Aired live on KNTU Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016
Final score — NT 38 Marshall 21
DENTON, Texas (KNTU) Bowl hopes for North Texas are very much alive.
The Mean Green (3-3, 2-1) hosted their second straight Conference USA clash against Marshall, beating the Thundering Herd 38-21 on Saturday, Oct. 8.
Marshall (1-4, 0-1) won the coin toss but elected to defer the ball to North Texas. The Thundering Herd got a quick defensive stop, but was flagged for roughing the punter. Three plays later, Mean Green quarterback Mason Fine took advantage of the defensive mistake by connecting with fifth year senior receiver Kenny Buyers for 34 yards. Running back Jeffery Wilson soon made a 4-yard touchdown run, his eighth of the season, and the Mean Green posted a 7-0 lead.
North Texas started out solid on the defensive end as well, only allowing Marshall to move 14 yards in six plays before forcing them to punt.
The Mean Green’s quick start didn’t last with Mason Fine fumbling and Marshall safety C.J. Reavis recovering the ball on the North Texas 24-yard line. Thundering Herd quarterback Chase Litton eventually scored on a 6-yard run to tie the game at 7-7.
On their first possession of the second quarter, North Texas scored another touchdown on the ground, but this time by the true freshman quarterback. Fine’s 8-yard scamper was his first career rushing touchdown and put the Mean Green back on top 14-7.
That was the final score of the first half, with much of the credit going to the North Texas defense for holding their ground late in the second quarter and keeping Marshall off the board despite two quality scoring opportunities. The Thundering Herd missed a 48-yard field goal attempt and another 42-yard attempt after recovering a fumble by Mean Green running back Wilson.
The defense played a huge role in the Mean Green’s success by holding a high scoring Marshall offense to just 153 yards and seven points in the first half.
The Thundering Herd finished the game with just 271 yards.
Marshall was reluctant to go away with Keion Davis scoring on a 99-yard kickoff return to begin the second half and tie the game at 14-14.
The back and forth affair continued for much of the second half, with both teams exchanging blows. Tyler Wilson caught an 11-yard TD pass, the first of his career, to give the Mean Green a 21-14 lead. Marshall’s Ryan Yurachek tied it back up at 21-21 with a touchdown on a 1-yard pass from Litton.
Momentum finally turned in the Mean Green’s favor after Jeffery Wilson ripped off a 72-yard scoring sprint to put North Texas ahead 28-21.
That was Wilson’s second touchdown run of 70+ yards for the season, his first coming on a 75-yard dash against Rice.
Wilson had a career game, rushing 26 times for 188 yards while also adding two touchdowns on the ground, bringing him to nine total for the year.
Wilson’s run wasn’t the only highlight of the third quarter for North Texas. Punter Eric Keena ran 18 yards for a first down on a fake punt and sent a surge of energy through the team.
Junior linebacker Joshua Wheeler also recorded his team-best 3.5 sack of the season late in the third to help build momentum.
The offense scored once more on a 31-yard field goal by Trevor Moore in the fourth quarter before the defense got in on the scoring action. Eric Jenkins intercepted Chase Litton and returned the ball 52-yards for a touchdown to seal the victory for North Texas.
The Mean Green has a bye week before facing Army on Saturday, Oct. 22.