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North Texas notches statement win at Arkansas

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UNT handled SEC foe Arkansas 44-17 on Saturday in the Mean Green’s first road game of the season

NCAA Football: North Texas at Southern Methodist Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports

North Texas didn’t look like the underdog Saturday at Fayetteville, Arkansas.

The Mean Green handled SEC foe Arkansas 44-17 at Razorback Stadium, ending even more losing streaks for the second week in a row. Last week, UNT became 2-0 for the first time in 23 years with a win against Incarnate Word. After Saturday, the Mean Green have their first 3-0 record since 1989.

UNT also notched its first ever win against the Razorbacks, losing the previous nine, dating back to 1947. The victory improved the Mean Green’s record against SEC opponents to 5-36, being their first true win against the conference since upsetting Tennessee 21-14 on the road in 1975. UNT tallied wins against SEC teams in 1976 and 1977 because of forfeits.

Despite the big program win and ending numerous losing streaks, Keegan Brewer’s 90-yard punt return was probably the story of the day for UNT. Brewer fielded a punt at Arkansas’ 10-yard line then relaxed with the ball in his hands, leading the rest of the stadium to believe Brewer had signaled for a fair catch. Then Brewer took off, getting past the Razorback punt team and strutting down the sideline before Arkansas realized that Brewer had not actually signaled for a fair catch. The score put UNT ahead 14-0 early in the first quarter and quickly went viral on Twitter.

The Mean Green took no time getting on the board to start the game, with quarterback Mason Fine punching it in from 2 yards out only 5:24 into the game. That ultimately led to a quick 17-0 advantage after Brewer’s return and a 24-yard field goal from Cole Hedlund in his return to his former school. Hedlund had three makes on the day from 24, 26 and 20 yards, respectively.

Arkansas finally put points on the board early in the second on a short Cole Kelley run, then added another three points shortly after to decrease UNT’s lead to 17-14.

But just as the Razorbacks found themselves back in the game, UNT posted 27 unanswered points until a 68-yard rushing touchdown by Maleek Williams with 53 seconds left ended the run.

Fine still dazzled for the Mean Green despite the increase in competition, throwing for 281 yards and a touchdown on 24 of 45 passing, as well as a rushing score. Jaelon Darden was Fine’s lead target with five catches for 87 yards. Rico Bussey Jr. caught Fine’s lone touchdown pass in the second quarter to put UNT ahead 31-10.

The Mean Green didn’t reach the end zone again until Kemon Hall returned an interception for a touchdown with 7:42 left in the game. It was Hall’s third pick of the season in as many games, two of which were returned all the way.

The UNT defense tallied six interceptions Saturday, including two apiece from Nate Brooks and Khairi Muhammad.

The Mean Green stay on the road next week with a match-up against Liberty.