Miami, Fla.(11/14/09) - The North Texas football team could not hold onto a 14-point lead as the FIU Golden Panthers came back to defeat the Mean Green, 35-28, at FIU Field on Saturday night.
The Mean Green falls to 2-8 overall and 1-6 in the conference. The Golden Panthers improve to 3-7 and 2-5. FIU has won the last three meetings against NT and now leads the series, 3-2.
"It's just another disappointing loss," said head coach Todd Dodge. "I thought we came into the game prepared and with the right attitude. We made too many crucial mistakes to win the game."
North Texas held a 28-14 halftime lead, but FIU forced two turnovers and blocked a punt in the second half. All three Mean Green miscues led to FIU touchdowns. This is the fourth time this season that North Texas has lost a game when holding a double-digit lead.
Despite controlling the ball and the clock, North Texas came up just short. The Mean Green recorded 513 yards of total offense, held the ball for 39 minutes and converted 11 of 18 third-down opportunities.
Lance Dunbar rushed for 119 yards and two touchdowns. He has rushed for over 100 yards in six games this season. He had 86 rushing yards in the first half.
Riley Dodge threw for 314 yards, completed 28 of 37 passes, threw a touchdown pass and opened the game with a rushing touchdown of his own.
The Mean Green played one of its best first halves against FIU and got it done on the ground. The Mean Green had more rushing yards in the first quarter (121) than it did in the entire game last week against ULM. The 14-point halftime lead was its largest halftime lead of the season. The Mean Green's 300 total yards of offense in the first half was more than it had the entire game against ULM last week.
A series of miscues in the second half by North Texas erased the 14-point halftime lead.
The first turnover of the game started the comeback for FIU. Peter Riley intercepted a Dodge throw and ran it back 26 yards for a touchdown, making it a seven-point game, 28-21 with 7:50 left in the third.
Mean Green then had a punt blocked by Riley at the North Texas 16-yard line, which FIU recovered with 13 minutes to play. T.Y. Hilton caught the ensuing three-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 28.
A North Texas fumble after a catch by Michael Outlaw set up the game-winning score for FIU. Four plays later, FIU took its first lead of the game with a Wayne Younger quarterback keeper that he ran into the endzone with five minutes left in the game.
The first quarter featured a back and forth between the two teams. North Texas took an early 14-0 lead on two big plays. Dodge needed less than a minute to lead North Texas to its first score of the game. The quarterback capped a three-play drive with a 38-yard touchdown run. It was the Mean Green's first score in the first quarter on the road since the opening win against Ball State.
Dunbar broke two tackles to score his 14th rushing touchdown of the season, a 42-yard run. The long run gave North Texas a 14-0 lead.
Running back Kendall Berry scored both touchdowns for FIU to tie the game at 14. The first was a 35-yard run and the second was a one-yard rush.
North Texas started off the second quarter with a 75-yard touchdown drive, capped by a 15-yard catch by Darius Carey in the endzone. North Texas faced a third-and goal after Dodge was sacked on the previous play. Dodge connected with Carey for the fourth time this season to give the lead back to North Texas.
Dunbar scored his second touchdown of the game and 15th this season to put North Texas back up by 14, 28-14.
North Texas returns to action on Saturday, Nov. 21 when it faces Army at home at 3 p.m.