Big plays had become something of a rarity defensively for North Texas heading into its game against South Alabama on Saturday.
The Mean Green went two weeks without a turnover in losses to Arkansas State and Middle Tennessee and came up with just one sack in that span, and that came in the closing minutes of its loss to the Red Wolves.
UNT head coach Dan McCarney left little doubt in the days leading up to the Mean Green’s game against the Jaguars that he found those totals unacceptable. He expected better.
UNT was a whole lot better when it came to recording big plays defensively against USA, which was a big reason the Mean Green snapped a two-game losing streak with a 24-14 win at Apogee Stadium.
UNT recovered a fumble, got a touchback on another that was fumbled into the end zone and came up with two sacks. The Mean Green also posted six tackles behind the line of scrimmage for 27 yards in losses.
“We got a couple of turnovers on defense,” McCarney said. “We had more sacks, more tackles for loss, more pass breakups. We’ve got to build on that for the next couple of weeks.”
UNT linebacker Zach Orr came up with one of the bigger defensive plays of the night for the Mean Green.
UNT had just gone up 21-14 on Brandin Byrd’s 85-yard touchdown run when USA pushed the ball to its 46-yard line. Orr helped UNT continue to build on the momentum Byrd’s touchdown run provided when he recovered a Terrance Timmons fumble.
UNT converted that turnover into a 33-yard Zach Olen field goal.
The Mean Green picked up its second turnover after Tyrell Pearson intercepted a Derek Thompson pass. Pearson appeared as if he would return the interception deep into UNT territory, but dove for the end zone and fumbled the ball.
UNT got the ball back on a touchback when the ball hit the pylon.
The Mean Green also fared better in terms of getting pressure on USA quarterback Ross Metheny than it had against ASU’s Ryan Aplin or MTSU’s Logan Kilgore.
Defensive ends K.C. Obi and Aaron Bellazin each posted sacks.
“Coach has been on us to get more turnovers,” Obi said. “The last few weeks we hadn’t gotten any. We got them today and got the win as a result.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address