Mean Green Can't Keep Pace With Bulldogs in 45-24 Loss
North Texas Falls At Homecoming to Louisiana Tech
DENTON - North Texas didn't want to get into a shoot-out with Louisiana Tech for Saturday evening's homecoming at Apogee Stadium. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs didn't give the Mean Green a choice.
The North Texas offense did all it could to keep pace, getting strong efforts from quarterback Mason Fine and running back Jeffrey Wilson, even a career-best 51-yard field goal from Trevor Moore. But the Mean Green had no answer for Louisiana Tech's attack that came into the night averaging 44 points per game.
The result was a 45-24 loss to the Conference USA West Division-leading Bulldogs, who got five touchdowns from wide receiver Carlos Henderson, rolled up more than 200 yards rushing and passing, had 30 first downs, and punted just twice, but not until the fourth quarter.
In short, it was a night that North Texas could not afford not to score. The Mean Green offense ultimately could not keep up with Louisiana Tech's torrid pace in the second half, and the North Texas defense could not make the stops necessary to slow the Bulldogs' assault.
"I thought we did some good things in the first half," North Texas coach Seth Littrell said of his offense. "We had a good rhythm. They made some adjustments in the second half, and we didn't play the way we needed to. We've got to keep the momentum.
"Their offense can stress you in a lot of ways," he said of the task his defense faced. "They execute very well. We brought some pressures, we just didn't get home. We've just got to play much better."
The Mean Green could also not afford penalties, yet it committed three defensive holdings, two late-hit personal fouls and drew nine penalties for 94 yards in the first half.
"Way too many penalties," Littrell said. "We've got to be more disciplined than that."
The loss is crippling to the Mean Green's bowl hopes, which were unlikely at best before the season but suddenly realistic after the win at Army three weeks ago. Two-straight losses, however, drop North Texas to 4-5 on the season, and the Mean Green need to win two of their final three games to be bowl eligible, but probably need to win out for a shot at a bowl invitation.
Fine had one of his best performances of the year, completing his first 15 passes and 21 of his first 26 before the offense slowed. He finished 23 of 34 for 207 yards.
"I felt comfortable," Fine said. "We were prepared for them. We just didn't execute in critical situations. Mainly in the second half, it was just us."
Wilson, meanwhile, did some hard running for 66 yards and a touchdown and had four receptions for 61 yards.
Louisiana Tech (7-3, 5-1 in C-USA) scored on five of six first-half possessions, converted four of five third downs, and got three first-half touchdowns from the speed of Henderson, who out-ran Mean Green defenders to the edge on a 52-yard pass and a 24-yard reverse, then rounded out the half with a 10-yard TD reception.
But the Mean Green returned fire. A pass that bounced off a Tech receiver was intercepted by NT defensive back Ashton Preston at the Bulldog 30, and North Texas scored nine plays later on a 1-yard run by Wilson. Terian Goree tied the game at 14-14 with a 32-yard touchdown reception, pulling in a pass across the middle, breaking a tackle and circling left to the pylon for his second touchdown of the year. Willie Ivery's 4-yard scoring run late in the first half pulled North Texas to within 28-21.
North Texas again got within a touchdown in the third quarter when Moore nailed a 51-yard field goal, but that was as close as the Mean Green would get. Louisiana Tech responded with two more long scoring drives, capped by two more Henderson touchdowns, to put the game our of reach. For the game, the Bulldogs has scoring drives of 78, 75, 80, 70, 75 and 76 yards.
What They Said
"We've got to protect better and make better decisions."
--NT head coach Seth Littrell on his passing game, which absorbed five sacks
"We beat ourselves"
--North Texas defensive back James Gray
"They moved him around a lot. He just made some plays."
--Mean Green defensive back Chad Davis on Tech wide receiver Carlos Henderson
"We're physical in practice every day. We've just got to clean up our technique a little"
--Davis on the multiple defensive holding penalties the North Texas secondary drew
Running back Jeffery Wilson scored a touchdown Saturday to bring his season total to 13. That ties Lance Dunbar for the fourth-most rushing TDs in a single season in Mean Green history.
Defensive back Ashton Preston's first-quarter interception was the first of his career and just the fourth thrown by Louisiana Tech QB Ryan Higgins this season.
Quarterback Mason Fine completed his first 15 passes of the game, good for 140 yards and a touchdown.
Fine also threw a touchdown in the second quarter, the sixth-straight game he has passed for at least one score.
Louisiana Tech's 31 first-half points were the most North Texas has surrendered before halftime this season.
Defensive back Chad Davis had a great pass-breakup near the end of the first half.
Something you don't see every game: in the third quarter, the referees called off-setting facemask penalties.
Fine was sacked five times Saturday. North Texas has allowed 38 sacks this year.
Junior kicker Trevor Moore made a career-long 51-yard field goal in the third quarter. His previous best was 47 yards in 2014.
Senior defensive end Malik Dilonga picked up his first sack of the season late in the third quarter.
Louisiana Tech's Carlos Henderson's five total touchdowns against the Mean Green are the most since Tech's Kenneth Dixon had six rushing scores in a 56-13 win in Ruston over North Texas on Nov. 7, 2015.
Present in the pressbox Saturday night was the great Bill Mercer, the father of the North Texas sports broadcasting program that has filled the rosters of radio stations all over Dallas-Fort Worth and beyond.
Wilson's 66 yards rushing Saturday give him 833 for the season, topping his previous season-best of 830 yards in 2015.
North Texas travels to Bowling Green, Ky., to take on Western Kentucky Saturday, Nov. 12, at 2:30 p.m.