North Texas wide receiver Darnell Smith follows a block for yards after a catch against Georgia (photo by David Pyke)
North Texas-Georgia Box Score
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ATHENS, Georgia - Two huge plays by the Mean Green special teams had North Texas even with ninth-ranked Georgia midway through the third quarter Saturday afternoon, but the Bulldogs' Heisman-candidate quarterback lived up to his billing and ended the upset bid.
Ultimately, North Texas couldn't keep up with Georgia's Aaron Murray, who threw for three touchdowns and 408 yards, while North Texas quarterback Derek Thompson, with the running game thoroughly grounded, spent the afternoon under intense pressure in a 45-21 loss.
"This game hurts," North Texas coach Dan McCarney said. "There's lots good to take from this. If we can continue to improve and don't accept losing, we got a real chance to make a run in Conference USA."
North Texas had its share of plays in the early going, but Georgia answered with bigger plays. In one exchange, the Mean Green got a diving play by Zed Evans to keep a punt out of the end zone and pin the Bulldogs at their own two-yard line. One play later, however, Georgia connected on a 98-yard touchdown pass. Georgia rolled up 326 yards in the first half to 134 for North Texas in building a 21-7 lead.
But North Texas showed the same resiliency its has shown all season in refusing to surrender. A Thompson to Darnell Smith TD pass got the Mean Green started, and Brelan Chancellor returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, the third TD return of his career, to bring North Texas within seven at halftime, 21-14.
If the narrow halftime margin had the Georgia faithful squirming, the opening minute of the second half had them raining boos on the Bulldogs. The Mean Green drew even after Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray threw just his second and third incompletions of the game, forcing a punt. Marcus Trice exploded through the protection to block the kick and Zac Whitfield recovered in the end zone for a North Texas touchdown.
But the Mean Green's inability to contain the Georgia passing game proved the difference. Murray, under a steadly-increasing rain, directed the Bulldogs to two third-quarter touchdowns for a 35-21 lead. The Mean Green missed opportunities to close the gap when Thompson was intercepted at the Bulldog five and when Mean Green could not move after a Kenny Buyers fumble recovery at the Georgia 34.
What They Said
"We hung in there and made some big plays. We kept hanging around, but there was just way too much Georgia in the fourth quarter."
--North Texas coach Dan McCarney
"Our special teams really did a great job. We can build on this."
--McCarney on his special teams' two touchdowns
"There was a miscommunication. The receiver missed the call."
--McCarney on the North Texas interception at the Georgia five-yard line
North Texas forced the Georgia offense three-and-out on the Bulldogs first possession of the game, the first game this season that the North Texas defense has held the opponent scoreless on its opening possession.
Will Wright's first-quarter interception in the end zone was his second pick of the season, and second in as many weeks.
Georgia's 98-yard second-quarter touchdown pass was the longest play given up by North Texas this season.
Thompson has thrown for a touchdown in nine straight games, dating back to the last five games of 2012.
Brelan Chancellor's 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the second quarter was the first by the Mean Green since 2010, when Chancellor returned a kickoff against Kansas State.
Chancellor's return is tied for the third longest in school history. Broderick McGrew in 1998 and Johnny Stovall in 1936 each had 100-yard returns.
The last time Georgia surrendered a kickoff return for a touchdown was 2011.
Zac Whitfield's recovery of the punt blocked by Marcus Trice was the first touchdown of his college career.
Trice's punt block was his first at North Texas and the first by the Mean Green since 2011.
This is the most points North Texas has ever scored against a top-10 team. The previous high was 20 against No. 1 Arkansas in 1965.
Georgia's third-quarter touchdowns were the first North Texas has allowed in the second half this year.
North Texas won the coin toss, making the Mean Green a perfect 4-0 in coin tosses this season. The Mean Green elected to receive against the Bulldogs - the first time it elected to receive this season after giving up touchdowns on all three opponents opening drives this year.
North Texas was held to -2 yards rushing in the first half. It was the first time this season the Mean Green has been held to negative yards rushing in a half.
North Texas forced and recovered a fumble early in the fourth quarter which was its 13th forced turnover of the season.
With the non-conference schedule complete, North Texas has an open weekend before traveling to New Orleans for its first Conference USA game, against the Tulane Green Wave on Oct. 5.