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La Tech hands North Texas first loss of season to start Conference USA play

The Mean Green and Bulldogs’ game came down to a blocked field goal with 33 seconds left

NCAA Football: Louisiana Tech at Louisiana State Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

It looked as if most of the record crowd wearing green at Apogee Stadium was within seconds of erupting. Then Amik Robertson blocked the field-goal attempt, and only one corner of the stadium wearing red and blue was celebrating.

Louisiana Tech’s Robertson blocked Cole Hedlund’s field goal attempt with 33 seconds left to seal the Bulldogs’ 29-27 win against North Texas to start Conference USA play Saturday night.

A 46-yard make from Hedlund would have most likely kept UNT’s undefeated record intact. He also banged another attempt off the left upright with 12:36 left and the score still 29-27.

With the missed field goals, neither team scored in the fourth quarter. The Mean Green were also shut out in the second quarter, which was when La Tech outscored UNT 20-0 to take the lead and go into the locker room up 26-21. The Bulldogs were the first team to keep UNT off the board during a frame in 17 quarters.

It didn’t look like UNT’s offense would ever be slowed down in the first quarter after the Mean Green jumped to an early 21-6 lead. UNT struck first in the opening drive with a 36-yard pass from Mason Fine to Michael Lawrence. Fine threw another touchdown in the quarter to Rico Bussey Jr., and Loren Easly rounded out the quarter’s scoring with a 9-yard run.

La Tech then took over the rest of the game when the second quarter started. After being held to field goals on its first four red-zone attempts, the Bulldogs finally found the end zone with 4:30 left in the half to cut their deficit to 21-16.

After a field goal put La Tech within two, UNT running back DeAndre Torrey fumbled to give the Bulldogs the ball back. However, the Mean Green forced La Tech to punt, but Jaelon Darden then fumbled the return, giving La Tech the ball on UNT’s 5-yard line. J’Mar Smith hit Alfred Smith the next play to give the Bulldogs a 26-21 lead with 32 seconds left in the half.

The only touchdown in the second half was a 7-yard pass from Fine to Bussey. Fine ended his night with 296 passing yards and three scores on 22-of-35 passing. Most of Fine’s stats came in the first quarter as result from the Bulldogs’ pressure the rest of the game. La Tech sacked Fine five times, taking away his big-play ability and leaving him hobbled in the fourth quarter.

Smith was 20 of 39 for 230 yards and two touchdowns for La Tech, connecting with Adrian Hardy seven times for 75 yards and a touchdown. Rhashid Bonnette didn’t score but still tallied five catches and 101 yards.

The loss was UNT’s first home deficit since the last time La Tech visited Denton in 2016. But this time was on a big day for the Mean Green, as UNT had a record crowd of 30,105 while honoring legend “Mean” Joe Greene with a statue unveiling and throwback uniforms.