The Mean Green's Brandon McCoy gets pressure on Tulane quarterback Nick Montana (photo by David Pyke)
North Texas vs. Tulane Photo Gallery
NEW ORLEANS - North Texas overcame a tidal surge of adversity - much of it self-inflicted - to rally from a 14-point fourth quarter deficit, only to lose on a 27-yard field goal on the last play of the game in its Conference USA debut Saturday night against Tulane, 24-21.
The Mean Green scored with less than four minutes to play on a 62-yard pass from Derek Thompson - who was leveled as he threw - to Darnell Smith to tie the game. But Tulane, after being shut down the entire second half, put together its only sustained drive of the half, burning up the clock and North Texas timeouts to set up the game-winner.
"You see the resolve of this team, the fight of this team," North Texas coach Dan McCarney said. "But it just wasn't enough. It's a game we wanted. We'll digest this and it will hurt for 24 hours, then we've got to get ready for Middle Tennessee."
The North Texas defense allowed a season-low 227 yards, but penalties kept Tulane first-half drives alive, a field goal that would have put North Texas ahead was blocked and returned for a touchdown, and two pass interceptions - one returned for a touchdown - put the Mean Green in a 21-7 hole in the fourth quarter. For the game, North Texas had 11 penalties for 105 yards.
For the fifth game in a row, North Texas got off to a slow start. The Mean Green generated just 71 yards in the first half, their lowest output in a half this year. But the defense kept the Mean Green in the game, holding Tulane to just 131 yards in the first half, getting a fumble recovery from James Jones to turn back the Green Wave at the North Texas 10-yard line, and putting heavy pressure on Tulane quarterback Nick Montana.
North Texas opened second half with a 90-yard scoring drive to pull even at 7-7. Thompson was five-for-five passing on the march, connecting with Brelan Chancellor and Carlos Harris. The touchdown came on a Thompson quarterback draw, although he fumbled at the one and offensive lineman Mason Y'Barbo recovered for the score.
A few minutes later, North Texas was ready to take the lead with a field goal, but the kick was blocked and returned 62 yards for a touchdown and a 14-7 deficit. Later in the third, a tipped pass was returned by Tulane 59 yards for another score.
What They Said
"We simply executed."
--North Texas coach Dan McCarney on why the North Texas offense played better in the second half
"It was a protection issue all the way. We work on it all the time and it never happens to us in practice, but it happened today."
--McCarney on the blocked field goal
• North Texas did not allow a score in the first quarter, the first time this season the Mean Green has thrown an opening-period shutout.
• This was the fifth game in a row this season in which North Texas has trailed 7-0.
• Positive: North Texas allowed just 40 yards to Tulane in the first quarter, the lowest total in the first quarter this year.
• Negative: North Texas gained just 47 yards in the first quarter, the second-fewest yards amassed in the opening period this year.
• The Mean Green was shut out in the first half for the first time this year.
• James Jones's first-quarter fumble recovery was his first of the season.
• The 90-yard NT scoring march in the third quarter matched the longest scoring drive of the year. The Mean Green also went 90 yards against Idaho.
• Tulane scored on a pass intereception return in the third quarter, the second pick-six North Texas has suffered this year.
• Brandin Byrd caught a one-yard touchdown pass from Thompson early in the fourth quarter, the first receiving TD of his career.
• Through three quarters, North Texas had allowed Tulane just 143 yards total offense, the fewest yards allowed by the Mean Green through three periods this year.
• This was the first-ever meeting between North Texas and Tulane, and the last at the Superdome. Next year, Tulane moves into a new stadium on campus.
&bull ;Senior quarterback Derek Thompson threw his fourth interception of the season in the first quarter. North Texas is 1-2 in games this season when Thompson has thrown an interception.
• North Texas allowed just 40 yards of total offense in the first quarter, which was by far the fewest allowed in the first quarter this season. The next-fewest yards allowed by the Mean Green in the first quarter this year was 124 against Ohio.
• North Texas was held scoreless in the first half, which was the first time that has happened since being shutout vs. Middle Tennessee in the first half last year in game No. 8. The Mean Green scored 21 in the second half in that game.
• The 71 yards of total offense for North Texas in the first half was less than the Mean Green has had in any half this season. The previous low was 111 in the second half of the Georgia game.
• North Texas went 90 yards on seven plays on its first possession of the third quarter to tie the game at 7-7. It tied the longest TD drive of the season for North Texas - 90 vs. Idaho which came in 10 plays.
• The Mean Green had more yards on its first two drives of the second half (128) than it did on six offensive possessions in the first half (71).
• Tulane blocked a North Texas field goal attempt and returned it for a touchdown in the third quarter to take a 14-7 lead. The last blocked field goal returned for a touchdown vs. the Mean Green was by Arizona in 2002 in a 14-9 Wildcat win.
• For the second game in a row, the Mean Green running game was ineffective, running for just 34 yards in the game.
The Mean Green return home to meet long-time Sun Belt rival and now C-USA adversary Middle Tennessee State on Oct. 12 at 6 p.m. at Apogee Stadium.