■ North Texas has had lit­tle suc­cess against SEC teams, but it con­tin­ued its strong start by dom­i­nat­ing Arkansas 44-17.

Early TD punt re­turn paves way for first ‘power five’ win since ’11

The Dallas Morning News - - Sportsday - By BRETT VITO Den­ton Record-Chronicle bvito@den­tonrc.com

FAYET­TEVILLE, Ark. — Kee­gan Brewer causally hauled in a punt at the North Texas 10yard line Satur­day in the early stages of the Mean Green’s game at Arkansas and tried to play pos­sum.

Brewer never called for a fair catch and hardly moved as Arkansas de­fen­sive back Nate Dal­ton and line­backer Grant Mor­gan ran by.

“One of them asked me why they didn’t blow the whis­tle,” Brewer said. “I didn’t say any­thing. As soon as he passed, I knew it was go time.”

The for­mer Lake Dal­las stand­out was off and run­ning af­ter that. So were the Mean Green.

Brewer never called for the fair catch and raced down the side­line for a 90-yard touch­down. There were a plenty of highlights to look back on in UNT’s mile­stone 44-17 win over the Ra­zor­backs, but none il­lus­trated the Mean Green’s vic­tory quite like Brewer’s dash at Ra­zor­back Sta­dium.

The play was smart, com­pletely out of the or­di­nary and helped con­tinue a suc­cess­ful start to the Mean Green’s sea-

son.

UNT came into the night with a 4-37 record against teams from the SEC, and that in­cluded wins that came via for­feit af­ter Mis­sis­sippi State used in­el­i­gi­ble play­ers in 1976 and 1977.

The Mean Green’s two wins over SEC games on the field came against Florida in 1947 and Ten­nessee in 1975.

UNT fans still talk about that win over Ten­nessee un­der Hayden Fry. They’ll be talk­ing about this one for a while as well, es­pe­cially af­ter what UNT coach Seth Lit­trell had to say af­ter­ward.

“I don’t think it’s an up­set,” Lit­trell said. “I’m very con­fi­dent in our foot­ball team. We have done the right things. It’s three years into our cul­ture.

“We knew it was go­ing to be a chal­leng­ing game, but we truly felt like we had the best team.”

There was lit­tle doubt that was the case af­ter UNT got out of town with a re­sound­ing win, not to men­tion a $1 mil­lion check from Arkansas, the ap­pear­ance fee for the Mean Green.

UNT dom­i­nated an Arkansas team it had lost to nine straight times, in­clud­ing a 66-7 shel­lack­ing in 2007, the last time the Ra­zor­backs hosted the Mean Green.

The Mean Green’s de­fense that strug­gled at times last sea­son, al­low­ing 35 points per game, con­tin­ued its rapid im­prove­ment while in­ter­cept­ing six passes.

Ma­son Fine threw for 281 yards and UNT kept Arkansas off bal­ance by rush­ing for 95 yards.

UNT’s spe­cial teams came through as well. Kicker Cole Hed­lund drilled three field goals to go along with five ex­tra points in his re­turn to Ra­zor­back Sta­dium.

Hed­lund came to UNT over the sum­mer as a grad­u­ate trans­fer from Arkansas and shined against his for­mer team.

Mean Green play­ers ex­pected noth­ing less than play­ing a com­plete game.

“I felt con­fi­dent,” Fine said. “Our fo­cus was there. I felt like if we came out and ex­e­cuted we would do well.”

UNT got started early. Cor­ner­back Nate Brooks in­ter­cepted a pass from Cole Kel­ley in the first quar­ter to set up a short scor­ing drive Fine capped with a 2-yard touch­down run.

Fine was just get­ting started.

The ju­nior who grew up just over an hour away in Lo­cust Grove, Okla., dis­trib­uted the ball to seven dif­fer­ent re­ceivers.

UNT was up 17-0 at the end of the first quar­ter and never looked back while rolling to its first win over a “power five” con­fer­ence team since top­pling In­di­ana at home in 2011, long be­fore any cur­rent mem­ber of the team ar­rived on cam­pus.

“It’s a big deal to fi­nally beat one of these teams,” Brooks said.

UNT’s per­for­mance raised the ques­tion of just how long the Mean Green can keep their per­fect run go­ing. UNT has just one non­con­fer­ence game left next week at Lib­erty be­fore en­ter­ing Con­fer­ence USA play.

The Mean Green fin­ished 7-1 in C-USA last sea­son and ap­pear to have taken a step for­ward since.

Lit­trell left lit­tle doubt as to how big UNT’s win over Arkansas is for his pro­gram that is quickly gain­ing at­ten­tion in his third year in Den­ton.

“This is a huge win,” Lit­trell said. “Any time you can start 3-0 and beat an SEC op­po­nent on the road, those are pro­gram chang­ers.”

Michael Woods/The As­so­ci­ated Press

Khairi Muham­mad in­ter­cepts one of two passes at Ra­zor­back Sta­dium. Team­mate Tay­lor Robin­son (left) also had a pick­off, one of six UNT in­ter­cep­tions on the day.

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