Top Moments of 2016: Bussey’s Big Bowl Game Grab

July 28, 2017

DENTON – We conclude our Top Moments of 2016 series from the Cotton Bowl, where the Mean Green took on Army in the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl, as the Mean Green played in their first bowl game since 2013-14.

Despite holding a 7-6 first quarter lead in Dallas, the Mean Green struggled through most of the first half, as Army ran its way to a 24-7 lead midway through the second.

Following the Black Knights’ Andy Davidson’s 6-yard scamper, North Texas embarked on a nine-play, 83 yard drive to cut the lead to 24-14 after a 22-yard pass from Alec Morris to Jeffery Wilson with just 2:26 left in the half.

The Mean Green forced a quick three-and-out on the ensuing Army possession, setting North Texas up at its own 32 with 1:50 on the clock. The Mean Green ran their two-minute drill to perfection, which brings us to our top moment.

After Jeffery Wilson’s on-field illness played a part in costing the Mean Green 13 yards with a fumble, Morris connected with O’Keeron Rutherford to set up third-and-11 from the Army 27 with under 20 seconds to go in the half.

The Mean Green lined up four receivers with trips to the left.

“What I do on this play depends on how the corner is lined up,” Rico Bussey, Jr. said of the design. “If he’s in press, I’m supposed to go, and if he’s giving a cushion, I’m supposed to break the route down. I saw how he was lined up, which was inside and pressing. I didn’t really make any move, I just tried to run right by him and I knew the ball was probably coming to me based on how he was lined up.”

Bussey went to the outside of Army cornerback Mike Reynolds and Morris aired it out. The ball was thrown to Bussey’s back shoulder, and, despite some interference by the defender, the freshman receiver went up and got it for one of the more physical catches by a North Texas receiver all season.

At first glance, it seems simple. Run a deep fade based on the coverage, and the ball will be there. But delving in a bit more, there’s much more to why Bussey ended up one-on-one on the outside.

Pre-snap, receiver and quarterback are reading coverage which determines where Bussey and the outside receiver on the opposite side of the field go. But the underneath routes, coupled with the protection up front, freed the space and allowed Bussey to get downfield.

Kenny Buyers and Thaddeous Thompson were on the left side of the field with Bussey, and Buyers’ route eliminated the safety from being able to provide help on Bussey’s side. Thompson also run off the other defender to that side with a four-yard drag, leaving Bussey in one-on-one coverage.

Wilson was able to chip the blitzing linebacker just enough to allow Morris the necessary time to put the ball in a spot for Bussey to go and get it.

“That was my first touchdown so I was really excited,” Bussey said. “After that I was just getting smacked in the head from everybody celebrating. I think that play brought a lot of momentum and you could just see everyone’s attitude changing. Everyone felt like we were still in it, and at halftime it was really positive.”

Heading into the locker room, the Mean Green trailed by just a field goal and were set to receive the opening kickoff of the second half. Things were looking up.

They fell behind 31-21, but rallied to score the final 10 points in regulation to tie the score on a 37-yard field goal by Trevor Moore with just 28 seconds to play to force overtime.

Despite the fact that the Mean Green ultimately fell in overtime, the touchdown by Bussey was instrumental in North Texas’ comeback to extend the game, which was one of the most entertaining of the entire bowl season.

The Mean Green open fall camp on July 30, with report day. Stay tuned to for complete coverage throughout the duration of camp.


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