While almost the entire North Texas football team was shoulder pad to shoulder pad as far as the players could go on the sideline toward the south end zone at Apogee Stadium, quarterback Mason Fine was on the opposite corner by myself Saturday night.
As the defense continued to dominate SMU early in the game, the group close to the action jumped and danced to the music playing throughout the packed venue. Fine, too, danced, but still by himself.
Isolating himself on the sideline between offensive possessions is something Fine has done since he played at Locust Grove High School in Oklahoma. While the rest of his team would move up and down the sideline as the action on the field moved, Fine stayed on the far corner, just like he still does at UNT.
“I get a better angle so I can see down there,” Fine said. “Plus, if you go where the ball’s at, everyone’s around you, just hitting you. But really it’s just not being around people because they’ll be talking, having their own conversation, so I really just like to get away, be by myself.
“I’ll say my things when I need to say them to all the players, but once we get done I like to just take a deep breathe, have a little time to myself and just watch the game.”
Littrell emphasizes 8 minutes surrounding halftime
The fourth quarter is obviously important, but by then Saturday, UNT had already sealed the outcome, up 36-0, before beating SMU 46-23.
Putting the Mustangs away early was largely thanks to the four minutes before and after halftime, a time frame UNT coach Seth Littrell emphasizes to his team. The Mean Green outscored SMU 10-0 during the window, increasing their lead to 27-0.
“To me, they’re one: extend the lead in order to become a dominant football team and, like I told our team, at times, or there may be a lot of times, sometimes it’s to get back in a game,” Littrell said. “Sometimes it’s to give yourself an opportunity to win the fourth quarter. But I definitely think that that’s something that’s important for us and our football team. It’s something we’ve focused on.”
Cole Hedlund made an 18-yard field goal as time expired for the first half Saturday. After the break, Nic Smith caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Fine at the 11:17 mark in the third quarter.
“One, you can gain possessions,” Littrell said. “As an offense if you go down and score right before the half, then you come out after half and get the ball right back, that’s a 10-, 14-point swing right there. That’s important for our defense; make sure they don’t allow any momentum going into halftime, get great stops. Coming out after halftime, whoever takes the field, I think those eight minutes are important.”
Littrell thanks record crowd again
Saturday night’s post-game press conference started with Littrell thanking the record 29,519 fans that watched UNT beat rival SMU at Apogee Stadium. Tuesday was no different.
“I would like to thank our fans for showing up and setting a record crowd,” Littrell said. “The community of Denton, our fans, students and alumni showed how capable we are as a university. I am proud of the way they supported us. I really appreciate them and our team really appreciates them.
”The atmosphere around the stadium was unbelievable. It was far and away the best I have seen since I have been here and quite frankly the best I have seen for a Conference USA game.”