DENTON, Texas - Put this one under the category, "missed opportunities."
Missed scoring chances. Missed trick plays. Missed field goals. And wasted advantages in almost every statistical category.
North Texas (1-3, 0-1 Sun Belt) saw its final Sun Belt Conference opener slip away Saturday night against Troy, 14-7, at Apogee Stadium. The Trojans (2-2, 1-1 Sun Belt) couldn't mount a consistent attack against the Mean Green defense, but found just enough offense to take advantage of North Texas's inability to score.
"Frustration is an understatement," North Texas head coach Dan McCarney described the game after his team slipped to 1-3 on the year and 0-1 in league play.
Up until Troy's last possession of the game, the Mean Green had advantages in time of possession (by 13 minutes), first downs (20-14), and total yards (422-332). They forced nine Trojan punts, allowed no sacks, and had no turnovers. But they only scored once in six trips beyond the Troy 30-yard line (after scoring on 10 of 11 red-zone trips this year)and couldn't stop the Trojans' final possession when Troy ran out the final 5:47 of the game.
"It's a frustrating loss," McCarney said. "It's a tough loss. Before you start winning you have to stop losing. It has nothing to do with preparation or effort or any of that. We've just got to execute better. When you lose, everybody has to share the blame. It sickens me to lose tonight. How we handle the adversity of this game will go a long way in showing what this team is all about."
Troy took its first lead early in the third quarter on a 76-yard pass from Corey Robinson to Chip Reeves. North Texas had its chances to draw even, but came up empty on on three possessions that drove inside the Troy 24-yard-line. The Mean Green missed a 27-yard field goal, the third missed field goal of the night for North Texas, and twice turned the ball over on downs.
"We moved the ball all over the place," quarterback Derek Thompson said. "When we get in the red zone we know we've got to score.
"The one I missed to Delgado (in the second half) was a touchdown," Thompson added. "I won't miss that again. Guarantee it."
North Texas started the game in the same manner they opened against Kansas State - with suffocating defense and a Brelan Chancellor touchdown.
The Mean Green held Troy to three-and-outs their first three possessions, then the North Texas offense put together the first drive of the game, an 85-yard, eight-play march sparked by a 14-yard pass to Ivan Delgado and finished with a perfectly-thrown 50-yard bomb from to Chancellor for a score and 7-0 lead.
Delgado the senior and former walk-on wide receiver, had one of his best games with six catches for a career-high 126 yards.
The Mean Green offense, however, struggled much of the first half in both the passing and running games. Thompson, who completed 25 of 28 throws a week ago, was 6 of 15 in the first two periods while the rushing game was held to 57 yards through the Mean Green's seven possessions.
"I missed some throws this week," Thompson said. "I've got to get better. It starts with me and I've got to get better."
North Texas broke out a pair of trick plays but they failed, and it two drives late in the second quarter came up empty on missed field goals of 40 and 47 yards.
Troy, meanwhile, began to move the ball late in the opening period and into the second, but big plays by the North Texas defense - a quarterback sack by Tevin Cantley, a pressure by Aaron Bellazin which forced an interception by Zach Orr, and a great open-field tackle by Marcus Trice on a third-and-one - preserved the early thin lead.
But with 2:28 to play, the Trojans moved 70 yards for a tying touchdown, a 10-play drive consisting of all passes and resulting in a 15-yard touchdown toss from Corey Robinson to Jaquon Robinson for a 7-7 tie at halftime.
Troy narrowly missed scoring to start the second half when it recovered an onside kick and just missed on a flea flicker to the end zone, but the Trojans hit the deep ball a few minutes later for a 14-7 lead.
From that point, North Texas drove to the Troy 10-, 13-, and 24-yard line but could not score. After North Texas turned the ball over on downs with 5:47 left to play, Troy went to its inside power running game and ran out the remainder of time.
North Texas will play again next Saturday at Florida Atlantic. The Mean Green's next home game will be on Tuesday, October 16, against Louisiana-Lafayette in a nationally-televised game on ESPN2.