HOUSTON, Texas - Houston's torrid offensive assault threw North Texas into a 17-point hole Saturday night at Robertson Stadium, and though the Mean Green scratched and clawed their way back into the game and twice drew within 10 points, North Texas could not find an answer to the blistering pace of the Cougars' offense. Houston never slowed its attack and overwhelmed North Texas, 44-21.
In the Mean Green's final non-conference game of the season, North Texas (2-4 overall, 1-1 in Sun Belt play) fell behind just 1:15 into the game - a sign of things to come. Houston (2-3 overall and 0-1 in Conference USA) scored on five of its first six possessions, turning the ball over on downs deep in North Texas territory on the only possession of the first half that came up empty. Those five scoring drives covered an average of 77.6 yards and took just over two minutes per score.
"I was really impressed with their football team," North Texas coach Dan McCarney said. "We were fundamentally as poor as we've been this year on defense. It looked like we were playing in sand and they were playing on grass."
After penalties killed their opening possessions, the Mean Green started to move, ignited by quarterback Derek Thompson. Thompson, who has struggled at home but excelled on the road, stood in the pocket and took some brutal hits but completed six of his first eight throws and 10 of 16 in the first two quarters for 144 yards, and that loosed up the Cougar defense and allowed the running game to get going.
That resulted in an eight-play, 64-yard drive, kept alive by a Thompson blitz-beating toss to Antoinne Jimmerson and capped by a two-yard touchdown run by Jimmerson, drawing North Texas within 17-7.
North Texas scored again in the second quarter on Jeremy Brown's spectacular 48-yard touchdown run that saw the sophomore running back break, bull and twist his way through five tackles.
But Houston answered each advance, countered each threat. North Texas could generate no pass rush and could force no turnovers. Houston scored just 1:24 following the Jimmerson touchdown, and took just 2:02 to respond to Brown's score, in each instance pushing the lead back to 17 points, where it stayed at halftime, 31-14.
Thompson directed another long scoring drive to open the second half, this one covering 75 yards and ending with a Thompson seven-yard keeper around the right side for his first rushing touchdown of the season, pulling the Mean Green within 31-21.
The Cougars countered with two more scoring drives, ending in a 50-yard field goal and a quarterback draw for a score and 41-21 lead. Houston was as effective on the ground as through the air and was not forced to punt until the fourth quarter. The pace of the Cougar offense was such that Houston enjoyed advantages in first downs and total yards but North Texas had more time of possession. Houston hit North Texas through the air and on the ground, getting 216 yards from running back Charles Sims and 321 yards passing.
For North Texas, Brandin Byrd had 98 yards rushing and Brown had a career-high 116 combined yards rushing and receiving, and North Texas had 483 yards total offense, 231 rushing and 252 passing.
"I thought Jeremy made some sensational plays," McCarney said. "At times we moved the ball well. We just weren't consistent enough."
North Texas will return home and get back to league play when it hosts Louisiana-Lafayette on Tuesday, October 16, at Apogee Stadium in a game to be nationally-televised by ESPN2. Game time is 8 p.m.