Turnovers Doom North Texas In 31-17 Loss
Mean Green Unable To Recover From Slow Start Against UTSA
SAN ANTONIO - So much for momentum.
North Texas came into Saturday night's game at the Alamodome with a busload of the stuff, riding a two-game win streak and coming off a big road victory over heavily-favored Army. Now was the moment for the Mean Green to assert themselves in Conference USA and accelerate their march to bowl eligibility.
Instead, North Texas played its worst opening half of the season, fell into a 14-0 hole, then scuttled its rally attempts with four turnovers on the way to a 31-17 loss to Texas San Antonio.
The loss drops North Texas to 4-4 on the year and 2-2 in Conference USA.
"I do know four turnovers is going to get you beat," North Texas coach Seth Littrell said. "We dug ourselves too many holes and didn't do enough good things to win."
North Texas out-gained UTSA (4-4, 3-2), 409-318, but that was in part due to the short field the Mean Green gave the Roadrunners and to the Mean Green being forced to pass so much late. But its top offensive threat, running back Jeffery Wilson, was held to 50 yards rushing on 19 carries.
The North Texas offense was unable to sustain any consistent attack in the first half. Twice the Mean Green began to drive, but both marches were cut short by turnovers, an interception of a pass thrown into double coverage and a fumble at the 1-yard line on the last play of the first half, when Wilson's second effort to reach the goal line ended when the ball was knocked from his grasp.
North Texas managed just 18 yards total offense in the first quarter and 111 for the half. But as bad as the first half was, the halftime margin was just 14-0, and the Mean Green opened the second half with its biggest play of the night to get back into the game.
Fine, who was sacked four times and sustained hit after hit, got his chance at open field on the first play of the second half. A quarterback draw exploded into the secondary, and Fine showed off his top-end speed, racing past the Roadrunner defenders 80 yards for a touchdown, narrowing the gap to 14-7.
What appeared to be the start of a comeback, however, was an illusion. The Mean Green defense forced UTSA into a three-and-out, but on the first play following the punt, the ball slipped out of the back of Fine's hand as he tried to throw and the Roadrunners recovered the fumble at the NT 36. UTSA turned the gift into a 33-yard field goal and a 17-7 lead.
North Texas' next possession also ended in turnover, when Fine overthrew a screen and UTSA's Chase Dahlquist intercepted. Six plays later, UTSA scored on a 9-yard run for a 24-7 lead.
Down 31-10 midway through the fourth quarter, the Mean Green launched their final comeback attempt. Kenny Buyers caught a 10-yard touchdown pass to cap a 78-yard drive and cut the gap to 31-17.
On the ensuing kickoff, Trevor Moore recovered an onside kick at the Mean Green 46-yard line, and the Mean Green quickly moved to a first-and-goal at the UTSA 3-yard line. But an offensive interference penalty and a sack left North Texas with fourth-and-goal from the 21, which it could not convert.
• This was the sixth time a North Texas opponent has scored first this year.
• Brandon Garner recorded a sack in the first quarter, giving him 3.5 for the season.
• Josh Wheeler had a second-quarter sack. He has 4.5 this year.
• Welcome back, Fred Scott. The senior linebacker, out with injury since the Middle Tennessee game, returned to play and had his first sack of the year, spilling UTSA QB Dalton Sturm for a 10-yard loss.
• Dee Baulkman was credited with a sack, giving him 2.5 for the season, when his pursuit of Sturm resulted in an intentional grounding penalty.
• Wide receiver Kenny Buyers caught the first touchdown pass of his career on a 10-yard toss in the fourth quarter.
• UTSA now leads the all-time series with North Texas, 3-1.
• Freshman quarterback Mason Fine's 80-yard run was the longest of the season for the Mean Green. The previous long belonged to Wilson, who galloped 75 yards for a touchdown at Rice on September 24.
• The four turnovers by the Mean Green are the most they have committed this season, and most since the four they had on November 7, 2015, at Louisiana Tech.
•Fine has now thrown at least one touchdown pass in each of his last five games.
Homecoming. North Texas hosts C-USA West Division leader Louisiana Tech on Saturday, Nov. 5, at 4:30 p.m. at Apogee Stadium.