. Rated a 3-star recruit by 247Sports. Ranked the No. 123 offensive tackle in the nation and No. 111 recruit in Georgia by 247Sports. Ranked the No. 134 offensive tackle in the nation by ESPN. Ranked the No. 59 defensive tackle in the country by Scout. As a senior in high school, was first-team all-region selection. Majoring in criminology. Father, Tony Plantin, was a defensive tackle at Clemson.  
David Sow | DL | 6'4" | 240 | Dallas, Texas (Navarro CC) | @DaveSow16
Rated a 3-star recruit by 247Sports and 247Sports Composite. Rated a 2-star recruit by Rivals. Rated the No. 143 JUCO recruit in the nation, the No. 11 weak-side defensive end and No. 10 in Texas by 247Sports Composite. Ranked the No. 131 JUCO recruit in the nation, the No. 9 weak-side defensive end and No. 10 in Texas by 247Sports. Received offers from Oklahoma State, Colorado State, San Diego State, New Mexico, South Alabama and Liberty.  
Quinn Whitlock | DB | 6'0" | 195 | Pinola, Mississippi (Copiah-Lincoln CC) | @De_Juwan3
In 10 games in 2018, had 28 solo tackles, 16 assists, 2.5 tackles for loss, six pass breakups, one interception and one fumble recovery. Had 12 tackles, including seven solo, and three pass breakups against Hinds CC on Oct. 11. Article Courtesy UNT Athletic Department

Harry
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Utah State was exactly as advertised.
The Aggies, ranked No. 23 in the nation, used a balanced, up-tempo offense and a ball-hawking defense to overwhelm North Texas in Saturday's New Mexico Bowl, 52-13.
In a game that quickly turned into a shoot-out, North Texas was without its biggest weapons. Quarterback Mason Fine, UNT's all-time leading passer and two-time Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year, sustained a hamstring injury in the first quarter, returned later in the first half but was left virtually immobile and was forced out of the game before halftime. The Mean Green's top receiver, Rico Bussey, Jr., was injured in the regular-season finale and was unavailable Saturday, and leading rusher DeAndre Torrey left the game with a leg injury in the third quarter.
The North Texas defense, meanwhile, held Utah State quarterback Jordan Love under his normal completion percentage, came up with a turnover against an Aggie attack that does not turn the ball over and had a sack against the best pass-protection in the nation. But Utah State hit big plays again and again, on the ground and through the air, scoring on plays of 72, 26, 37 and 67 yards in the opening half to take control.
"The reason this hurts so much is the expectations have changed at North Texas," Mean Green coach Seth Littrell said. "We expect to be in games and compete and win championships.
"We just made way too many mistakes."
North Texas finishes the year 9-4, posting back-to-back nine-win seasons for the first time since 1977-78.
"I can't say enough about this group," Littrell said. "I love them. I'm proud of these seniors, and they'll be a part of my family for the rest of their lives."
The Mean Green kept pace with Utah State (11-2) through most of the first quarter. North Texas trailed 7-0 when it lost Fine to an injury suffered as he scrambled for yards. Fine, limping noticeably, returned to lead a scoring drive capped by a 2-yard DeAndre Torrey touchdown run to tie the game at 7-7, and defensive back Nate Brooks thwarted an Aggie scoring threat with his sixth interception of the year, a pick of a Love fade pass into the corner of the UNT end zone, to keep the game close.
But the Aggies relentless attack kept piling up yards. By the 12:08 mark of the second quarter, Utah State had more than 100 yards passing and rushing and built a 21-7 lead, the first time North Texas has trailed this year by more than one score.
"We came out hoping to execute the way we're supposed to," UNT senior defensive back Kemon Hall said. "But they just out-executed us."
North Texas narrowly avoided turnovers on bad shotgun snaps, the second of which aggravated Fine's injury sending him to the bench and forcing UNT to punt from its own end zone. Utah State quickly took advantage of good field position and struck again, this time on a screen pass turned into a 37-yard touchdown and a 28-7 lead.
