In so many ways, this is a win.
2015, under fired coach Dan McCarney? UNT loses 62-16.
2017, under Seth Littrell? UNT loses, 31-14.
In addition to beating the spread, North Texas led Iowa headed into the second half, 14-10. In our preview, we noted that one of the keys to shutting down Iowa would be to get key stops, learn from mistakes committed the previous week against SMU, and hold off garbage time until the 4th quarter.
This is exactly what North Texas did.
Despite throwing for over 450 yards last week, Mason Fine was stifled, and held to only 167 yards through the air. On the flipside, Iowa QB Nathan Stanley was held to only 197.
It wasn't until late in the third quarter that Iowa finally pulled ahead, on a 23-yard TD pass (on 4th and 5), making the score 17-14. Another two touchdowns in the fourth sealed the deal, even as Iowa played the second half without top RBs Akrum Wadley and James Butler. This wasn't even garbage time, as both suffered temporary but non-season-threatening injuries, Wadley to his right leg, and Butler to his right elbow.
Yards on the ground continue to be UNT's weak spot, as senior Jeffrey Wilson is an outstanding RB but has no one else on the sideline even approaching his level. A week ago SMU knew exactly where the ball was going on every run play. The offensive staff made adjustments to get Wilson loose this week as he rushed for 95 yards on 12 carries and a single score. The only other RB to even take a handoff was Nic Smith, who had one carry for seven yards.
There were some flashes of brilliance in the air, however, a far cry from the grinding-it-out-on-the-ground approach of Darrell Dickey, now over a decade ago. Turner Smiley had four catches for 75 yards, freshman Jaelon Darden logged three catches for 30 yards, and sophomore Jalen Guyton had one catch which ended up being a 13-yard touchdown.
For Iowa, they might summarize this game as "overwhelming" their opponent, despite trailing late, and simply waiting for UNT to run out of gas. For the Mean Green, this was not only a chance to showcase some offensive weapons, but to get comfortable playing a team far from home, in front of a hostile crowd.
For North Texas, this was the best possible outcome aside from a win after getting lit up by a middle-of-the-road SMU team that lost to TCU today. Next week, the Mean Green start conference play by hosting the UAB Blazers in Denton, and while we're happy to see the Blazers playing football again, they should start getting nervous immediately.