North Texas Slips To 1-10 With 41-7 Loss To MTSU
Blue Raiders Score TDs On First Four Possessions To Overpower Mean Green
NT defensive end Austin Orr throws a Middle Tennessee ball carrier for a loss (photo by David Pyke)
MURFREESBORO, TN - Saturday's game at Floyd Stadium played out just as it appeared it would: one team limping towards the finish line, its opponent seeking to become bowl eligible.
North Texas surrendered touchdowns on Middle Tennessee's first four possessions of a 41-7 loss that drops the Mean Green's 2015 campaign to a 1-10 record - the fifth season in program history with 10 or more losses and fourth in the last 10 years - and boosts MTSU to its sixth win of the season, making the Blue Raiders eligible for one of Conference USA's bowl berths.
In a surprisingly sparsely-attended final MTSU home game of the year, Saturday was the same verse as has been sung all season by the Mean Green: a slow start with no first-quarter touchdowns combined with early opponent scoring leading to a quick double-digit deficit. In 11 games this year, North Texas has yet to score a TD in the opening period.
"Seven road games and three in a row have taken a toll on us," said North Texas coach Mike Canales, whose team just completed a three-game road trip and have played seven of its 11 games thus far away from home. "It showed today. We missed opportunities, didn't take care of the ball, and we wouldn't stop them on defense."
The Mean Green defense, which turned in its best performance of the season a week ago against the SEC's Tennessee, could not get off the field against Middle Tennessee. The Blue Raiders did not punt until the 3:57 mark of the third quarter and was slowed only by a first-half interception by NT's Kishawn McClain, which was erased three plays later by a Mean Green fumble. MTSU was able to pick the Mean Green apart with a short-passing game that piled up yards after the catch.
The NT offense, meanwhile, generated just 133 yards passing and 324 yards total offense, its third lowest output of the season, The Mean Green managed three drives into scoring territory, the first ending in a missed field goal, the second in a one-yard touchdown run by quarterback DaMarcus Smith and the third in a lost fumble at the MTSU five-yard line.
• North Texas has now lost 13 road games in a row.
• Saturday's loss was the seventh of the season by 20 or more points.
• This was the fifth game in a row North Texas has had less than 400 yards total offense, and its eighth sub-400-yard game of the year.
• QB DaMarcus Smith ran for his second touchdown of the season with a one-yard plunge in the second-quarter. He finished with 36 rushing yards.
• Willy Ivery had a career-long 52-yard run in the third-quarter. It was the longest run by a Mean Green running back this season and the second-longest rush of the year. He finished with a career-high 59 yards.
• Safety James Gray had a game-high 11 tackles, the sixth time this season Gray has recorded double-figure tackles. He also had his first forced fumble of the season in the fourth quarter, which NT recovered.
• Kishawn McClain had his first interception of the season and the second of his career in the second quarter. It is the fourth of the year for NT.
• WR Tee Goree notched a career-high four catches on the day for 28 yards. He had three grabs on the first drive of the game.
• North Texas has been outscored by 122-6 in the opening period this year.
• Jeffrey Wilson had a 41-yard kickoff return in the first quarter, his second kickoff return this season for over 40 yards.
• Center Kaydon Kirby was out of the lineup for the first time of his career due to injury. Kirby had started 35-straight games dating back to the first game of the 2013 season.
• Freshman center Creighton Barr made his first career start in place of Kirby.
The Mean Green finish the season on Saturday, Nov, 28, at Apogee Stadium against UTEP. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.