North Texas football caps ferocious rally with double-overtime road victory
For the first time since 2013, North Texas football got a win on the road.
After falling behind 17-0, the Mean Green (2-2, 1-0) fought back to defeat Rice University 42-35 in double-overtime Saturday night. It was only the third overtime game in the history of North Texas football.
Facing a fourth and inches in the second overtime, the Owls (0-4, 0-1) quickly snapped the ball. With the game on the line, senior running back Darik Dillard got the handoff but was dropped for a loss by senior defensive end Jareid Combs, ending the game and causing pandemonium on the Mean Green sideline.
“I’m extremely proud of our coaches and our young men,” head coach Seth Littrell said. “They didn’t blink. They just kept playing through it.”
Although North Texas eventually got the win, it was tough sledding for the first 15 minutes, as Rice dominated the first quarter. The Owls jumped out to a quick 17-point lead in the first half courtesy of North Texas penalties.
But two members of the Mean Green offense weren’t willing to go down without a fight. Led by career days from freshman quarterback Mason Fine and junior running back Jeffrey Wilson, the offense got back on track to keep North Texas in the game.
Fine finished with 221 passing yards, going 15-for-26 with one touchdown. Wilson finished with 157 yards on 18 carries and three touchdowns, setting new career highs in yards and touchdowns.
“We started working more to our outside zone,” Littrell said. “It became more of a downhill, outside run game. I still think we’re a long way away, but we’re getting better.”
In the second quarter, the Mean Green got on the board when Fine connected with junior running back Willy Ivery to make it 17-7.
Junior linebacker Joshua Wheeler then forced a Rice fumble, and junior defensive back Kishawn McClain got an interception, but North Texas did not manage to score off either turnover. North Texas managed to pull to within three before halftime after a massive 75-yard reception by senior wide receiver Kenny Buyers set the Mean Green up in Owls territory.
A few plays later, Wilson punched it in from one yard out.
Rice added a field goal after halftime, but North Texas found paydirt from a long ways out when Wilson took off 75 yards, giving the Mean Green their first lead of the night at 21-20.
Ivery padded North Texas’ lead late in the fourth quarter with another touchdown run to make it 28-20. But the Owls were not done.
With less than three minutes to play, Rice senior quarterback Tyler Stehling scampered 41 yards inside the Mean Green five yard line. After Dillard bullied his way into the endzone, Rice went for the two point conversion, and converted, to tie the game at 28.
Both sides then traded blows in the first overtime before Ivery sealed the deal in the second, finding the end zone to give the Mean Green the win.
“This just goes to show what a great week of preparation does for you,” Littrell said. “It builds so much more confidence and makes you believe that you’re going to find a way to win no matter what. I thought all three phases came out this week and were ready to practice. They worked hard, and it carried over to the game.”
Next up: North Texas hosts Middle Tennessee State University at 6 p.m. on Saturday.
Featured Photo: North Texas junior running back Jeffery Wilson (26) moves the chains against Bethune Cookman. Colin Mitchell
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