Mean Green defense shines

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David Minton/DRC
North Texas defensive back Marcus Trice, right, and linebacker Jamal Marshall tackle Middle Tennessee running back Reggie Whatley on Saturday night at Apogee Stadium.

Richard Abbe didn’t enjoy the feeling in his gut for the last few days following one bad series that spoiled what was a good overall performance last week in a loss to Tulane.

The senior defensive tackle helped the Mean Green control its game against the Green Wave up until the bitter end when it allowed a game-winning drive that ended with Cairo Santos’ game-winning field goal.

UNT came back from that setback in impressive fashion Saturday in a 34-7 win over Middle Tennessee in the Mean Green’s Conference USA home opener at Apogee Stadium.

UNT held the Blue Raiders to just 139 yards. The total was a season best for the Mean Green, which also sent an Apogee-era (since 2011) record with 66 passing yards allowed.

“It feels good,” Abbe said. “We went out there all week and preached defense, defense, defense. We wanted to bounce back after that game against Tulane. We want to get hats to the ball and tackle.”

UNT did just that and made a series of big plays. Safety Lairamie Lee returned an interception 20 yards for a touchdown, and UNT forced three fumbles and recovered two of them.

MTSU was forced to go to backup quarterback Austin Grammer after starter Logan Kilgore was ineffective against a relentless UNT pass rush.

That was particularly satisfying for the Mean Green, which allowed just 227 yards in its loss to Tulane, which came up with 66 yards on its game-winning drive.

“I challenged our defense,” UNT head coach Dan McCarney said.

UNT responded with one of its finest performances of the last few years.

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 or via Twitter at @brettvito.


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