TUCSON, Ariz. (9/28/02) The Mean Green rolled up a season-high 470 yards of total offense but could convert just three field goals as North Texas battled Arizona before losing a heartbreaker, 14-9, Saturday night.
North Texas (1-4) held a 6-0 lead into the second quarter before Arizona scored all its points on a pair of stunning touchdowns in a span of 2:34 late in the second quarter. The two scores, one set up with fumble recovery and the second coming off a return of a blocked North Texas field goal, were all the Wildcats needed to improve to 3-1.
“Defensively I thought we played extremely well,” said North Texas head coach Darrell Dickey. “We just made some mistakes that kept us from having a better chance to win. Offensively we’ve improved, but we making some mistakes.”
While the North Texas offense, behind sophomore quarterback Andrew Smith who started for the fourth straight game, produced season-high numbers, the Mean Green’s only points came off three Nick Bazaldua field goals. Bazaldua hit on kicks of 44 and 32 in the first half and then connected on a 31-yarder on North Texas’ opening series of the third quarter.
His Arizona counterpart, Sean Keel, missed on the four field goal he attempted, including two that were blocked by the Mean Green’s Don McGee.
However, Arizona capitalized on two opportunities late in the second quarter that turned out to be the difference in the game. After recovering a fumble by Smith at the Mean Green 14-yard line with 2:39 left in the first half, Arizona scored on its first offensive play to go up 7-6. Then with 0:02 left before halftime and North Texas set up for a 36-yard field goal, Arizona blocked the attempted kick and Gary Love returned it 60 yards for a touchdown to go up 14-6 at halftime.
With the Mean Green defense shutting out the Wildcats the entire second half, North Texas had a shot midway through the fourth quarter to take the lead. But receiver George Marshall, after taking in a Smith pass, fumbled at the Arizona 10-yard line to end the threat.
North Texas posted a 6-0 lead in the second quarter after Bazaldua’s two first-half field goals, including a 44-yarder in the first quarter that marked the first time this season that an Arizona opponent had scored on the Wildcats.
After the Mean Green blocked a field goal attempt on Arizona’s first offensive series of the game, North Texas drove 66 yards to set up Bazaldua’s 44-yarder with 5:14 left in the first quarter. It was Bazaldua’s longest field goal of his career.
North Texas missed on another scoring opportunity later in the opening quarter when running back Patrick Cobbs was stopped inside the one-yard line on a fourth-and-goal from the two-yard line line.
The Mean Green added to its lead midway through the second quarter on Bazaldua’s second field goal. A 10-play, 50-yard North Texas drive stalled out and Bazaldua was successful from 32 yards out to put UNT up by a 6-0 score with 8:13 left.
Two miscues by the Mean Green in the final three minutes of the first half led to Arizona opening the game up and entering halftime a 14-6 lead.
A fumble by Smith was recovered by the Wildcats’ Clay Hardt at the North Texas 14-yard line and on the first play from scrimmage, Arizona scored on a run around the right side by Mike Bell with 2:34 left in the half.
After the following kickoff, North Texas drove into field goal position and were set up for a 36-yard Bazaldua attempt with 0:02 on the clock. The kick was blocked, however, and Arizona’s Gary Love picked it up and raced 60 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the first half.