DALLAS — At the time, North Texas senior wide receiver Brelan Chancellor’s first-down reception didn’t look like much.
North Texas and UNLV were still in the midst of a brief scoring drought in the third quarter, and to that point, both offenses struggled to put drives together.
But that was the reception that sparked the drive that sparked UNT to a 36-14 win against UNLV in Wednesday’s Heart of Dallas Bowl.
The Mean Green carried the momentum from that scoring drive into the fourth quarter and scored 21 straight points en route to UNT’s first bowl win since 2002.
On UNT’s first drive of the half, the Mean Green converted all four of its third-down attempts and took its first lead with 6:07 left in the third quarter. On the next drive, UNT’s defense quickly gave the ball back to the offense. The game’s momentum remained on UNT’s green-shaded side of the bleachers for the remainder of the contest.
UNT senior quarterback Derek Thompson said that he could feel the opening drive of the second half was turning into something special.
“We’re a second-half football team,” Thompson said. “We’ve been that all year. We knew if we picked up the tempo, that we could do some things and move the football. We just made plays.
“It wasn’t anything special that we did. We just executed. The defense did the rest.”
UNT received the ball with 11:18 to go in the third quarter, and quickly the Mean Green faced a third-and-16 following a 15-yard penalty. Thompson threw the ball to Chancellor near the sideline, and Chancellor nimbly stayed in bounds and picked up the yards needed for the first down.
“He made me look good a lot of times this year,” Thompson said. “He made my job so easy. He’s such a humble person. He doesn’t demand the ball. He just asks how he can help this football team. That’s the kind of guy you want on your team.”
The Mean Green also converted third downs of 7, 8 and 7 yards on the drive. On one of those plays, Thompson was leveled as he threw a pass to sophomore tight end Marcus Smith. As the chains were moved 27 yards, Thompson was helped to his feet by a receiver and an official.
The team capped the drive with a third-down touchdown pass to senior tight end Drew Miller with 6:07 left in the quarter, the game’s final lead change.
When the kickoff unit came back onto the field, the players jumped up and down and asked the overwhelming-green crowd for more noise. The crowd obliged.
The defense came back and stopped UNLV from picking up a first down. It was the second straight drive the Rebels’ offense couldn’t get anything going.
“It’s uncanny how well these guys have played coming out of the locker room,” UNLV head coach Bobby Hauck said. “They stopped us, went down and got a score. That was a little bit of a change for us. But when that happens, we’ve got to go make plays.”
The Mean Green’s offense used extended drives to wear down the Rebels. UNT head coach Dan McCarney said he could tell UNLV’s defense looked tired in the second half.
“We started wearing them out,” McCarney said. “This is a physical program. It’s based on physicality. It’s based on finishing.”
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