The Aggie lead grew to 38-7 by halftime, matching the most points North Texas allowed in a game this year.
In Fine's absence, North Texas used three quarterbacks, redshirt senior Quinn Shanbour and true freshmen Jason Bean and Kason Martin. Martin had the most success, completing 7 of 12 for 110 yards and opening the second half with the fastest scoring drive in New Mexico Bowl history when he hit Jalen Guyton for a 75-yard touchdown.
It was Martin's first career TD throw, and the North Texas defense followed with stops on consecutive Utah State drives to give rise to thoughts of a comeback.
But the rally hopes didn't survive the third quarter. Torrey and Martin limped off with a leg injuries, the Aggies came up their fourth interception of the game, and Utah State grabbed another big chunk of yards on a 38-yard pass to set up a 3-yard touchdown run and a 45-13 lead.
Quick Hits
In his final game at UNT, senior linebacker E.J. Ejiya (Blaine, Minn.) had two tackles for loss, giving him 40.5 for his career, the second most in program history. Ejiya passed Brad Kassell (1998-2001). The all-time lead remains in the hands of Brandon Kennedy (2000-03) with 61.0. Ejiya also moved into the top position for single-season tackles for loss with 25, exceeding Kennedy's 2002 total of 24.0. The Mean Green were without junior wide receiver Rico Bussey, Jr., UNT's leading receiver with 1,017 yards and 12 touchdowns, out with a hamstring injury suffered in the final regular-season game against UTSA. This was the first time North Texas has trailed a game at the end of the first quarter this season, and the first time the Mean Green trailed by more than one score. North Texas was the last team in the Football Bowl Subdivision to not trail by more than one score. Senior defensive back Nate Brooks (Whitehouse, Texas) stopped a Utah State scoring threat with his sixth interception of the year. That ties Brooks for eighth for most interceptions in a season all-time at North Texas. Redshirt sophomore running back Nic Smith (Arlington, Texas) had 48 yards rushing to top 1,000 for his career with 1,047. Freshman quarterback Kason Martin (Manvel, Texas) threw the first touchdown pass of his collegiate career, a 75-yard strike to Jalen Guyton. Freshman quarterback Jason Bean (Mansfield, Texas) made his collegiate debut Saturday. North Texas has lost three bowl games in a row, the second three-game bowl skid in program history. The Mean Green lost consecutive bowl games in 1948, 1959 and 2001. This is the most points North Texas allowed this season. Utah State's 556 yards total offense are the most North Texas allowed this year. This was the most points North Texas has allowed in a bowl game, surpassing the 50 surrendered a year ago to Troy in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl link:  https://meangreensports.com/news/2018/12/15/football-wounded-mean-green-fall-in-new-mexico-bowl.aspx

Harry
1).  When did you start supporting Utah State as a fan? 
My folks met at Logan HS.  I was raised on Aggie songs crossing the Nevada desert when we were kids, and tales of Aggie FB [my dad played there right after WWII, and his granddad was the first music prof at USU].
2).  Where does Utah State sit in the hierarchy of the other major Utah colleges?  Who are your main rivals in terms of bigger and smaller schools?  Who is your arch rival?
The parochial stench in Provo is our biggest rival.  The pukes in Salt Lake won't play us any more [after 100+ years of playing].
3).  Utah State and North Texas have a past both in the Big West and the Sun Belt conference.  How is Utah State's current conference affiliation working out in the Mountain West?  Do you see the Mountain West as a long term conference home or are you looking for potential realignment opportunities?
The MWC is the ideal conference with the regional rivalries.  It was a struggle in the BWC days with the WAC poaching programs.  Alas, the USU/UNT series was only a marriage of convenience.  I like where you folks ended up landing as well.
4). What region does Utah State typically recruit players from?
