The stats didn’t point to this, and neither did the history, as Seth Littrell’s Mean Green had defeated Jay Hopson’s Southern Miss every year these two had met as head coaches— including a 30-7 shellacking last year.
But this is why we play the games.
The Golden Eagles struck first on Saturday and never looked back, opening up a 13-7 lead in the first quarter as the explosive Jack Abraham out-Mason-Fined Mason Fine. With a botched extra point, USM never trailed by more than one, finally opening it up in the second quarter. When all was said and done, Abraham amassed 421 passing yards and three touchdowns, finishing with a QB rating of 93.0 as North Texas fans could only helplessly watch it all unfold.
De’Michael Harris added another 103 yards on the ground and two touchdowns, as a rough season for the Mean Green only got rougher.
Already without star WR Rico Bussey Jr., who went out for the season in week three against Cal, this week saw Tre Siggers leave in the first quarter with an ankle injury. Then in the second half, Mason Fine suffered a shoulder injury and did not return.
Fine left the game with 11/25 passing and 217 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. His replacement, backup Jason Bean, a freshman, finished 3/6 on passing, 39 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Leading rusher DeAndre Torrey couldn’t add much more on the ground, amassing only 61 yards on 13 carries.
The primary difference between the last three years, all won by North Texas, and this past Saturday? It would be easy to point to UNT’s injuries, but Southern Miss is having a vastly improved season thanks in no small part to new OC Buster Faulkner. After an underwhelming few seasons under Hopson in Hattiesburg, the Golden Eagles have appeared to finally turned the corner this year, knocking off a feisty Troy team last month and now North Texas.
North Texas, meanwhile, has struggled under new OC Bodie Reeder. The injuries are indeed a factor, but now a team that just a year ago was in the mix for a C-USA West title will hope the chips fall just right as they head deeper into conference play.
The Mean Green (2-4, 1-1) host Middle Tennessee next week in Denton, fresh off their own loss against FAU.
Meanwhile, Southern Miss (4-2, 2-0) will complete for the top spot in their division, as they head to Ruston to face Louisiana Tech (5-1), who— at 2-0 in conference— are the only other team left in the West still undefeated in conference play.