North Texas Implodes In Second Half For Fourth-Straight Loss
Mean Green Can't Hold Halftime Lead In 41-21 Loss To Rice
Darvin Kidsy runs past the Rice coverage team for a 100-yard kickoff return and a touchdown. (photo by David Pyke)
HOUSTON - North Texas spent the first half of Saturday's game at Rice Stadium digging out of two early deficits before taking control of the contest. The Mean Green offense moved the ball on the ground and through the air, the defense made some big plays in the secondary and controlled the line of scrimmage, and special teams contributed a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
But it all came apart in first few minutes of the third quarter, and the game - a game North Texas desperately needed to keep its bowl chances viable - unraveled from there.
North Texas surrendered a momentum-gutting fumble on the kickoff to open the second half, then threw an interception that Rice returned 60 yards for a touchdown to overturn a 21-14 Mean Green halftime lead and ignite Rice to a 41-21 victory. It was the Mean Green's fourth loss in a row, and spills the NT record to 2-6.
"We did a lot of good things, and it was anybody's game at halftime," North Texas coach Dan McCarney said. "But you can't start the second half any worse than a fumble on the kickoff. They jumped on it, capitalized, and did a lot of really, really good things.
"There's no place in our program to give free touchdowns," he added. "Until we figure that out, we're going to continue to get our butts beat."
North Texas fell behind just 18 seconds into the game when Rice scored on an 88-yard pass on the game's first play. But where the Mean Green had collapsed previously this year, this time North Texas struck back with a 51-yard touchdown pass from Andrew McNulty to Carlos Harris.
The Mean Green went down again, 14-7, but took control of the game after a 100-yard kickoff return by Darvin Kidsy tied the game. From there, the North Texas pass rush, absent much of the season, began to its toll. Defensive end Daryl Mason, who missed the first four games due to injury, recorded six tackles in the first half alone, a career high.
Midway through the second quarter, that control paid off with a 10-play, 62-yard scoring drive, capped by Harris scoring on a reverse from a yard out on fourth and goal from the Rice one-yard line for a 21-14 lead at halftime.
But following the two critical mistakes to open the second half, a reinvigorated Rice took advangtage of its sudden 24-21 advantage, while North Texas simply did not answer the bell. The Owls threw a shutout in the second half, allowing North Texas just 45 yards total offense in the half, while padding their lead with back-to-back-to-back 11-, 11- and 10-play scoring drives. McNulty was hounded throughout the second half, sacked four times but knocked down many more.
What They Said
"Really, really disappointing. You have to make plays, you've got to rise up, and Rice did and we didn't."
--North Texas coach Dan McCarney on his team's second-half performance
"We've got to put our heads together and find out exactly who we are, what's our identity, and how we want to finish these next four games. I want to find out about the soul of this team, the passion and mental toughness of this team."
--McCarney on what he wants to accomplish in the upcoming off week
• Carlos Harris's one-yard reverse for a touchdown in the second quarter gave North Texas its first lead of the year against a team at or above .500 this year. Rice came into the game 3-3.
• Senior defensive end Daryl Mason had a career-high seven tackles, including a sack.
• Sophomore wide receiver Darvin Kidsy returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown which is tied for the longest return in school history. Kidsy is only the third player ever at North Texas to return a kickoff 100 yards and the first since 1998.
• North Texas faced a staggering 9.6 yards on average on third down Saturday.
• The 88-yard touchdown pass by Rice in the first quarter was the longest play from scrimmage by a Mean Green opponent this season and the fourth pass play of more than 70 yards against North Texas.
• Junior quarterback Andrew McNulty hooked up with junior wide receiver Carlos Harris on a 51-yard touchdown in the first quarter which is the longest pass play by North Texas this season and the third-longest play from scrimmage. It was also the longest catch of Harris' career.
• The touchdown by North Texas in the first quarter was the first points in the first quarter since the Nicholls State game on Sept. 20. North Texas had not scored a first-quarter point in the last three games.
• North Texas allowed an 88-yard touchdown on the first offensive play of the game. It was the second straight week and the third time in the last four games that the Mean Green allowed a touchdown on the opponent opening drive of the game. North Texas didn't allow a touchdown on the opening drive in the first four games of the season.
• North Texas led 21-14 at halftime which is only the third time this season when it was up at the break. Coming into the game, Mean Green was 2-0 when leading at halftime and 0-5 when trailing.
• North Texas lost for the first time this year and only the second time ever under Dan McCarney when leading at halftime.
• McNulty threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown in the third quarter, which was the fifth time this season a North Texas opponent has scored a defensive touchdown.
• North Texas is now 0-5 this year when the opponent scores first.
• The Mean Green's four-game losing streak is the first under Dan McCarney and the first for North Texas since 2009. It is also the first winless month for the Mean Green under McCarney, and the first winless October since 2008.
• Linebacker Derek Akunne is rapidly approaching a career high for tackles in a season. His previous best was 90 in 2012 and 2013, and he his eight tackles Saturday give him 73 this season, tops on the team.
North Texas is off next weekend before taking on Florida Atlantic on Saturday, Nov. 8, at 6 p.m. at Apogee Stadium. The game is homecoming for the Mean Green, and is the 1,000th game in the football program's history.