If the University of North Texas Mean Green were to show that they were indeed turning a corner in year four of the Todd Dodge era, then they simply had to win last Saturday's home game against a Rice Owls squad that went 2-10 the previous season.
In a painful flashback to the year before, wherein UNT lost five games by a margin of four points or less, the Eagles found themselves on the short end of a squeaker 31-32 loss to the Owls before 23,743 fans at Fouts Field. Like so many times last season, the Mean Green were leading late in the game. And, like so many times last season, they just couldn't find a way to seal the deal.
The Mean Green offense outgained the Owls both in the air and on the ground. They had four touchdowns to Rice's three. But they also suffered three turnovers to Rice's two and, most importantly, could not answer Rice's two-yard touchdown run with 6:22 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Close losses like these are always tough, but losing at home to a team that the Mean Green really needed to prove they could beat has to be especially excruciating for the North Texas players, coaches and fans. Last year's one-point home loss in overtime to Ohio last season sent the Mean Green on a six-game losing skid. If history repeats itself this year, then Todd Dodge is surely gone (his seat can't get much hotter than it already is) and another round of rebuilding under a new coach will have to ensue.
The Rice Owls, on the other hand, are clearly a team on the mend. This was an important win for them, especially coming off the previous weekend's better-than-expected showing against Texas.