North Texas Looks Fine In Freshman QB's First Start

Running back Jeffery Wilson rushed for 83 yards and a touchdown in Saturday's opener (photo by Rick Yeatts).
Sept. 10, 2016

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DENTON - A week ago, North Texas began the Seth Littrell era. This week may have seen the start of the Mason Fine era.

Fine, the 5-foot-11 true freshman quarterback from Locust Grove, Okla., made his first collegiate start Saturday night, throwing for 108 yards with no interceptions and rushing for 46 yards - even running over a defensive back on a 25-yard scramble - and sparked the Mean Green to a 41-20 victory over Bethune-Cookman at Apogee Stadium.

"He did some really good things tonight," Littrell said of Fine. "His numbers may not be eye-popping, but he led us on some touchdown drives and he really managed the game well."

North Texas (1-1 on the year) scored 24 unanswered points in the first half, getting a pair of touchdowns from running back Jeffery Wilson and a blocked punt return for a score to open a 24-7 halftime lead.

Wilson gouged the Wildcats in the first half for 81 yards on 13 carries, giving way in the second half to Willie Ivery, who had a career-best 103 yards and a score. The running game averaged 6.5 yards per carry, while the passing game did not suffer a sack.

"I really challenged the offensive line this week," Littrell said. "I put it on them, and they did a great job responding. They dominated up front."

Bethune-Cookman, which had its season-opener against Alcorn State cancelled in the second quarter due to lightning, was 9-2 a year ago and riding a four-game win streak, averaging 31 points and 191 yards rushing per game.

But the Mean Green defense, led by linebacker Courtney Finney, was suffocating. Finney had eight tackles, including three for loss and a sack, and batted down a Wildcat pass on fourth-and-goal from the NT 3-yard line, as the Mean Green allowed just 78 yards total offense in the first half and 231 for the game.

"Those guys were flying around," Littrell said. "They were focused on doing their jobs, not doing someone else's job."

The defense was particularly strong on third down, preventing the Wildcats from converting a third down until the second half and surrendering just 2-of-12.

"We're a week better," Littrell said. "Hopefully, we'll be a week better next week."

What They Said

"It feels great for these kids. They've worked so hard through the transition. They've put a lot of work into this."
   --Littrell on his team's first win

"We gave up too many plays. Those mistakes will bite you in the tail, and will get you beat."
   --Littrell on his special teams, who surrendered a punt return for a touchdown and a blocked punt

"We didn't allow them anything."
   --Defensive back Kishawn McClain on the defense's effort

"It was excited for the opportunity. I was mentally and physically ready. I wanted a shot. It felt good."
   --freshman quarterback Mason Fine on his first start

Quick Hits

• The North Texas defense started strong Saturday, forcing a three-and-out after a quarterback sack by linebacker Courtney Finney.

Trevor Moore broke the school record for consecutive points after touchdown with his kick following Jeffery Wilson's first-quarter touchown. With four PATs Saturday, Moore has made 65 of 65 in his career. The previous record was 61 straight by Keith Chapman (1987-89).

• Punter Eric Keena boomed a 56-yard punt in the first quarter. Bethune-Cookman, however, got a pair of great blocks to free returner Frank Brown for an 88-yard touchdown return, the first punt return for a TD against North Texas since 2014.

• Defensive back Kishawn McClain made a nice open-field tackle to stop a Bethune-Cookman third-down screen pass in the first quarter.

• After allowing 243 yards in the first quarter last week, the North Texas defense held Bethune-Cookman to just 31 yards in the opening period.

• NT special teams was near to blocking a BC punt on the Wildcats' first three attempts, and the Mean Green got to there in the second quarter. Tyler Wilson got his first career block and Andrew Tucker recovered the loose ball at the Wildcat 1-yard line and took it in for a touchdown.

• Wilson also had a 66-yard kickoff return in the third quarter, setting up a 20-yard field goal by Trevor Moore.

• Tucker got his second touchdown of the game in the third quarter from his running back position, scoring from a yard out.

Kenny Buyers, formerly a North Texas defensive back who had a big interception two years ago in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, was converted to wide receiver this spring. He had his first career reception Saturday, a 4-yard catch in the second quarter.

• Defensive end Jareid Combs had his second sack of the season.

• North Texas scored a touchdown in the first quarter for the first time since 2014. The Mean Green had scored just nine points on three field goals in the first quarter in the previous 14 games.

What's Next

North Texas travels to Gainesville, Fla., to face the Florida Gators on Saturday, Sept. 17, at 6:30 p.m. CT.



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