Western Kentucky Crushes North Texas, 45-7
Mean Green Need To Win Last Two Games To Be Bowl Eligible
BOWLING GREEN, KY - For the second week in a row, North Texas was tested by one of the top receivers in country. And for the second week in a row, the Mean Green had no answer.
Taywan Taylor, the all-time leading wide receiver in Western Kentucky history and ranked in the top-10 nationally this year in receiving yards and touchdowns, torched North Texas for 170 yards and three touchdowns, including 64- and 75-yard TDs in the first five minutes of the game that ignited a 45-7 rout of the Mean Green at Houchens-Smith Stadium.
A week ago, Louisiana Tech's Carlos Henderson scored five touchdowns against North Texas, but the Mean Green kept pace with the Bulldogs well into the second half. This week, a North Texas offense that was without leading rusher Jeffrey Wilson, who was sidelined by injury, struggled to pick up first downs, never mind the points necessary to challenge the Conference USA East-Division leading Hilltoppers.
"That's a really good team," North Texas coach Seth Littrell said. "If you're going to have success against a team like that, you've got to play really well."
The loss is the third straight for North Texas and drops the Mean Green to 4-6 on the year (2-4 in C-USA), pushing North Texas into a must-win situation in its final two regular-season games if it is reach bowl eligibility.
"That's what we've got to focus on," Littrell said. "We've just got to correct our weaknesses."
For the second-straight game, North Texas gave up 31 points before halftime. The Mean Green defense surrendered 351 yards total offense in the first half, 292 through the air to receivers who were consistently able to get behind a North Texas secondary that was hampered by the absence of starting cornerback Eric Jenkins, who like Wilson was out due to injury suffered a week ago.
In the second half, WKU's running game began to pound away at the Mean Green, grinding out 126 yards rushing in the third quarter when the Hilltoppers padded their lead to 45-7.
The Mean Green offense, meanwhile, generated no first downs while the Hilltoppers were delivering their early haymaker, and didn't pick up a first down until the second quarter. True freshman quarterback Mason Fine completed 3 of 6 passes for 9 yards before leaving the game with a shoulder injury in the second quarter, and senior Alec Morris, who opened the year as the starting QB, got the North Texas moving, but the Mean Green did not get onto the scoreboard until a 71-yard run by Andrew Tucker late in the third quarter.
"Guys go down and other guys have to step up," Littrell said.
North Texas' leading rusher Jeffrey Wilson missed Saturday's game due to an undisclosed injury sustained a week ago against Louisiana Tech. His return is unknown.
Cornerback Eric Jenkins, the team leader in interceptions, also missed the Western Kentucky game due to injury.
The Hilltoppers amassed 543 yards total offense, the second-most North Texas has allowed this year.
North Texas gave up a season-high in yards passing. WKU's 329 surpassed the 300 yards passing by SMU in the season opener.
This is the sixth time this year North Texas has given up over 470 yards total offense.
Quarterback Mason Fine had his streak of six-straight games with a touchdown pass snapped.
North Texas did not sack the WKU quarterback, just the second game this season the Mean Green has not recorded a sack.
Junior running back Andrew Tucker's 71-yard touchdown run in the third quarter was the longest of his career, eclipsing and 18-yard run at SMU in 2015.
With Tucker's 71-yard touchdown, the Mean Green has four rushing touchdowns this season of 70 yards or more. The longest rush by any North Texas player last season was 54 yards.
The Mean Green have 21 rushing touchdowns this year after posting just seven in 2015.
The Mean Green will host Southern Mississippi Saturday, Nov. 19, at 4:30 p.m. in the final home game of the season.