We recruit locally [Wyo/Ariz/Colo/Utah/Ida], as well as Pacific NW, California, Texas and Florida.  We try to keep about 40%+/- local.
5).  How is the reception of the fanbase on Gary Anderson returning as head coach?
His biannual breakdowns are concerning, but his success in raising USU back to '60s era dominance in the region was a huge, huge thing for us.  The "Raiders of the Rockies" are back!
7).  Utah State had a fantastic season, ranked in the top 25 and only losing to Boise and Michigan State.  Where does this season rank in terms of your time in following the program?
Maybe 3rd or 4th ['72, '60-62 teams were better].
8).  How would you describe the Aggie squad this season for those who have not seen them play?  They seem to have good size on the lines and talent at running back. 
The two-headed monster at RB ( Darwin Thompson - 132 carries for 951 yards and Gerold Bright - 125 carries for 785 yards) has been a pleasant surprise.  We were worried when we'd be relying on a JC (Thompson transferred from Northeastern Oklahoma) so much.  The new OL coach [poached by Tech] made all the difference.  The kids weren't much different in talent, size, etc.
9).  Please tell us more about your impressive QB Jordan Love.
He took over about 1/2 way through last season as a redshirt frosh and led the Ags to a bowl after a miserable 3-9 season the year before.  He showed up 6'2 185 and is now 6'4 225.  When he's right, I've only seen 4ish QBs better since I started watching in person in the '60s.
10).  I believe you had a special teams returner who is garnering All American status.  What can you tell us about him.
[Savon] Scarver ran one back against the NewMags in last year's bowl game and ran back two this season.  He's some kinda fast.  Good blocking this season.
11).    Is USU's offense run first than pass?  How would you describe their offensive identity.   Same for defense.
Pass to set up run [contrary to my own preference].  Defense is pressure, pressure, pressure.  Lots of guys flying around.  With all the risk taking, people occasionally pop one.  It's hard leaving those poor DBs on those islands.
12).   How does the average USU fan perceive North Texas heading into this bowl?
Most prolly don't remember the many years of conference affiliation.  The hard-core guys sure do.  And your somewhat gaudy record will catch people's attention.
13).  USU is being listed as an 8-9 point favorite in this game.  How do you see it playing out?
I have a numbers analysis I do.  I see this as a USU win by 5, 35-30.  Lots of offense by two really nice QBs.  If I were a bettor, I'd be taking UNT to cover and the over.
14).  What is your greatest USU football memory in your years of following the program or top 3?
Beating Southern Miss in 1972 on a blocked punt with no time left in a sleet storm in Logan:  Ray Guy was their punter.  We had a guy die of a heart attack right after, he got so excited.  What a way to go!
Beating Utah in Logan by about 30 in the same year, where our QB Tony Adams passed for 561, setting an NCAA record.
Beating Wisconsin at Wisconsin in 1968.

USU78
Thought our flatlander cousins would like to see a USU fan's [and one-time player's] thoughts on USU's personnel.  Offense first.  Defense if I can find time today [I'm driving down tomorrow].
OL
Tackles are RS Frosh Alf Edwards and Senior Sean Taylor on the left and right, respectively.  They're backed up by Seniors Roman Andrus and redshirting frosh Jacob South.  Edwards is the guy to watch.  Surprisingly good footwork on the weak/blind side for a guy this long and this young.  South still has his redshirt on and has a game to give.  He's the future of the line, along with Edwards.  They are all surprisingly [for us] good at getting downfield on running plays to take out DBs.  The grand total of 5 sacks over 12 games gives the best indicator of their success taking out the rush, including the blitzes and dogs.
