North Texas beats Rice to earn bowl eligibility for first time since 2004

Dr. Saturday

North Texas is going to a bowl game for the first time in nine seasons and everyone associated with the program is giddy about it.

The Mean Green earned their sixth victory of the season with a late defensive stand to beat Rice 28-16 on Halloween night at Apogee Stadium. But the win didn't just clinch bowl eligibility. It also put the program in legitimate contention for the Conference USA West Division title and hopeful someone can knock off frontrunning Tulane.

How excited are they Denton, Texas? The game story from the official North Texas athletic department website used a rather large Victory-in-Europe kind of headline after the game making sure we all know the Mean Green can now be selected to play in one of the 35 bowls on the slate this year.

The last time the Mean Green played in a bowl it was in the Sun Belt Conference and lost to Southern Miss from Conference USA in the 2004 New Orleans Bowl. This season North Texas can count a conference win over Southern Miss among the victories that led to achieving bowl eligibility.

That 55-14 victory over Southern Miss a week ago was the biggest road victory for the Mean Green since 1958 and the most points scored on the road by the program since 1962.

North Texas could end up back in the New Orleans bowl against a team from its former conference or the Liberty, Hawaii, Military or the Beef O Brady's St. Petersburg Bowls. All have agreements with Conference USA.

It's another nice turn-around story for coach Dan McCarney who led Iowa State to five bowl games in his final seven seasons in Ames, Iowa, during his previous head coaching job. The Cyclones had been winless before he took over that program in the 1990s.

The Mean Green were 3-9 three years ago in the season that led to hiring McCarney.

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Kyle Ringo is the assistant editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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