‘Mean Green’ comes calling

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 29, 2001

Sports Editor

According to offensive coordinator John Shannon, Troy State approached this week of practice with a "bowl-type mentality."

"This is a big week for us, both offensively and defensively. This is a big, important game for this program, for a number of reasons," Shannon said. "And I hope our seniors face it that way."

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North Texas replaced Appalachian State on the Trojans’ schedule, after the game with the Mountaineers was cancelled on Sept. 15 following terrorist attacks in Washington D.C. and New York City.

"This has been an interesting year, to say the least," said TSU head coach Larry Blakeney. "What makes this historic for us, is that North Texas will be the first Division 1-A school to ever come to Troy and play."

Troy State has a chance to finish out its first season of Division 1-A football with a 7-4 record against North Texas (5-5). They also have a chance to deliver a statement, of sorts, to the Sun Belt with a win over one of its conference co-champions – the New Orleans Bowl bound "Mean Green".

Middle Tennessee and North Texas ended the season with a share of the league crown.

"After the Maryland loss, the team had a meeting and set the goal for us to win out and finish the year at 7-4," said TSU linebacker Nazzir Yamini. "We have a chance to get that this weekend."

Shannon is focusing his efforts on trying to find a way to put points up against an aggressive North Texas defense. For Shannon and the offense, running the football has been like a crap shoot for much of the season, depending largely on the success of the passing game.

And according to the first-year offensive coordinator, it’s the Trojans rushing game, North Texas will aim to stop first.

"They’ll (UNT) get into a 4-2, 4-3, or 4-1 (defensive) front and they’ll also mix in a 3-2 bear formation," he said. "They blitz a lot out of that by bringing two linebackers at you."

Shannon says UNT has two of the best at that position in Cody Spencer and Brad Kassell.

"They’re both good ball players who make a lot of plays," he said. "(Safety) Craig Jones is a big hitter."

Spencer, Kassell and Jones are the Eagles’ top three tacklers coming into Saturday’s game. Spencer has 53 solo tackles to lead the squad.

The game against North Texas also marks the last time 10 seniors will suit up in a TSU uniform. Eight of those players have seen significant playing time at Troy State, while two have not. Defensive linemen DeWayne McQueen and defensive back Carl Simmons spent the majority of their four-year careers in special, or scout, team roles.

But that doesn’t discount their contribution, said Blakeney.

"DeWayne has only played maybe two or three snaps in four years here, but he has been on the practice field every day and will be better off for having played college football," said Blakeney. "Carl has done a good job on our special teams coverage and will be a Trojan forever. Both are great young men."

It will also be the last game for four-year starting quarterback Brock Nutter.

"It will be an emotional day and week, because of everything associated with this game," Nutter said. "But we have to buckle on our chin straps and be ready for North Texas."

"We would like nothing more then to send the seniors out on a winning note," said Yamini.

Kickoff is at 2 p.m.