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MUNCIE, Ind. (9/3/09) - The North Texas football team left the '08 season in the rear view mirror, downing Ball State 20-10 in the season opener on Thursday night.
The Mean Green (1-0) won just its second season opener since 1997, and its first non-conference road game since 1999, with a gritty performance in front of 16,054 fans at Scheumann Stadium and a national TV audience on ESPNU. The win snapped the Cardinals (0-1) 14-game regular season winning streak that dated back to Nov. of 2007.
Needing to respond to a Ball State fourth-quarter game-tying touchdown, the Mean Green did just that. On the ensuing drive, Riley Dodge hooked up with Jamaal Jackson for 59 yards to take NT down to the one. Two plays later Dodge found Michael Outlaw in the corner of the end zone to put North Texas up 17-10.
That's when the Mean Green defense showed up in a big way. Craig Robertson recovered a MiQuale Lewis fumble on the Ball State 27, and Jeremy Knott made BSU pay with a 19 yard field goal that proved to be the nail in the coffin with 7:36 remaining.
Dodge made the most of his first collegiate action by completing his first 11 passes. The redshirt freshman drove the Mean Green 55 yards before Lance Dunbar punched into the end zone on a three yard dive to open the scoring on their first possession.
The freshman quarterback was efficient and even flashy at times in his debut. Dodge threw for 216 yards and a touchdown on 23-of-33 passing, but ran for another 73.
He was aided by a potent running game led by Cam Montgomery, who broke lose for 149 yards on 8.8 yards per carry. North Texas piled up 296 rushing yards and racked up 512 total yards.
The defense pitched a first half shutout thanks to third-down stops and a key turnover. Just inside the second quarter Royce Hill jumped in front of a Kelly Page pass on the six yard line and returned it to the house. Unfortunately a holding call brought the ball back to the BSU 37 yard line, and the drive ended with Dodge's first interception of the year in the Cardinal end zone.
Knott put the Mean Green up 10-0 with a 24 yard chip shot field goal. His boot capped off an 81-yard drive that gouged the right edge of the Ball State defensive line, as well as 6:51 off the second quarter game clock.
Dodge & Co. controlled the edge of the field and the play clock for the entire first half. NT rushed for 160 yards in the half, most coming off left tackle behind captain Victor Gill. Those 24 rushes controlled 18:38 of the first half clock, and the 5-of-8 on third down conversions kept the defense off the field.
The Mean Green defense held the Cardinals on a lengthy drive midway through the third quarter. Ball State got as far as the 1-yard line before the NT defense forced a short field goal to cut the lead to 10-3.
North Texas wasn't forced to punt until the 4:53 mark of the third quarter, and it was a boomer. Freshman Will Atterberry's 51-yard punt, as well as a block in the back call, pinned the Cardinals on the 9-yard line.
North Texas comes home to Fouts Field next Saturday to face another MAC opponent, Ohio, at 6 p.m.