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Frisco Bowl Media Day Recap and Storylines: North Texas vs. Boise State

North Texas discusses coaching change and snapping its bowl losing streak at Frisco Bowl media day.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl - UTSA v San Diego State Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

Saturday features the most loaded bowl slate of the season. The 6-game lineup starts earlier in the morning than a typical college football Saturday, and the eventful day of bowls concludes at 9:15 p.m. ET / 8:15 p.m. CT in Frisco, TX — a suburb of the Dallas metroplex.

In the final hoorah of the night, North Texas and Boise State converge at Toyota Stadium to compete in the 2022 Frisco Bowl. One day prior to kickoff, the bowl held its annual media day on Friday where the head coaches and selected players took the podium to discuss storylines heading into the matchup:

North Texas Mean Green

Coaching change

Two days after competing for a conference championship, North Texas decided to make a bold coaching move. The Mean Green, sitting at 7-6 on the season, fired head coach Seth Littrell after seven years of service and a 44-44 overall record. Second year defensive coordinator Phil Bennett, a well-traveled college football coach, will serve as the interim for the upcoming Frisco Bowl.

“It’s been tough but our team has been great,” North Texas quarterback Austin Aune said. Obviously we love Seth and we understand that it’s a business, so things like this happen. But we’ve stuck together. Like coach said, no one has entered the transfer portal. We’re here to play. We’ve been through a lot this season so we want to play and we want to finish it the right way.”

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 09 North Texas at Missouri
Phil Bennett will serve as the interim head coach for North Texas in Frisco. He is 1-0 in bowl games as an interim coach.
Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Bennett holds head coaching duties for just one game. The defensive coordinator was thrust into a similar role in 2010 with Pittsburgh, and he won the BBVA Compass Bowl over Kentucky as a one-game interim. Once the Frisco Bowl concludes, Bennett’s role will be passed over to Eric Morris. Morris, who will oversee North Texas’ 2023 transition to the American Athletic Conference, served as Washington State’s offensive coordinator this season.

Through all the distractions of the coaching carousel, Bennett believes his team has done a magnificent job of staying on task.

“I’ve always said this — and once again, I’ve done this forever — kids are resilient,” Bennett said. “We’ve stayed on schedule with the hiring of Eric... Eric’s been great. I’ve wanted him around the guys. This is going to be his program now. But our coaches, I’m very proud of this staff. They’ve kept it together. We haven’t had anyone go into the portal. Everyone has stayed here. As I told them, I said, ‘the cause is simple.’ We’re going to try to finish this season as a team. (The players) are the ones that got us here, it’s a players game and coaches are just fortunate enough to be involved in it. I think they have adhered to that.”

Snapping the bowl drought

North Texas has become a staple of bowl season recently, and Saturday’s Frisco Bowl will mark their sixth bowl game in a seven-year span. But despite a plethora of attempts to earn a trophy, the Mean Green have not emerged triumphant in the postseason since the 2013 Heart of Dallas Bowl. North Texas rides a 5-game bowl losing streak, which includes a 27-14 loss in last December’s Frisco Football Classic — a makeshift bowl game created due to the excessive amount of eligible teams.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 23 Frisco Football Classic Bowl - North Texas v Miami (OH)
Austin Aune and the Mean Green fell 27-14 to Miami (OH) in the Frisco Football Classic last December. North Texas can snap its 5-game bowl drought in the same stadium this Saturday.
Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After coming up short of the hardware last December, quarterback Austin Aune was inspired to return to the program. The 29-year old guided the Mean Green to a C-USA title game appearance in a prosperous season, but the shortcoming at Toyota Stadium in Frisco still lingers in the back of his mind. As he prepares for his final collegiate game, he hopes for a different result in the same venue.

“When I came back, I thought we had a lot of talent and that’s one of the reasons I wanted to come back,” Aune said. “To have a year like this has been great. Being back in this stadium is bittersweet. Obviously we played here last year and we lost. So, to come back here and play in the Frisco Bowl has been great so far. We want to finish it off with a win and that would be a great way to end the season for the guys and what we’ve been through this year. So, that’s our end goal.”

