Top Moments From 2017 - Safety Averted

June 27, 2018

As fall camp approaches, with players reporting on August 2, takes a look back at some of the biggest moments from the 2017 season. Stay tuned each Wednesday as relives each of these key moments from the nine-win season last year. We continue our series with one of the more understated big plays of the season, the safety that wasn't in Hattiesburg.

With 7:53 remaining in the first half, 2-2 North Texas was in a tough spot. It trailed 21-7 at Southern Miss and was pinned at its own five. Any missteps and the game could potentially get away from the Mean Green.

On first-and-10, senior running back Jeffery Wilson had arguably one of his most significant runs of the season, and it finished as a loss of two yards. Why was it so important? It helped keep North Texas in the game, and eventually led to a 95-yard scoring drive in a game the Mean Green came from behind to win convincingly.

From their own five, quarterback Mason Fine took the snap from the gun and handed off to Wilson who was running a sweep to the right side. The exchange took place inches outside of the Mean Green goal line, and it was trouble from the jump.

Southern Miss defensive lineman Rod Crayton got immediate penetration through the right side of the North Texas offensive line, and met Wilson at the goal line. Wilson attempted to fight through the tackle, and as Crayton wrapped him up for a would-be safety, Wilson kept churning and rolled on top of the defensive tackle about two yards deep in the end zone.

One defender overran Wilson and stopped for just a moment, which was enough time for Wilson to gain some forward momentum. He then bounced off a would-be tackler about six inches inside the end zone, and fought through more contact by Southern Miss safety Curtis Mikell to push forward to the three yard line.

Wilson dragged three tacklers forward to get out to the three, saving the Mean Green from what could have been a devastating safety that would have stretched the Golden Eagles' lead to 23-7, and provided Southern Miss with another possession with decent field position.

Instead, Wilson's determination allowed North Texas to regroup, gain new life, and the team marched the remaining 97 yards for a key scoring drive.

Fine completed five-of-seven passes for 65 yards on the drive, including a touchdown pass to Jalen Guyton, while Wilson picked up 17 yards on the ground following the drive-opening play. North Texas converted a fourth-and-two, and then benefitted from a personal foul penalty as well, allowing the Mean Green to cut the deficit in half just before the half. They tacked on another three points as time expired in the second quarter to trim the Southern Miss lead to 21-17.

Following Wilson's near-safety, the Mean Green outscored Conference USA's top-ranked scoring defense at the time 36-7 to pick up a big-time conference victory on the road.

Wilson finished the win with 30 carries for 148 yards and three scores, while Guyton carried the aerial attack with a career-high 14 catches for 211 yards and the above-mentioned touchdown.

The win was a turning point, which helped propel the Mean Green to a 7-1 conference record by seizing a key win on the road against one of C-USA's perennial contenders.

What they said:

Head Coach Seth Littrell - "Talk about a competitive play, when you think about Jeffery Wilson on the minus-five where you're close to getting a safety and he gets it out of the end zone by making a terrific play there. After that we go 90-plus yards and that can be the difference in the game."

RB Jeffery Wilson - "We had to keep our composure and that was a big key and a big step for us. This one [meant] a lot to go 2-0 in conference, which is something we haven't done in a long time. To come out here and play hard to get the win, it's a blessing."

QB Mason Fine - "We really started to get things going after that big 95-yard drive. Once we did that, we knew we could move up and down the field on these guys. It gave us the mindset that we could do it and that was the turning point right there."



North Texas Mean Green