Wilson Rushes For 211 In 46-43 Victory

Jalen Guyton catches a pass over a UAB defender for a 47-yard touchdown Saturday night. (photo by Manny Flores/Rick Yeatts)

Sept. 23, 2017

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DENTON - Jeffery Wilson rushed for a career-high 211 yards Saturday night, including a 34-yard run with 10 seconds to play to set up a game-winning field goal and give North Texas a 46-43 victory over UAB at Apogee Stadium.

It was a game that appeared headed for a blow-out in the Mean Green's favor before a frantic Blazer rally. North Texas held a 16-point lead three times in the Conference USA opener, but UAB rallied again and again and again, finally tying the game with 27 seconds to play.

However, UNT's Evan Johnson returned the ensuing kickoff 48 yards to the UAB 44, and, with 17 seconds to play, North Texas handed off to Wilson, who exploded through the UAB defense to the 10-yard line with 10 seconds remaining. The Mean Green didn't waste time, sending Trevor Moore on to kick a 22-yard field goal.

"I was really proud of our guys tonight," North Texas coach Seth Littrell said. "We overcame some adversity in the second half. When we needed a play, all 11 guys stepped up on that kickoff return.

"We got a lot of things to clean up," he added. "We've got to cut out the silly things, and we've got to finish games better."

The win - the 500th in the history of Mean Green football - lifts North Texas 2-2 on the year and 1-0 in C-USA, while UAB is 2-2 and 0-1.

Though only the fourth game of the season, the importance of Saturday's contest loomed over the Mean Green's season. North Texas came in at 1-2 following a disappointing performance in Week 2 and a disappointing missed opportunity for an upset victory in Week 3. A reversal of fortunes was needed, especially at the start of league play.

But North Texas staggered out of the blocks Saturday, allowing the Blazers to convert two long third downs on a game-opening 66-yard touchdown drive for a 7-0 lead, then stumbled on its first possession after driving to the 1-yard line only to settle for a 29-yard field goal.

The reversal, however, came before the end of the first quarter. It started with a sack by defensive tackle Andy Flusche, who enveloped UAB quarterback A.J. Erdely for a 13-yard loss. Four plays later, North Texas QB Mason Fine threw deep down the right sideline to wide receiver Jalen Guyton, who snared the pass over a UAB cornerback, eluded a second defensive back, then fought his way through a third defender over the last five yards before stretching the ball over the goalline for a 47-yard touchdown.

More big plays followed. A UAB pass that banged off a Blazer receiver and North Texas defensive back Khairi Muhammad was intercepted by the Mean Green's Kishawn McClain. North Texas then got into scoring position with a 25-yard pass from Fine to Kelvin Smith, setting up a Wilson 2-yard scoring run for a 17-7 lead.

Redshirt freshman running back Nic Smith was next, scoring on a 29-yard burst up the middle. Wilson then topped the century mark for the game with a 32-yard run to position Fine for his second TD throw of the night, a 40-yard toss to Michael Lawrence for a 30-14 halftime lead.

The defense, meanwhile, allowed UAB just 69 yards total offense and one third-down conversion on its final six possessions of the first half, while recording five tackles for loss and three sacks. UAB came into the game averaging 254.7 yards rushing per game, tops in the conference, but North Texas held the Blazers to 74 yards Saturday.

It was all going so well.

The Blazers, however, had other ideas. With its running game shut down, UAB moved through the air and scored twice in the third quarter to pull within 37-29. Moore gave North Texas a pair of field goals, but the Blazers scored with 5:51 to play to turn the former blow-out into an official nailbiter at 43-36.

The Mean Green went three-and-out, and UAB again rolled down field, converting three third downs and scoring the game-tying touchdown on a 5-yard screen with 17 seconds left.

"We weren't very disciplined in the second half," Littrell said. "We got beat on a couple of double moves. We just got to be smarter."

What They Said

"I've felt pretty good about the return game. We've been a player away from hitting one of those."
   --Seth Littrell on the kickoff return to set up the game-winning field goal

"When I saw the front, I knew that play was going to work. It was just a matter of being patient."
   --Jeffery Wilson on his 34-yard run to set up the game-winning field goal

"Our offensive line just played their tails off. I give them all the credit."
   --Wilson on his 211-yard performance

Quick Hits

  • This was Champions Weekend at North Texas. Friday night, the 2017 Hall of Fame class was inducted. During Saturday's game, the 2013 Mean Green was given rings for their Heart of Dallas Bowl victory, and the 1967 and 1987 teams were honored on field.
  • Senior defensive back Kishawn McClain's first-quarter interception was his first of the year and sixth of his career.
  • Senior running back Jeffery Wilson rushed for 211 yards Saturday to move into fifth place on the UNT career rushing list, passing 2002 New Orleans Bowl hero Kevin Galbreath. Wilson has rushed for 2,508 yards. He carried a season-high 26 times Saturday.
  • Wilson has scored at least one touchdown in all four games this year and five straight dating back to last season's Heart of Dallas Bowl.
  • Sophomore wide receiver Michael Lawrence's touchdown reception was the second his career.
  • Redshirt freshman running back Nic Smith's 29-yard TD run was the second rushing touchdown of his career.
  • Senior defensive tackle Andy Flusche's critical first-quarter sack was the fourth of his career.
  • Senior wide receiver Turney Smiley scored his first touchdown of the season and the fifth of his career.
  • Senior kicker Trevor Moore kept alive his streak of made point-after-touchdowns with four Saturday. North Texas missed a PAT when the snap from center sailed high, but since Moore didn't get a chance to kick it doesn't end his streak.
  • Sophomore quarterback Mason Fine had multiple touchdown passes for the third game this season. He had no multi-TD games a year ago.
  • Senior defensive end Joshua Wheeler had two sacks, each for a 10-yard loss, giving him 7.5 for his career.
  • Redshirt sophomore tight end Kelvin Smith had a career-best day with four receptions for 82 yards.
  • This was UNT's first win over UAB. The Mean Green were 0-2 all-time against the Blazers.
  • Senior wide receiver Turner Smiley caught his first touchdown of the season. It was the fifth of his career.
  • North Texas blocked a punt for the first time since last season against Bethune-Cookman.

What's Next

North Texas continues C-USA play next Saturday against Southern Miss in Hattiesburg, Miss. Gametime is 6 p.m.



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