■ 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
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-
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.”
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.