With 11:57 left in the second quarter, leading 28-10, the North Texas Mean Green seemed poised to win in blowout fashion at home over the Old Dominion Monarchs. Sixteen seconds and 98-yards later, Isaiah Harper responded by returning his second kickoff for a touchdown on the day. An energized Monarch team then emerged and went on a 28-7 run of their own to find themselves leading the Western division leader by three, with only the fourth quarter to go.
However, as if on cue, the Monarchs deteriorated and gave up their chance to put this game away. Similar to last week’s fiasco, the Monarchs had all the momentum with the ball and a whole field ahead of them. After a nice start to a drive to get from their own three-yard line to the 29, freshman QB Steven Williams fumbled on a sack by Tillman Johnson, giving the Mean Green the ball with only 23 yards to pay dirt.
The Monarchs would respond by forcing a 23-yard field goal. Unfortunately, the Monarchs couldn’t convert a fourth and one at their own 48-yard line, thus giving a fantastic, experienced quarterback a short field that only took him 54 seconds to go down and take the game-winning score.
Mason Fine threw for 309 yards, one touchdown and one interception with Rico Bussey Jr. bringing in seven receptions for 111 yards and the sole receiving touchdown for the Mean Green. For the Monarchs, Jeremy Cox continued to impress with 109 yards and one touchdown while Isaiah Harper made plays on special teams with four kick returns for 235 yards (58.8 yd average) and two touchdowns on the day (can you say Special Teams POTW?).
While the Monarchs had their fantastic moments on kick return, they were plagued by their punt unit, giving up two blocks, one going for a touchdown for the Mean Green. The Monarchs have been mistake-prone throughout the year and cannot afford any more going forward to have any type of shot of becoming bowl eligible. The Monarchs have four games left in the 2017 season and have to win out to be going somewhere nice for the holiday break.
At 5-3 (4-1), the Mean Green are only one win away and poised to become officially bowl-eligible for the first time since the 2013 season, with games against Rice and UTEP left on their schedule, as well as a fun rematch against Army, a team they played twice last year, including their match-up in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
Next week, North Texas gears up for a trip to Ruston, in a game that may well decide the West, as they meet Louisiana Tech on Nov. 4.
Old Dominion is home next week, and will likely end their losing streak against a struggling Charlotte 49ers squad.