Boca Raton, Fla. (9/29/12) - The North Texas defense forced three turnovers, and Zach Olen made two field goals to lead the Mean Green football team to a 20-14 win against Florida Atlantic on Saturday night at the FAU Football Stadium.
North Texas improves to 2-3 and wins its first conference game of the season. FAU falls to 1-4 and 0-1 in the Sun Belt. The Mean Green has won three in a row against the Owls, including two on the road.
The game was one of momentum shifts as North Texas took an early 10-0 lead in the first half. Derek Thompson threw a touchdown pass, and the Mean Green defense recorded an interception, a fumble recovery and four sacks in the first two quarters. Another Thompson touchdown throw kept the pendulum on the Mean Green side through most of the third quarter.
In a span of 72 seconds beginning at the end of the third quarter, FAU scored 14 points to get back in the game and swing the momentum back its way. A long Mean Green drive midway through the fourth quarter that resulted in an Olen field goal extended the North Texas lead, and the Mean Green defense held off the Owls for the remainder of the game.
Olen redeemed himself against FAU after going 0-for-2 against Troy last week. The field-goal kicker went 2-for-2 in the game, including a season long of 48 yards.
Thompson threw for 251 yards, a season best. He completed 18 of 30 passes, including a long of 68. The junior recorded two TD passes, a 68-yard throw to Brelan Chancellor and a 14-yard pass to Drew Miller.
On its second possession of the third quarter, North Texas took advantage of good field position. A 39-yard punt by Will Atterberry was downed by NT at the FAU 5-yard line. The Mean Green forced a three-and-out, and North Texas started its drive from the FAU 42-yard line. A 21-yard reception by Jeremy Brown helped set up a 14-yard touchdown catch by tight end Miler. It was his second career touchdown catch. The catch gave North Texas a 17-0 lead.
FAU scored 14 straight points in a span of 72 seconds to cut the Mean Green lead to three points, 17-14.
FAU responded to the Mean Green touchdown with a nine-play 73-yard drive that resulted in a Damian Fortner touchdown run. The running back found room on the outside and rushed in from 11 yards out with 59 seconds left in the third quarter.
After scoring its first points of the game, the Owls then created their first turnover at the start of the fourth quarter. Keith Reaser picked off Thompson on the third play of the Mean Green's drive. A North Texas personal foul gave FAU the ball at the NT 11-yard line, and quarterback Graham Wilbert snuck in on the first play of the drive.
North Texas extended its lead to six points, 20-14, with a bizarre drive. Olen made three field goals in the drive but only the final one, a 28-yarder, counted. The first two, from 39 and 36 yards, were taken off the scoreboard after two FAU penalties gave North Texas first downs. The FAU defense would not let the Mean Green in the endzone, and North Texas was forced to settle for a field goal.
The long drive, however, took up 7:18 of clock time. It was the longest drive this year in terms of plays (16) and the second longest drive in terms of time.
The Mean Green defense forced a four-and-out on FAU's last offensive drive with four minutes remaining in the game to seal the win for North Texas.
The Owls won the statistical battle in the first half, but North Texas held the edge in turnovers, 3-0. Alongside four sacks, the Mean Green defense forced two FAU turnovers in the redzone. The first, a Marcus Trice interception in the endzone, led to seven points for North Texas. The second, a fumble recovery by K.C. Obi, at the NT 19-yard line, halted a 64-yard drive by FAU and solidified a 10-0 lead by Mean Green at the half.
A 68-yard pass by Thompson to Chancellor gave North Texas a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. North Texas needed just two plays on its first offensive drive to get in the endzone. The 68-yard pass was the second-longest pass play from scrimmage on the season for the Mean Green. Thompson found Chancellor for 80 yards in the opening game against LSU.
Good field position led to a 48-yard field goal by Olen at the start of the second quarter. North Texas took the ball over at the FAU 44-yard line, was hurt by a penalty and settled for the three points.
North Texas held FAU scoreless in the first half which was the second time this season it held an opponent scoreless in the first half. The Mean Green defense has posted seven scoreless quarters in five games this year.
Chancellor led the receiving corps with six catches for 135 yards. It is his third game this season with over a 100 yards receiving and his second straight. Chancellor's first-quarter touchdown reception gave him five for the year, which equals the total receiving touchdowns he had in his first two years combined. Chancellor has five of North Texas' six receiving touchdowns this season
Obi had a standout game for the Mean Green. He recorded 2.5 sacks in the game and had a fumble recovery that gave North Texas a 10-0 lead at the half.
North Texas continues on the road with a game against Houston on Saturday, Oct. 6 at 6 p.m.