Guyton Ignites Mean Green Rally In 43-28 Win
Wide Receiver Catches 14 Passes For 211 Yards In Victory Over Southern Miss
HATTIESBURG, Miss. - North Texas wide receiver Jalen Guyton demonstrated why he was so highly touted coming out of Allen High School, catching 14 passes for 211 yards and igniting a Mean Green rally from two 14-point deficits in a 43-28 victory over Southern Miss Saturday night.
The Mean Green trailed 14-0 and 21-7 before the defense stiffened and the offense went high octane, racking up eight plays of 20 yards or more, including four by Guyton, as North Texas scored 26 unanswered points.
Running back Jeffery Wilson followed up his 211-yard performance of a week ago by rushing for 148 yards and three touchdowns, including a 43-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, capping a streak of 26 unanswered points, overturning a 21-7 deficit and pushing the Mean Green to a 33-21 lead. Wilson's most impressive running, however, may have come on a two-yard carry on fourth and one at midfield and a 6-yard touchdown run which countered a Southern Miss TD that cut the North Texas lead to 33-28.
North Texas becomes the first team this season to score more than 24 points against Southern Miss, which came into the game with the eighth-ranked defense in the nation, and the first to score in the first and fourth quarters against the Golden Eagles.
"I was really proud of the way we bounced back after some things went against us in the first half," North Texas coach Seth Littrell said. "It took a little bit for us to get settled in, but once we did we had some positive plays and got some momentum.
"They wanted it," he added said. "They've been itching to finish off games.
The critical road win over the Golden Eagles, considered one of the top contenders in Conference USA, pushes North Texas to the top of C-USA's West Division at 2-0 in league play and 3-2 on the season. Its North Texas' first 2-0 start in league play since 2004. This was the conference opener for Southern Miss, which is 2-2 on the year.
North Texas quarterback Mason Fine struggled in the first half but came on late the end of the second quarter and through the second half, throwing for 366 yards to top the 3,000-yard mark for his career, connecting eight receivers. But the star was Guyton.
"We've been pretty balanced, but tonight was Jalen's night," Littrell said.
The defense, meanwhile, took control in the second half, allowing just one scoring drive and permitting USM to convert just two of its final 11 third downs. Khairi Muhammad and E.J. Ejiya had 10 tackles apiece and Kemon Hall recorded eight tackles and had a pass break up.
"I'm proud of the way we dominated in the second half," Littrell said.
The game featured a remarkable reversal for the Mean Green, whose first six possessions resulted in three punts, two turnovers and a touchdown, while the next five resulted in scores.
Southern Miss hit the Mean Green in the mouth in the first quarter. The Golden Eagles converted a pair of third-and-long situations and used a very up tempo attack to keep the North Texas defense on its heels, while holding UNT to three-and-outs on the Mean Green's first three possessions. As a result, USM opened a 14-0 lead while out-gaining the Mean Green, 136 to 7.
Yet the Mean Green shrugged off the haymaker before the end of the period. An 8-yard sack by North Texas linebacker Ejiya killed a Southern Miss possession and led to a short punt that set up UNT at its own 46. On fourth and one from the Golden Eagle 46, North Texas eschewed the punt, instead giving the ball to Wilson, who exploded through a hole on the right side and went untouched for a 46-yard touchdown, the first points USM has allowed in the opening period this season.
"I'm really proud of the way this team kept together," Littrell said. "This team is a grinder."
The rollercoaster ride continued. North Texas quickly got ball back to its offense, which again began to drive and appeared to convert a third and five on a pass to Rico Bussey, Jr., but the ball was jarred loose and USM recovered. Five plays later, Southern Miss' Ito Smith rushed 65 yards for a touchdown to re-establish the 14-point lead.
The momentum continued to flip back and forth. North Texas quickly forced a three-and-out - then fair-caught a punt at its own 5-yard line. USM appeared to have a safety but Wilson escaped a swarm of tacklers in his own end zone - then Fine connected on a 41-yard pass to Turner Smiley, converted a fourth down with a pass to Kelvin Smith and threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Guyton.
North Texas' ascendancy continued in the final minute of the half when North Texas got a 33-yard pass to Caleb Chumbley, converted a fourth-and-4 with seven seconds left, then got a 48-yard field goal from Trevor Moore on the last play of the half. Suddenly those lopsided stats from the first quarter had evened out, and, despite committing two turnovers, North Texas was back in the game at halftime, 21-17.
North Texas dominated the third quarter. The Mean Green took the half's opening possession and, on the strength of two catches by Guyton for 41 yards, got a 20-yard field goal from Moore. After throwing back a Southern Miss drive with a sack from Roderick Young, it was Guyton again, hauling in a 53-yard bomb into the Golden Eagles' red zone. On third and goal, Fine hit Bussey for the go-ahead touchdown.
Southern Miss tried to rally, mounting a scoring drive to cut the gap to 33-28. But North Texas responded with back-to-back scoring drives to put the game away, getting Wilson's second touchdown of the game and a 20-yard run from Nic Smith to set up a Moore 44-yard field goal for a 43-28 lead with 4:30 to play.
- Guyton's 14 catches ties for the fourth most in a game in program history, and his 211 yards receiving are the ninth most in a single game.
- North Texas' third-down issues continued Saturday. On Southern Miss' first third and long of the game, it hit a short pass over the middle that turned into a 45-yard gain to the Mean Green 7-yard line. The Golden Eagles cashed in on the next play for a TD and 7-0 lead.
- The Mean Green went three-and-out on their first possession, the first time this year UNT has failed to score on its opening drive.
- North Texas redshirt junior linebacker E.J. Ejiya recorded his fourth sack of the season, hanging an 8-yard loss on USM QB Kwada Griggs.
- Following UNT's first touchdown, the Mean Green forced a three-and-out, getting good coverage from senior defensive back Eric Jenkins on a incomplete deep pass.
- One of Wilson's best plays of the night was a 2-yard loss. Starting from their own 5, the Mean Green handed off to Wilson in the end zone, and Wilson was immediately hit by multiple defenders. He went down in the end zone but fell on a defender, somehow bounced up and got out to the 3-yard line to avoid a safety.
- Wilson has scored at least one rushing touchdown in six-straight games, and he went over 100 yards for the 10th time in his career.
- Redshirt tight end Caleb Chumley had a 33-yard reception at the end of the first half, the longest reception of his career, topping his previous long of 9 yards.
- Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Jalen Guyton caught his fifth touchdown of the season. That leads the Mean Green and dwarfs the team's individual high of a year ago of two.
- Guyton's 211 yards receiving is the most by a North Texas receiver since Carlos Harris in 2014, also against Southern Miss.
- After being flagged 13 times against Iowa, North Texas has drawn just seven penalties in the two games since.
- Junior defensive lineman Roderick Young had his first sack of the season and second of his career.
- Sophomore WR Rico Bussey, Jr. caught his first touchdown of the season in the third quarter, a 16-yard strike from Mason Fine.
- Junior kicker Trevor Moore finished 4-for-4 on points after touchdowns and is 120-of-120 for his career, which ranks fourth amongst active kickers.
- This was Mason Fine's third 300-yard-plus passing performance
North Texas has its bye next weekend before continuing C-USA action on Saturday, Oct. 14, against UT San Antonio at Apogee Stadium. Kickoff is 6 p.m.