Guards are Roman Andrus and Senior Rob Castaneda.  They're backed up by Senior Moroni Iniguez and Frosh Wyatt Bowles.  The following applies to all of the backups:  because of the 1st stringers sitting down in nearly all games for the last quarter and a half, the backups have all gotten a lot of good minutes in real gametime.  USU pulls a lot of guards, and requires a lot of them in holding blocks, as both the principal running backs are pretty good at waiting on the blocking before they commit.  The ypc numbers are pretty gaudy as a result, with lots of breakouts by both RBs for long runs and TDs.
Center is Senior Quin Ficklin, a yBu transfer who was a TE.  He hit the gym and developed into a very highly regarded center.  Calls a nice game.  Check out Hans Olsen's [Merlin's nephew] youtube vids breaking down USU's team, especially the line, in game situations.  He's backed up by Demo Ali'ifua.
TE
It starts with Dax Raymond, a RS Junior who's announced he's leaving school for the draft next Spring.  He is perhaps the best blocker on the team, is really quick, with really sticky hands, and he's a load to bring down.  He's backed up by Soph Terrell Carson, who's just as rangy, not quite as stout, but a pretty good blocker, and good hands.  He lacks the breakaway speed of Raymond.
WR
It starts with the guys on the outside, Seniors Ron Tarver and Jalen Green, who bring in 10.90 and 14.16 ypc, with 7 and 5 TDs.  Green's more a possession guy, with Tarver being the guy who wins jump balls on the sideline and in the endzone.  In the slot is a three-headed-monster with Seniors Aaren Vaughns, DJ Nelson, and Soph Jordan Nathan, who bring in 15.23, 9.33, and 10.96 ypc, with 3, 0, and 3 TDs.  Both DJ and Vaughns pass a little [DJ was an all-everything HS QB, who also holds for kicks].  Nathan runs back punts, quite successfully.  Backups on the outside are Soph Savion Scarver and Taylor Compton and Frosh Deven Thompkins, who bring in 18.38, 7.25, and 7.22 ypc, with 2, 0, and 0 TDs.  Scarver is the KO return guy.
RB
USU has a two-headed monster at RB who rarely are in the game together:  Darwin Thompson and Gerold Bright.  Thompson is not quite as fast as Bright.  Bright is not as stout as Thompson. They bring in 7.2 and 6.3 ypc, with 14 and 8 TDs.  Each is pretty good out of the backfield, 15.27 and 11.16 ypc, with 2 and 3 TDs.  Both are in the 5'8-5'9 200 lb range.  Thompson is a gym rat with astonishing measurables.
QB
6'4 225 Soph Jordan Love has been quite a find.  He's backed up by RS Frosh Henry Colombi.  They rush for 1.5 and 8.3 ypc, with 6 and 1 TDs.  They pass for 8.58 and 5.98 ypp, with 28 and 0 TDs, with 5 and 0 INTs, and suffering 5 and 0 sacks.
Only two teams have been able to defend USU consistently:  Wyoming and Colorado State, both road games.  Boise did a fair job on defense, enough to keep ahead of USU by 2 points in Boise until the last 5 seconds of the game.  But if you want to know how to defend USU, take a look at what our Front Range cousins did.

Harry

How Did We Get Here?

By Harry, in GoMeanGreen.com ,

DENTON – There is only one team in the Football Bowl Subdivision that has not trailed by more than one score in 2018, and it's not anyone playing in the College Football Playoff. It's the North Texas Mean Green.
Three short years ago, the outlook was not so rosy. North Texas saw itself trailing by multiple scores routinely during 1-11 season that saw a coach relieved of his duties midway through the year.
Members of the senior class have seen quite a bit in their time in Denton. Quarterback Quinn Shanbour, who is finishing his sixth season on campus, has a unique view of the changes at UNT. In his first season, the Mean Green win nine games and the Heart of Dallas Bowl; in his third, UNT went 1-11; now, he's been part of two straight nine-win seasons.
"I was very lucky to be a part of the 2013 season and obviously the 2018 season, and it feels like two mountain peaks and a real deep valley in between," Shanbour said. "Going out on a high is really big for me."
