North Texas quarterback scrambles and looks for a receiver in the Mean Green's 28-13 win (photo by David Pyke)
RUSTON, La. - In a few devastating plays, in just 1:48 of game time, North Texas wiped out the carefully constructed control of the game that Louisiana Tech had spent most of the first half building, turning a deficit into a lead and propelling the Mean Green to a 28-13 victory.
Trailing 10-0 and with the offense stagnant late in the first half, quarterback Derek Thompson scrambled left, threw back right and found Brelan Chancellor, who adjusted to the ball, maintained his balance, and raced to the end zone for a 61-yard score. On the Bulldogs ensuing possession, the NT pass rush forced a throw that Zac Whitfield intercepted and returned 56 yards for a touchdown and a 14-10 lead.
"It was a game of big plays, and we made more than they did," North Texas coach Dan McCarney said.
What then followed was a third quarter that could not have been in more stark contrast to the first two. The North Texas offense moved the ball easily on the ground and through the air and scored two touchdowns, the defense held the Bulldogs to 14 yards total offense, and the Mean Green inflated their lead to 28-10.
The win gives North Texas a modest two-game win streak, but it's the Mean Green's first win streak in 101 games, breaks a seven-game road losing streak, and makes NT 4-3 for the first time since 2003.
The defense held off repeated Louisiana Tech challenges in the fourth quarter, then iced the game with a fourth-down stand midway through the final period and an interception by Whitfield, his second of day, with less than three minutes to play. It was the first two-interception game of the sophomore cornerback's career.
What They Said
"We had a play-action pass called. I had to roll left and I saw Brelan behind the defender, and I just threw it as far as I could."
--Quarterback Derek Thompson on the 61-yard TD pass to Brelan Chancellor
"Now we can stop this stupid stuff about we can't win on the road."
--Coach Dan McCarney on ending the seven-game road losing streak
"We just played like we've got a chip on our shoulder. We're playing for the seniors, and we've got everything clicking now."
--Defensive lineman Richard Abbe
"We were in zone coverage, and I saw the quarterback look my way and just broke on the ball."
--Cornerback Zac Whitfield on his first-half interception
"It was well earned. It makes every minute of work worth it."
--McCarney on the Mean Green's post-game lockerroom celebration
• The North Texas win is:
- the first back-to-back wins for North Texas since 2004 when the Mean Green defeated Idaho and Arkansas State to conclude regular season. North Texas has played 102 games since that Arkansas State victory and has not had two consecutive wins during that span.
- the first time a North Texas team has had a winning record in the month of October since it was 4-3 on Oct. 18, 2003.
- the first Conference USA road victory and only the third road win for head coach Dan McCarney at North Texas.
- the first victory in the state of Louisiana for any member of the current North Texas team and the first victory in Louisiana since a 16-7 win at Louisiana-Lafayette on Nov. 11, 2006.
• Linebacker Zach Orr topped 300 career tackles with four tackles in the first half.He also had four assists in the first two quarters. Orr had five tackles and seven assists through three quarters, and finished the game with 17.
• North Texas had managed just over 100 yards in the first half before the Thompson-to-Chancellor score began to change the fortunes in the game.
• The Mean Green was able to put pressure on Bulldog quarterback Ryan Higgins. In the first half, North Texas recorded three sacks, batted down a pair of passes, and forced the pass that resulted in Whitfield's pick six.
• North Texas made it 21-10 in the third quarter with a scoring drive set up by special teams. Punter Blake Macek's perfectly-placed kick was fielded and downed by Marcus Trice at the Louisiana Tech two-yard line. A stop by the defense forced a punt, giving North Texas excellent field position at the Bulldog 43.
• This was Louisiana Tech's homecoming. Attendance was 20,317, the biggest crowd to ever watch a North Texas-La Tech game in Ruston. This was NT's first visit to Ruston since 2006, and eighth overall.
• For the sixth time in seven games this year, North Texas fell behind 7-0.
• North Texas is 4-0 this year when it has scored more than 21 points, and is 0-3 when it scores 21 or less.
• Derek Thompson threw for 221 yards, the 17th time in his career to pass for more than 200 yards
• North Texas trailed 7-0 at the end of the first quarter and has now been outscored 47-31 in the first quarter this season. The Mean Green has outscored its opponents in every other quarter except the first this year.
• Quarterback Derek Thompson hooked up with wide receiver Brelan Chancellor for a 61-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. It was Chancellor's third receiving touchdown of the season but his first in the last four games.
• North Texas cornerback Zac Whitfield picked off a Louisiana Tech pass and returned it 56 yards for a touchdown to give North Texas a 14-10 lead late in the second quarter. It was the second week in a row that the Mean Green returned an interception for a score.
• The defense held Louisiana Tech to just 37 yards rushing for the game
• North Texas took a 14-10 lead to halftime which is the first time this season that it has led at the half on the road. The Mean Green is 8-1 under Dan McCarney when leading at halftime.
• North Texas did not get inside the Louisiana Tech red zone in the first half. The two touchdowns by the Mean Green came on a 61-yard pass and an interception return for a score.
• North Texas made its first trip inside the Louisiana Tech red zone midway through the third quarter when Thompson hooked up with wide receiver Darnell Smith for 35 yards down to the Bulldogs 3-yard line.
• After having just 72 yards of total offense in the first quarter and 173 for the first half, the Mean Green exploded for 155 yards in the third quarter.
• North Texas running back Brandin Byrd rushed for a one-yard touchdown in the third quarter to give the Mean Green a 28-10 lead. It was the second straight game in which Byrd rushed for a TD after not having any in the previous four games. North Texas is 3-0 this year when Byrd scores a touchdown and 1-3 when he doesn't.
The Mean Green make their first trip to Hattiesburg, Miss., since 1979 to face Southern Miss Saturday, Oct. 26. Kickoff is 6 p.m., and the game will be televised on Fox College Sports.