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(North) Texas is back! Mean Green kick FG as time expires, defeat UAB 46-43

What was supposed to be a blowout was anything but, as the two teams traded scores all day for a nailbiting conclusion

NCAA Football: Alabama-Birmingham at North Texas
Mean Green RB Nic Smith runs for a touchdown in the 2nd quarter against the Blazers. The score at the half was 30-14, but the game was anything but a blowout.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t even supposed to be close.

Playing in its fourth game in three years, the Blazers came in to Denton trailing in every statistical category against UNT, and were two-touchdown underdogs. They were playing a game on the road against a team that had taken a Big Ten team to the wire the previous week.

Looks like somebody forgot to tell the Blazers.

On the opening drive of the game, UAB marched right down the field for a first-strike touchdown, completing a 66-yard drive in just under six minutes. UNT responded, taking another six minutes and 14 plays, culminating in... a field goal, making it 7-3. The Green would get the ball back and finish the 1st quarter up 10-7.

Based on their respective seasons, that would seem to be the beginning of the end, but let this game serve as a reminder that in C-USA conference play, you should take nothing for granted. The Blazers sure didn’t, as they never gave up, down 23-7 late in the half when A.J. Erdely connected with Andre Wilson for his first of two receiving TD’s on the day. UNT answered less than 2 minutes later with a 40-yard TD pass from Mason Fine to Michael Lawrence, sending the teams into the locker room for halftime, the score 30-14.

In the 3rd quarter, the teams traded TD’s, as UAB scored a TD with 8:45 left in the quarter, followed by a UNT TD, then another UAB TD. The Mean Green did not punt in the second half.

Through all this, the Mean Green still had a comfortable lead, as even when the Blazers added a 2-point conversion at the end of the third, the favored team still went into the final quarter up 37-29.

Two more Trevor Moore FG’s for the Green should have sealed it, but the Blazers would not say die. At the 5:51 mark in the 4th, Erdely completed a 4-yard TD pass to Sederian Copeland, closing the score again to 43-36. Confidence got the best of North Texas at this point, as UAB would score again on another 5-yard pass to Lucious Stanley, tying the score at 43-43 with 27 seconds left in the game.

In our preview, we pointed out how it’s a handicap for this North Texas team to have only one go-to option at running back, since it rather telegraphs to the other team where your running plays are going. And this does remain a problem, as UNT’s second-leading rusher on the day, Nic Smith, finished with an underachieving eight carries for 40 yards.

But telegraphing or no, none of that mattered once the Mean Green got the ball back. UAB kicker Nick Vogel hit a boomer, 57 yards down the field, but Evan Johnson ran for 48 yards on the return, starting the final series at the UAB 44. What do you think happened next?

On the first play from scrimmage, Jeffrey Wilson ran for 34 yards, and that was the game. The teams traded timeouts and UAB committed a substitution penalty, but it was already decided— the clock started rolling, Trevor Moore booted the 22-yard FG, and Mean Green fans everywhere breathed a sigh of relief.

Blazer fans everywhere, no doubt, threw up their hands in frustration. For the first time in school history, the Blazers had lost to North Texas, as they fell to 2-2 on the season, 0-1 in conference play.

North Texas, meanwhile, faces an uncertain rest of their season after nearly letting a should-win game slip away. They were firing against Iowa on all cylinders, but against UAB they were outpassed (Erdely led Mason Fine, 321-261), and were only bailed out by a 2nd-quarter turnover and senior Jeffrey Wilson, who ran 26 times for 211 yards, nearly outpacing the top two UAB receivers, who combined for 255.

Despite the difference in passing yards, Fine finished with 3 TD passes, and Erdely finished with 4 TD’s and 1 INT.

Exhaling, North Texas travels to Southern Miss next week for what we would’ve considered a true test yesterday, but after witnessing an explosive UAB, they’re all tests.

The Blazers can roll out of Denton with their head held high, knowing they can run with any C-USA team, and will be right at home in the west division. Next weekend they’ll enjoy their bye week, before welcoming Louisiana Tech into Birmingham on Oct. 7.