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UNT must overcome difficult off-season
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DC_Clone
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Post: #1
 
Football: Carrying On

UNT must overcome difficult off-season


09:26 AM CDT on Thursday, August 26, 2004


By Brett Vito / Staff Writer




The bad news seemed to arrive on a daily basis for the North Texas football team earlier this summer.

The Mean Green lost three key offensive players to disciplinary problems and then dealt with the death of quarterback Andrew Smith in a car accident in the days leading up to fall practice.

Those losses changed the challenge the Mean Green face this season, but not their approach.

"What has happened may change people’s opinion of us and what we are capable of doing, but our goals have not changed and our thought process has not changed," UNT coach Darrell Dickey said. "We have lost some guys, but others will step in."

UNT has replaced several key players over the last few years while maintaining its dominance in the Sun Belt Conference. The Mean Green enter the season with an 18-game winning streak in Sun Belt play that stretches back to the 2001 season.

UNT was the consensus pick to win the Sun Belt yet again when the league’s preseason poll was released earlier this summer. The Mean Green were scheduled to have 14 starters, including the nation’s leading rusher in Patrick Cobbs, return for the 2004 season.

The Mean Green are still stacked with talented players, but their margin for error shrunk in a matter of weeks. UNT lost two starters in offensive lineman Jason May and wide receiver Ja’Mel Branch, not to mention a key offensive weapon in wide receiver Joel Nwigwe, to disciplinary problems over the summer. Backup running back Roy Bishop also left the team.

What was even tougher on UNT’s players was Smith’s death. The junior quarterback was heading back to Denton after visiting a friend in College Station when his car drifted into oncoming traffic and was hit by a tractor-trailer.

Smith, one of UNT’s emotional leaders, died in the accident that occurred two days before the team held its first meeting for the upcoming season.

"The challenge is getting tougher, but we are going to have to overcome what has happened over the last few weeks" UNT quarterback Scott Hall said. "We have a group of guys who are capable of doing that. We still have confidence that we will do well."

UNT regained its focus after booster and Houston businessman Jim McIngvale paid for the entire team to fly to Bay City for Smith’s funeral.

"It helped us to be able to go to the funeral, see the family and send him off," offensive lineman Lonnie Chambers said.

Members of the team decided to honor Smith by adding a sticker with his No. 12 on their helmets this season. The school has also kept his locker intact.

"Andrew’s memory will help us," defensive end Adrian Awasom said. "When we get those stickers on our helmets, that will motivate us. We will remember Andrew and do the best we can to make the most of what he missed out on."

Smith was not only a well-respected member of the team, he was also a talented player who was expected to challenge Hall for the starting quarterback job. Quarterback is just one of the positions where UNT will lack the depth and experience it anticipated this season.

Redshirt freshman Jeremy Brown has moved into the starting lineup to help fill the void May left on UNT’s offensive line, while several young players are competing for playing time at wide receiver.

"Everyone who has stepped into a starting spot has come along," Chambers said. "I don’t see any gaps in our lineup."

Dickey credited his team’s success in part to its ability to overcome adversity. UNT came back from an 0-5 start in the 2001 season to win the first of three straight Sun Belt titles.

The nature of the challenge UNT faces this year has changed over the last few weeks and differs from the road the Mean Green traveled in 2001, but the team believes it can respond in a similar manner.

"People can look at what has happened to us the last few weeks as something that will hurt us this season, but you can also look at it as something that can bring our team a lot closer," Awasom said. "What matters is how we react to it."
08-26-2004 09:51 AM
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The reasons listed in this article were 99% of why I predicted the Mean Green where I did. I have nothing personal against UNT or any other school in the Belt or college football period. If they (this year's UNT team) can over come all things listed in this article they will not only be the Sun Belt Champs but New Orleans Bowl champs as well. If not, we will see.
08-27-2004 04:57 PM
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DC_Clone
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Post: #3
 
SwampHound Wrote:The reasons listed in this article were 99% of why I predicted the Mean Green where I did.  I have nothing personal against UNT or any other school in the Belt or college football period.  If they (this year's UNT team) can over come all things listed in this article they will not only be the Sun Belt Champs but New Orleans Bowl champs as well.  If not, we will see.
I think you might be underestimating the talent & character that is still on this team. 05-nono
08-27-2004 05:49 PM
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Perhaps, I wish you guys well this season except on 11/05 :D
08-27-2004 08:39 PM
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