That valley was a major low point for a program in desperate need of a reset. Enter Seth Littrell. The former North Carolina offensive coordinator brought his high-flying Air Raid attack to Denton and made significant changes across the board to lift the program out of the doldrums.
The 2015 campaign was tough on everyone. Fans, coaches, administration, but, most of all, the student-athletes. Perspective, however, helped them climb out of it.
"I don't really look at 2015 as a tough year as much as it was a lesson," defensive lineman Ulaiasi Tauaalo said. "We came back the following spring and the biggest thing was that everyone bought in (with coach Littrell) quickly. Throughout the years there have been a lot of highs and lows, but everything has happened for a reason."
Littrell instilled a set of core values, and he and his staff transformed the culture. When Littrell told the room of 100-plus players on report day that their goal in 2016 was to win a bowl game that year, no one batted an eye, despite the fact that those outside that room would meet that statement understandably, with a whole lot of skepticism.
Littrell created a family-oriented environment. He made sure it was a true level playing field upon his arrival, and gave everyone the opportunity to compete for jobs and roles within the team. Shanbour, a walk-on when Littrell arrived in Denton, impressed his new head coach with his work ethic and attitude, becoming the first player that earned a scholarship under Littrell's guidance, which is a source of pride for the Oklahoma City native.
After a 5-7 regular season, the Mean Green earned a berth in the Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl thanks to a strong Academic Performance Rate.
"You can attribute a lot of the success to the change in culture," cornerback Nate Brooks said. "Before this coaching staff got here, the culture was just bad. There was no other way to describe it. It was a lot of players just doing what they wanted and not buying into the team and playing for themselves. Once this staff got in and changed the culture, it changed our team's mindset. Them changing the culture is a large part of how successful we've been."
The culture is built on family and accountability, and it started to take shape in 2016 and continued to grow as 2017 approached.
North Texas saw a massive jump in 2017, improving on its win total by four games, thanks in part to a breakout performance by quarterback Mason Fine and the offense that scored 35.5 points per game. Close wins were a calling card, as five of those nine wins were decided by one possession or less.
There were a lot of times, however, where the team found itself trailing. It was really good at climbing out of holes, but found themselves in that situation far too often.
But 2018 felt different. Expectations were sky high heading into the season and the Mean Green answered the bell early, opening at 4-0 with a landmark win at Arkansas. The standard was raised. That meant fan and media expectations were high as well, so when some losses came, so too did the criticism.
"We felt like the better team at all times this year," Shanbour said. "Thinking about never trailing by more than a possession, it means we are always in the game, which gives us a great chance every week. Unfortunately in the losses the opponents got that last drive on us."
It shows just how far the program has come in three short years that some were disappointed with a 9-3 season. Now, with an opportunity for a 10th win staring the Mean Green in the face, this group sees the chance to leave its legacy.
"The biggest thing is that the foundation is set now," Tauaalo said. "This is normal now. Knowing when we step out there that we're the better team, we know we built that from our workouts, from our summers, to spring, how everyone does the little things. Accountability for something small makes a big difference. Everyone takes care of business in a professional way like it should be.
"My biggest takeaway from my time here is that I can leave here knowing that the foundation is set. That will keep me at peace. I'm walking away knowing that there's great things ahead for the program, and I'm just glad to be a part of the journey of what is next for this program."
Heading into this week's New Mexico Bowl against a very talented Utah State team, there is a lot at stake for North Texas. It can win 10 for the third time in 103 years of North Texas football, it can knock off a ranked opponent for the second time ever and first time in 44 years, and it can accomplish the mission set forth by Littrell in that meeting in August of 2016.
What would winning Saturday's New Mexico be like?
"That'll be my Super Bowl for right now," Brooks said. "It will probably be one of the greatest moments of my life up to this point."
Link:  https://meangreensports.com/news/2018/12/12/football-how-did-we-get-here.aspx
 



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