Boise State Broncos

Offensive revival

There was a time this season where Boise State’s 2022 looked headed for disaster. The Broncos uncharacteristically started 2-2 with a 27-10 loss at the hands of UTEP, and that loss shook up the program in tremendous fashion. Offensive coordinator Tim Plough was fired in the aftermath of defeat and quarterback Hank Bachmeier entered the transfer portal to retain redshirt status after his fourth start of the season.

Boise State needed to reinvent itself, and that’s exactly what transpired. Working under the guidance of former NFL head coach Dirk Koetter as the interim offensive coordinator, Boise State’s offense rapidly improved and averaged 32.2 points per game in its final eight games after managing just 22 per contest in its first four.

Paired with the offensive coordinator change was a quarterback change. Taylor Green took over for the departing Bachmeier, and the 6’6” freshman flourished. He led Boise State to an 8-0 record in the Mountain West and qualified for the conference championship behind 1,905 passing yards and 467 rushing yards. His on-field play and his excellent leadership paid dividends in turning around what could have been a tumultuous season in Boise.

“Just being around him the last two years and knowing who he is as a person and how much he cares about his teammates — in that role of quarterback, leadership is everything,” Boise State head coach Andy Avalos said of Green. “We were able to see a lot more behind the scenes before he stepped onto this platform that he’s on now in terms of what he’s able to do with the certain skill set that he has, and what he’s able to do within our offense. It’s been fun to see him grow week in and week out, each opportunity he gets to step on the field and gain experience and even improve on the things he’s done well and on the things he hasn’t.”

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 03 Mountain West Championship - Fresno State at Boise State
Boise State quarterback Taylen Green rattled off a 7-2 record as a starter this season, hoping to add a bowl win to an impressive freshman résumé.
Photo by Tyler Ingham/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Boise State’s offense maneuvers best through its running game. Unfortunately for the Broncos, star running back George Holani will miss the Frisco Bowl due to an injury sustained in the Mountain West Championship Game loss to Fresno State. But Boise State exhibits immense depth with freshman Ashton Jeanty, who rushed for 643 yards this season as the second fiddle to Holani. Boise State has embodied the next man up mentality all season, and that’s one thing that makes the Broncos’ program a consistent and recognizable winner — even to college football players in different parts of the country.

“I’ve been watching Boise since I was a little kid, watched them in the Fiesta Bowl,” North Texas cornerback Ridge Texada said. “So it’s cool to get to play against them finally. As far as their team, they have a good run game, a good rushing quarterback and some nice receivers. So it’s our job to contain them, to stop them. But it’s a good match up.”

Finally bowling without cancelation

There aren’t many college football teams more likely to finish a given season above .500 than Boise State. The Broncos have been consistent winners since the turn of the millennium. They’ve strung together an unfathomable streak of 25 consecutive winning seasons — a longer streak than that of many blue bloods including Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, and Georgia. Should they win Saturday, this will be the Broncos’ 18th double-digit win season since 1998.

Despite the sustained run of success, Boise State rarely goes bowling these days. In the prior four seasons, the Broncos qualified for bowl eligibility four times, yet only participated in one bowl — a blowout loss to Washington in the 2019 Las Vegas Bowl. The 2018 First Responder Bowl was canceled due to lightning and the 2021 Arizona Bowl was axed due to COVID-19 issues within the locker room. And in 2020, the COVID-19 riddled season featured a heavily reduced bowl schedule with only three teams from the Mountain West participating.

SERVPRO First Responder Bowl - Boston College v Boise State
Boise State’s bad luck in bowl games started in 2018 when lightning unexpectedly labeled its First Responder Bowl matchup vs. Boston College as “no contest.”
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Thus, even some of the more veteran players on the roster — like senior defensive tackle Scott Matlock who has been on the roster since 2018 — haven’t participated in bowl season.

“For me I’ve never actually played in a bowl game so this is a great opportunity,” Matlock said. “It’s exciting and I’m very grateful. But at the end of the day, it’s still another mission that we have to accomplish. We still have to attack it the same way we do every game. We still have to prepare the right way and make sure that we’re doing all of the things we need to do, the details, do our due diligence. For me personally it’s been an awesome experience knowing that I actually get to play in a bowl game. It’s awesome.”