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Football: UNT’s defense comes up big late

By Brett Vito / Staff Writer

What started out looking like it might be a tough night for the North Texas defense in a game against one of the Sun Belt Conference’s high-powered units turned out to be something entirely different — maybe the Mean Green’s most clutch performance of the season.

UNT was down 14 in the second half of its game against Louisiana-Lafayette late Tuesday before shutting down the Ragin’ Cajuns the rest of the way in a 30-23 win.

Antoinne Jimmerson made the play of the night, catching a swing pass and taking it 78 yards for the game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

That play wouldn’t have been possible without the play of UNT’s defense late in the game.

“We gave up some easy plays and had some mental errors that really hurt us, but when you come back and hold that team to a field goal, that is really good defense,” UNT head coach Dan McCarney said. “You put yourself in position to win a lot of games in the conference if you continue to do that.”

ULL came into the game averaging 38.0 points a game and had not scored less than 24 in five games, despite facing high-powered Oklahoma State.

UNT forced five straight punts after Harry Peoples caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Terrance Broadway to put ULL up 20-6 early in the third quarter.

“We settled down and got back to the drawing board with [UNT defensive coordinator John] Skladany on the sideline and did what we needed to at the end,” UNT linebacker Zach Orr said.

UNT made the stand of the game after ULL took over at the Mean Green’s 47-yard line with 4:53 left. UNT was up 23-20 at the time.

The Mean Green gave up a first down but held ULL to a 47-yard field goal attempt from Brett Baer, who nailed it to tie the game.

ULL scored just 10 points in the second half.

“We started collapsing the pocket better and got better effort from our defensive line,” McCarney said. “Even though there were not sacks everywhere, we were causing [Broadway] some problems. Our technique was better; our coverage was tighter. We just played better overall.”

That improved play gave UNT a chance to win the game late, which is just what the Mean Green did on Jimmerson’s touchdown catch and run.

UNT’s defense in the second half ensured that touchdown would be the difference in the game.

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is .