North Texas Ends 2015 With 20-17 Loss To UTEP
Mean Green Fall Despite Strong Performance By NT Defense
Courtney Finney (17) celebrates his fumble recovery and return for a touchdown. (photo by Matt Pearce)
DENTON - The North Texas defense forced six fumbles, recovered five, returned one for a touchdown and allowed a season-low 256 yards total offense. And it still wasn't enough to earn a victory.
The Mean Green offense generated just 205 yards, produced just 10 first downs and accounted for only three points. Dependant on their defense and special teams for scoring, the Mean Green saw a fourth-quarter lead slip away in a season-ending 20-17 loss to UTEP on a raw, soul-chilling evening at Apogee Stadium.
The season ended on an equally raw note when a drive deep into UTEP territory late in the game was scuttled by 30 yards in penalties on the Mean Green, 15 for a targeting penalty on Carlos Harris - who launched his shoulder into the head of a UTEP defender, resulting in Harris's ejection from the game - and 15 more for unsportsmanlike conduct on the same play. The penalties wiped out a 40-yard scramble by quarterback DaMarcus Smith, and the drive was extinguished a few plays later when NT could not convert a fourth and eight from the Miner 45-yard line.
"I thought we could overcome the first 15, but the second was too much," North Texas head coach Mike Canales said.
"It's the story of this season," he added. "It's worn me down. We were so close at times, but we just couldn't get over the hump. We just can't make plays when we need to make plays."
North Texas finishes the year 1-11, tying for the worst record in program history. UTEP moves to 5-7.
The Mean Green defense was suffocating the entire opening half, allowing just 84 yards total offense, throwing a shutout in the opening half for the first time since the SMU game in 2014, and coming up with three takeaways, all in UTEP territory. Kishawn McClain forced the first fumble, recovered by NT's Fred Scott; Jarrod Lynn jarred loose a second fumble, recovered by NT's James Gray; and Jarrian Roberts knocked the ball loose from UTEP quarterback Ryan Metz as he was being sacked by NT's Chad Polk, and Roberts fell on the loose ball.
But the Mean Green offense turned just one of those turnovers into points, a 28-yard field goal by Trevor Moore. North Texas generated just 128 yards total offense in the first half, despite starting four of its eight first-half possessions from its own 44 or better.
With its offense sputtering, North Texas found the end zone in the second half after a 63-yard punt by NT's Eric Keena left the Miners starting at their own eight. The defense forced a Miner punt, and Tre Johnson returned the kick 53 yards for a touchdown and a 10-6 North Texas lead.
The teams then exchanged the lead on defensive touchdowns. UTEP went back in front on an interception of the Mean Green's third quarterback of the night, Josh Greer, which was returned for a TD, but North Texas went back up, 17-13, on the fifth fumble recovery of the evening, a scoop and score by Courtney Finney of a UTEP lateral.
The Miners, however, managed a scoring drive late, a 72-yard march capped by a 32-yard touchdown toss with 7:51 to play, and North Texas could not answer.
What They Said
"Obviously, this isn't what we invisioned in the preseason, or ever. I never thought our careers would end like this. I love these guys, and it's hard to see it end like this."
--Senior quarterback Andrew McNulty on the seniors' final season and game.
"The team wanted to go out with a win, and that's what motivated us all week."
--Senior offensive lineman Michael Banogu
"I wanted to go out with a win, but my overall objective in coming back was to be a mentor to these guys."
--Senior defensive back Zac Whitfield, who returned to the team as a graduate student.
"Everything was self-inflicted. Was it coaching, was it discipline, was it bad luck? Maybe it was a lot of things. The chemistry of our lockerroom has to be better. Somewhere we didn't click."
--Head coach Mike Canales on the problems of the 2015 Mean Green.
"I told the players coming back to use this (season) as motivation to never let this (a 1-11 season) happen again."
--Canales on his message to the team's underclassmen.
"I wish the new coach coming in there all the best of luck. This place means a lot to me."
--Canales's message to the Mean Green's next head coach.
• North Texas snapped a nine-game streak of going scoreless in the first quarter when Trevor Moore hit a 28-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead in the opening period. It was the Mean Green's first score in the first quarter since the Rice game Sept. 19.
• However, the Mean Green failed to score a first-quarter touchdown in all 12 games this year. NT has now gone without a TD in the opening period in 13 consecutive games, dating back to last season.
• North Texas held its opponent scoreless in the first quarter for the first time since the Rice game.
• Senior Andrew McNulty, in his final game at North Texas, got the start Saturday but came out of the game in the second quarter due to injury.
• In the first half, the two offenses combined for 212 yards total offense, the lowest total of the season.
• North Texas finished with a losing home record for the first time in Apogee Stadium's five-year history.
• The Mean Green's 11 losses ties for the most/second most in program history. NT lost 11 times in 2008.
• North Texas set a school record for the most total yards allowed in a single season with 6,031, topping the previous mark of 5,837 allowed in 2007.
• The Mean Green also set a program record for most rushing yards allowed in a season with 2,879. The previous worst was 2,756 in 2007.
• North Texas allowed the second most passing yards in a single season with 3,152. The 2008 team allowed 3,306.
• In his final game at North Texas, senior wide receiver Carlos Harris was ejected in the fourth quarter for targeting the head of a UTEP defensive back while blocking for quarterback DaMarcus Smith on a scramble.
• The five forced turnovers were the most since also forcing five turnovers against SMU on Sept. 6, 2014.
• North Texas took a lead into halftime for the first time this season and the first time time since last year's game against FAU on Nov. 8, 2014.
• Jeffrey Wilson topped 1,000 yards rushing for his career, rushing 15 times for 56 yards against UTEP. He finishes his sophomore season with 830 yards on 155 carries.
• Eric Keena tied his season long with a 63-yard boot in the third quarter, pinning UTEP at its own eight-yard line.
• Dating back to last season, Trevor Moore has made 58 consecutive PATs, three shy of tying the school record. The streak includes a 21-of-21 mark during the 2015 season.
• Tre Johnson returned a punt 53 yards for a touchdown, the first special teams touchdown of the season and the first punt return for a touchdown since a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown by Darvin Kidsy against Nicholls State on Sept. 20, 2014.
Find a new coach. The search is underway for the 19th head coach in North Texas football history.