When Troy quarterback Brandon Silvers glanced around the Superdome, his eyes would stop on the name of Archie Manning, who has become one of his mentors, or on spots in the stands where he's sat during games he attended as a fan.
During his next visit, he'll be able to look at spots on the field where he threw four touchdown passes, as well as the end zone where he ran for a short score, to help the Trojans beat North Texas 50-30 in the New Orleans Bowl on Saturday.
"Just being on that field today is going to be one of my great memories for a long time," Silvers said.
Silvers, a former counselor at Manning's football camp, threw for 305 yards, completing 24 of 31 passes. The Orange Beach, Alabama, native was intercepted once on a deep throw, but that hardly mattered in a game controlled by Troy's defense, which produced five North Texas turnovers.In addition to the five turnovers, the North Texas offense had negative net rushing yards (-8) and quarterback Mason Fine was sacked six times. Add in the four touchdown passes thrown by Silvers and the 435 total yards of offense that the UNT defense surrendered to Troy, and it was a long afternoon for the Mean Green as well as the fans who made the eight-hour journey from Denton.
It's a tough way for the Mean Green to end a strong season. They netted a 9-3 regular-season record, an appearance in the Conference USA championship game, and made their second bowl appearance in two seasons. Although they were beaten by a combined score of 47-91 in their last two games, UNT's 2017 campaign was definitely better than last year's 5-8 record or their abysmal 1-11 campaign of two years ago. The Denton Record-Chronicle's Brett Vito sees positive signs for the future of head coach Seth littrell and his team:
It's important to not let a couple of losses to end the season overshadow those accomplishments and what Littrell and his staff have done to set UNT up for the future.
UNT won the C-USA West Division title on its way to a 9-5 finish. It's just the seventh season with at least nine wins in program history.
What might be even more promising is that the Mean Green reached those goals while featuring several young players.
Quarterback Mason Fine set UNT records for passing yards (4,052) and passing touchdowns (31) in a season as a sophomore. Wide receivers Jalen Guyton and wide receiver Rico Bussey also were key contributors in their sophomore campaigns.
The return of that trio is just one reason UNT should feel good about its future.The Mean Green took a step towards that future today, as their early signing day haul included three JUCO transfers that should be able to step in and play right away.
Time will tell if UNT can replicate or even improve on their success of 2017, but as of right now the program has reached a point where its goals for 2018 should include a conference championship along with a bowl victory.