DENTON (11/24/07) Senior running back Jamario Thomas rushed for three touchdowns to lead the North Texas football team to a 27-26 victory against Western Kentucky on Saturday afternoon at Fouts Field.
The Mean Green (2-9, 1-5 Sun Belt) snapped a four-game losing streak and won the first-ever meeting between NT and the Topppers. The Hilltoppers are a provisional member of the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision and will become a full-time member of the Sun Belt Conference next season.
Thomas’ 42-yard touchdown run at the 6:54 mark in the fourth quarter gave North Texas its first lead of the game, 27-26. This was Thomas’ second consecutive game with multiple rushing touchdowns. He had two last week against Arkansas State. Thomas had not scored more than two rushing touchdowns since his freshman year when he scored four against Idaho.
North Texas outscored the Toppers, 14-3, in the third quarter and 20-6 in the second half. All three touchdowns were scored by Thomas, who finished with 147 yards. The senior notched his 13th career 100-yard rushing game, which ranks third in school history.
WKU’s Chris James missed a 38-yard field goal with 1:01 left in the game to seal the North Texas win. James was 2-for-4 in the game. His two field goals in the second half were WKU’s only points in the second period.
North Texas’ only points of the first half came off a blocked punt return for a touchdown. The Toppers outscored the Mean Green, 20-7, in the first half.
For the second straight week, Aaron Weathers blocked a punt. He has blocked four kicks this season. After the block, Chris Neal returned the ball five yards for the touchdown. The blocked punt return for a touchdown was the first since Evan Robertson recovered a blocked punt in the endzone against SMU last season.
Western Kentucky capitalized on two North Texas turnovers in the first half. Both occurred as the Mean Green was driving deep into WKU territory. On NT’s first drive of the game, Rashad Etheridge intercepted Vizza’s pass at the WKU 12-yard line. It was returned 52 yards and the Toppers needed only three plays to get into the endzone. Tyrell Hayden scored on a 23-yard run to put Western Kentucky ahead, 7-0.
After Western Kentucky missed a 49-yard field goal with 2:32 left in the first half, North Texas drove down to the WKU 36-yard line before Terald Clark intercepted another Vizza pass and returned it 44 yards for a touchdown with 28 seconds left in the first half.
North Texas forced two fumbles in the game. Maurice Holman recovered a fumble in the first quarter, but North Texas was unable to convert a 42-yard field goal. The Mean Green was able to convert on its second fumble recovery. At the start of the second half, Cliff Higgs forced a fumble on the opening kick-off. Deavin Cox recovered, and Thomas rushed into the endzone from eight yards out after three plays to begin the Mean Green comeback.
North Texas returns to action on Saturday, Dec. 1 when it faces FIU in its final game of the season in Miami at 6 pm.