As Quinn Shanbour walked across the bright green turf of the south end zone at Apogee Stadium, he stopped every few steps to embrace another hug. Hugs are usually a signal of goodbye, and that’s ultimately what this was for Shanbour. Tears were visible on his face during each short walk between hugs.
North Texas had just beaten Lane Kiffin’s Florida Atlantic 41-38 in a game that started Thursday night and went into early Friday morning before UNT quarterback Mason Fine took a knee to ultimately conclude it. It was a rematch of last season’s Conference USA championship game and a contest between two teams that failed to reach expectations this year. But nonetheless, the Mean Green got revenge despite squandering an early 17-0 lead in Shanbour’s last home game after walking on after the 2013 season.
Shanbour, a redshirt-senior, stopped between the south goalpost and the bronze eagle statue that he had sprinted past before games more than anyone else on the Mean Green’s roster. He was met with another hug from UNT athletic director Wren Baker. Shanbour seemed to have lost his emotion more during this particular hug as he buried his face into Baker’s shoulder. But just a victory wasn’t what stirred Shanbour’s emotions so much.
“My last time out in Apogee,” Shanbour said. “It was pretty emotional. I also lost a loved one this week. Family really means a lot to me. And these guys know I consider them family. Just losing a loved one, and plus riding out on a high out here, it was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of moment.”
As the backup quarterback, Shanbour entered the game in the third quarter after training staff escorted Fine to the locker room with a left wrist injury. Fine suffered a gruesome hit during a throw, and video showed him immediately grab the wrist after he hit the turf. Because of the violence of the blow and how long Fine was down afterward, Twitter entered a frenzy, already speculating that Fine broke his wrist and his junior campaign was over. But X-rays came back negative, and UNT officials said later in the quarter that Fine had a deep gash on his left wrist and could even possibly return to play.
Here's a look at the play that Fine was injured on. https://t.co/HIEkgi1S1C— Dekota Gregory (@dekotagregory) November 16, 2018
Fine did come back later in the third quarter with his left wrist taped and a glove on that hand, but not before Shanbour did enough for UNT to deem him MVP after the game.
When Fine exited the game, UNT was driving with the ball on FAU’s 7-yard line, down 24-20. Shanbour ran for a 5-yard touchdown on his second play in the game to give the Mean Green a 27-24 lead they wouldn’t lose. It was his first touchdown in Apogee Stadium in his last chance to do so.
“He’s a special person,” UNT coach Seth Littrell said. “For him to have the opportunity on senior night, to come in here and step up and have to execute. That touchdown was huge.”
The next UNT drive ended with another Shanbour rushing touchdown, this time for 18 yards to extend the Mean Green’s lead, 34-24. Shanbour finished the game with 34 yards on four carries, as well as 1-of-2 passing for 8 yards.
FAU fought back after Fine came back, getting within three points twice before the game finally ended thanks to a Khairi Muhammad interception in the final two minutes. The Mean Green answered every time the Owls seemed to have a chance in the fourth quarter, including the turnover and a 92-yard touchdown run from DeAndre Torrey with 4:06 left to put UNT ahead by 10 again. Chris Robison hit Jovon Durante for a 55-yard score with 3:38 left, but that was the last time FAU put points on the board.
Torrey ended the game with 184 yards on 17 rushes. Fine became UNT’s career leader in yards of total offense in a performance that he threw for 295 yards and two scores on 22-of-33 passing. But the hero who seemingly won the game for the Mean Green didn’t post the most impressive stats.
Quinn Shanbour notched the best performance Thursday night, nearly six years in the making.
“I love all my coaches, all the players, the community,” Shanbour said. “I put so much into this community. They gave it right back.”