By Matthew Postins
UNT’s Thompson Heart of Dallas Bowl MVP
North Texas quarterback Derek Thompson was named the UNT Heart of Dallas Bowl’s most valuable player. The senior ended his UNT career with a bowl victory after going 21-of-30 for 265 yards and 2 touchdown passes. Thompson is one of 22 seniors on this Mean Green team recruited by former UNT coach Todd Dodge.
“When I took this job the goal was to get to a bowl game and win a bowl game,” UNT head coach Dan McCarney said. “Every time you think about this football team and these 22 seniors is the unbelievable example they set.”
UNT’s 2-point Conversion a Wild One
North Texas knew it was having a great fourth quarter, as it scored 22 points to set a Heart of Dallas Bowl record for most points scored in the fourth quarter. But those last two points proved unique.
UNT set up to kick an extra point after taking a 34-14 lead, but Zach Paul’s extra point was blocked. The ball landed in a scrum of UNT and UNLV players and tight end Drew Miller came out with it and scored the 2-point conversion with 2:24 left.
Miller had a touchdown earlier in the contest, a 7-yard catch in the third quarter that gave the Mean Green a 14-7 lead. On that play, UNT quarterback Derek Thompson rolled right and threw across the field to Miller, who was the opposite corner of the end zone.
HOD Bowl Tie-in for 2014
The Heart of Dallas Bowl will include teams from the Big Ten, Big 12 and Conference USA for the next six seasons. It may also include teams from the Mountain West Conference and the American Athletic Conference. The Big Ten’s and Big 12’s agreements with the Heart of Dallas Bowl includes sending teams, on a rotating basis, to the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, played in Fort Worth.
This year’s attendance was 38,380, which made it the least attended Heart of Dallas Bowl in its four-year history. The previous low was the inaugural game – then called the TicketCity Bowl – which had 40,121 see Texas Tech defeat Northwestern.
Cornett’s UNLV career ends ingloriously
Tim Cornett, the Texas native who took over as UNLV’s all-time leading rusher earlier this season, was held to just 34 yards rushing.
Cornett’s career with the Rebels ends with a career mark of 3,733 yards. Cornett leaves Las Vegas as one of only two backs in UNLV history with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. He gained 1,284 yards this season and scored a career-high 15 touchdowns.
Rice Jr. ends career with TD
UNLV wide receiver Jerry Rice Jr., the son of legendary 49ers receiver Jerry Rice, caught his first collegiate touchdown pass in the fourth quarter of the game. His 13-yard score came with 4:56 left in the game and cut UNT’s lead to 28-14.
Rice Jr. transferred to UNLV before the 2013 season after playing three seasons at UCLA and graduating. He is pursuing a master’s degree at UNLV.
Bowl history, records
Both North Texas and UNLV snapped long postseason droughts on New Year’s Day.
The Mean Green (3-5) had not been to a bowl game since the 2004 New Orleans Bowl, the last of their four straight appearances in the game. The Mean Green played their eighth bowl game, dating back to the school’s appearance in the 1946 Optimist Bowl against Pacific. The Heart of Dallas Bowl was the program’s first bowl game played on New Year’s Day and it’s first bowl game as a member of Conference USA.
UNLV (3-1) made its fourth bowl appearance in school history and its first since the 2000 Las Vegas Bowl, where UNLV beat Arkansas. The Rebels’ first bowl game was the 1984 California Bowl, where it beat Toledo. The Rebels, like the Mean Green, had never played on New Year’s Day before Tuesday. The Heart of Dallas Bowl was UNLV’s first bowl loss.
Oddly, UNLV came into the contest with a 4-0 all-time record against UNT. The last meeting was in 2000, with UNLV winning, 38-0.
UNLV’s school president, Dr. Neal Smatresk, will take over as the president at UNT on Feb. 3 in a move that was announced on Nov. 21. … UNLV experienced the second biggest turnaround from 2012 to 2013, going from 2-11 to 7-5. Their winning percentage difference of .429 tied Missouri. Auburn (.673) had the best turnaround in the nation, going from 3-9 in 2012 to 12-1 in 2013. … UNT’s win on Wednesday marked the program’s first nine-win season since 2003, when it went 9-4 and won the Sun Belt Conference title for the third straight season. The win also marked the second-biggest one-year turnaround in UNT history. The Mean Green went 4-8 in 2012. Entering the game UNT’s five-game turnaround was its best since 1982-83 (2-9 to 8-4). … Wednesday’s win brings UNT head coach Dan McCarney’s record in Denton to 18-19 after three seasons. A UNT head coach has not finished his career with the Mean Green with a winning record at the school since the legendary Hayden Fry went 40-23-3 from 1973-78.