BATON ROUGE, La. — Dan McCarney spoke of how he wanted North Texas to shock the world in its opener against LSU, stay competitive into second half and maybe even get out of town with a win.
That dream vanished on a night that left UNT’s head coach skimming over the bright spots while focusing on the bottom line: No. 3 LSU jumped on UNT from the opening kick Saturday and never let up in a 41-14 win at Tiger Stadium in front of a crowd of 92,059.
“I thought that we would hang in there better and thought that we would match up a little better,” McCarney said. “We are not accepting losing.
“It’s not a good job. [Losing] 41-14 is inexcusable.”
That final was as close as UNT has come in the five games it has played against the Tigers
The tightest game before Saturday was played in 2008, and UNT didn’t reach the end zone in a 41-3 loss.
That’s the norm for games between UNT and LSU. The Mean Green had gone three full games against the Tigers without reaching the end zone.
UNT ended that streak, thanks to Brelan Chancellor. The junior wide receiver scored on touchdown passes that covered 80 and 15 yards.
Unfortunately, for the Mean Green, those highlights came after UNT fell behind 24-0.
McCarney has spoken of changing the expectations of a program that has not played in a bowl game since 2004.
He’s not one to look at the bright side after a lopsided loss.
UNT’s players got the message.
“We have things to build on, but we didn’t come out and play like we were supposed to,” Chancellor said. “We had too many missed opportunities.”
The most costly of those missed opportunities came early in the game. UNT went three-and-out on its first five possessions.
LSU took advantage while running out to an early lead behind running backs Kenny Hilliard and Alfred Blue, who finished with 141 and 123 yards, respectively.
The Tigers needed only four plays to score on their first drive, which Hilliard capped with a 38-yard run. Odell Beckham tacked on a 70-yard punt return for another score.
UNT appeared as if it might fold after its offense managed only 22 yards in the first quarter, but received a huge shot in the arm from Chancellor.
The Mean Green faced a third-and-10 from its own 20-yard line when Chancellor caught a slant over the middle and outraced LSU’s defense to the end zone.
That score, combined with a few key defensive stands, kept UNT in the game. Freshman cornerback Zac Whitfield intercepted a Zach Mettenberger pass at the goal line in the second quarter after LSU had reached UNT’s 7-yard line, and LSU kicker Drew Alleman later missed a 44-yard field-goal attempt.
UNT cornerback Hilbert Jackson also posted a highlight-worthy hit on Mettenberger on a blitz, temporarily knocking him out of the game.
UNT just didn’t do enough offensively to take advantage. Thompson threw for 143 yards and his two touchdowns to Chancellor.
Those were memorable plays for UNT, which had waited a long time to reach the end zone against the Tigers.
It just wasn’t enough to satisfy the Mean Green.
“This is absolutely not what we want,” Thompson said. “LSU is a great football team, but we had a lot of confidence and thought we could get it done.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.