Aired live on KNTU Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016
Final score — NT 42 Rice 35 2OT
HOUSTON (KNTU) North Texas hadn’t won a road game since 2013, and hadn’t won multiple games in a season since 2014.
The Mean Green erased both categories, besting the Rice Owls 45-35 in double overtime on Saturday, Sept. 24.
North Texas (2-2, 1-0) doubled their win total from a disastrous 1-11 season in 2015 with the victory, snapping a 14-game road losing streak that dated back to November 30, 2013.
It took a rally from a 17-0 deficit to beat Rice (0-4, 0-2) for just the second time since the Mean Green joined the Owls in Conference USA in 2013.
Rice struck first on a 40-yard field goal from Haden Tobola, capping off a 13 play, 51-yard drive that started promising. North Texas defensive back Nate Brooks blew up a gadget play on third and goal, forcing the Owls to settle for the trio of points.
Rice put the first touchdown of the game up with 3:17 to go in the first quarter, when quarterback Tyler Stehling found wideout Lance Wright for a 14-yard score.
The touchdown catch was the first of Wright’s career.
The Owls extended their lead to the 17-0 mark after Emmanuel Esukpa punched in a 1-yard score early in the second quarter.
North Texas’ comeback began with 10:28 to play in the second quarter, with true freshman quarterback Mason Fine finding Willy Ivery for a 16-yard touchdown.
The touchdown pass was the first of Fine’s career.
Running back Jeffrey Wilson brought the Mean Green within a field goal in the closing seconds of the first half, as he capped off a six play, 90-yard drive with a touchdown run from a yard out.
Despite an opportunity to take the lead before the half ended thanks to a Rice fumble, the Owls had a 17-14 lead at halftime.
Tobola added his second field goal of the night, a 36-yarder, with 7:35 left in the third quarter to make it a 20-14 contest.
However, Wilson gave North Texas its first lead of the night just eight seconds later, bringing the score to 21-20 with a 75-yard touchdown scamper, the longest of his career.
The junior’s previous career long rush was 38 yards.
North Texas added an insurance tally midway through the fourth quarter off a 1-yard run from Willy Ivery, making it a 28-20 game.
Ivery ended the night with three touchdowns, two of which came on the ground.
In spite of the extra touchdown, Rice refused to go away, tacking on a touchdown with 2:34 left in regulation with a 1-yard run from Darik Dillard. The Owls tied the game 28-28 after quarterback Tyler Stehling found Robby Wells III for the two point conversion.
Both Rice and North Texas each had one remaining opportunity to score before the end of regulation but both came up short, sending the Mean Green to just their third overtime game in school history.
Rice put up the first points of overtime, with running back Dillard punching the ball in from three yards out to give the Owls a 35-28 lead.
North Texas responded with Wilson adding his third touchdown of the night, this one from five yards away to tie the game 35-35 and send it to a second overtime.
Wilson finished the night with a career high 157 yards on 18 carries, in addition to his three touchdowns.
In the second overtime, North Texas jumped out to the advantage thanks to a 4-yard run from Ivery to make it 42-35.
The Mean Green defense capped the win, stopping Rice on fourth down and inches to seal the victory.
North Texas’ next matchup will be at home against Middle Tennessee State on Saturday, Oct. 1, with kick off scheduled for 4:30 p.m.