The Moments That Defined The Mean Green: Part 5
Rope-A-Dope Defense Rises To Occasions Against High-Powered UNLV
Every season has turning points and key plays that define success and failure. The 2013 North Texas football team faced long odds, but managed to make the plays that won nine games and let them lift the Heart of Dallas Bowl trophy on New Year’s Day.
Today, MeanGreenSports.com wraps up a weekly countdown of the five moments that we think define the resilient nature of last year’s Mean Green squad – and we want to hear from you. Let us know what moments/plays best defined the Mean Green.
No. 5 – Rebels Without A Cause
Thousands of new Mean Green fans in attendance at the Cotton Bowl and watching on TV nationwide were probably pretty disheartened by UNLV’s opening drive. Pinned at his own five-yard line, talented dual-threat quarterback Caleb Herring led the Rebels on a three-minute, 95-yard campaign that had the North Texas defense looking like it was out-manned and a play behind.
Herring, who completed his first nine throws, accounted for 59 yards through the air and 10 yards on the ground on that drive, which culminated in a nine-yard touchdown pass. It appeared as if he and the UNLV offense were simply picking up where they left off in the regular season when they averaged 31.2 points and 423 yards per game.
But just like it had done for much of the year, North Texas and its “rope-a-dope” defense took the first punch and responded with a terrorizing flurry that won the day for the Mean Green.
The Mean Green defense adjusted and held Herring to 6-of-24 passing for the remainder of the game. After allowing 96 total yards in the first quarter, UNLV would muster just 166 more yards over the next three quarters. The Rebels would only move 70 yards in the second half.
Ten times this year the North Texas defense allowed its opponent to score the first points of the game. In seven of those games, including the 36-14 win over the Rebels, the Mean Green would make the adjustments to come away with a win.
"I felt like that first drive where they went 95 yards on us, we were kind of playing on our heels and not playing Mean Green defense," Orr said. "I was telling our guys to settle in and play our style of football. We bounced back and pretty much shut them out the rest of the game."
Orr finished with a team-high nine tackles, which raised his career total to 365 and which tied him with Brad Kassell for the third most in school history. As the leader of this defense, Orr and the Mean Green left their stamp on a season that will go down as one of the best in school history.
Seven NT defensive players earned All-Conference USA honors in 2013, and only the 2002 NT defense recorded more sacks than the 39 put up this season. Many of those plays would find their way onto YouTube highlight videos as North Texas gained a reputation as a ball-hawking squad.
"They're going to beat you up a little bit," said UNLV coach Bobby Hauck. "They play very physical."