We didn’t predict a lot of defense here, but at the end of the day there turned out to be no defense whatsoever, which resulted in a much more exciting game than anyone could’ve predicted.
For the first three quarters, Army (8-3) and North Texas (8-3, 6-1) essentially traded touchdowns, with an occasional turnover on downs or the rare punt. North Texas was 2/2 on 4th down attempts, and 7/11 on 3rd down attempts, while Army was almost identical, going 1 of 2 on 4th down attempts, 8/11 on 3rd.
Despite very different methods of attack, these teams were indeed evenly matched, as much as any team North Texas has faced since barely scraping together a last-second win against UTSA. This game could’ve gone either way, and in the end turned out to live up to that old sports cliche-- the winner is whoever scores last.
To give an example of how UNT’s day went, there was a moment just past the middle of the third, where an open target eluded Mason Fine and after scrambling into the backfield, Fine was sacked to bring up 2nd and 22. The next play was 1-yard run from Fine, and the play after that was an Army penalty, which gave UNT the first down. Next play? 48-yard pass to the five-yard line, with the Mean Green scoring three plays later.
It was like this all night. Nobody could screw up, even with one turnover per team, the score stayed even. With UNT up by seven late, it seemed almost a given to let Army score, and get the ball back with just over a minute and a half left. The defense on either side was minimal at that point, and by the 4th they had to be gassed.
North Texas did indeed get the ball, moved it down the field, and after a few failed attempts to get the ball into the end zone, a field goal would do. Trevor Moore kicked a 39-yarder with five seconds left in the game, the only field goal from either team all day.
Army now has a couple weeks off to prepare for a strong Navy team, and there’ll be no shame in their game. Their QB, Ahmad Bradshaw, outrushed all others, finishing with 244 rushing yards, dwarfing even an unusually quiet Jeffrey Wilson, who left the game early with only 72 yards. Mean Green RB Nic Smith did well in his limited play, finishing with 35 yards on seven carries.
That’s 103 yards rushing for UNT, while Army was one for three passing, and 27 yards. These are obviously not the stats we need to focus on.
No, Army finished with an astonishing 534 yards rushing, while North Texas turned in 386 yards in the air. This was what made the game exciting, showcasing both teams’ strengths and weaknesses as they move on to bigger fish in the coming weeks.
For Army, their defense remains a problem, as they had trouble stopping the pass, and North Texas still got a few big runs in when they bothered to call a run play at all.
UNT, meanwhile, allowed Army to score 49 points on them. The only other team to give up that many point to Army was Rice, earlier in the season (also 49), and that does not bode well for the UNT defense. Yes, of course it helps when your offense scores 52, but it didn’t help during the FAU game earlier this season, and it won’t help during the rematch.
The good news? This is year two of the rebuild for North Texas, which means they may have not yet reached their ceiling, and we’re saying that about a team that’s 8-3 overall, 6-1 in conference, and undefeated at home for the first time since 2003.
Mason Fine now sits among the list of all-time leading Mean Green passers, while also setting the record for most passing yards in a single season (3,198), with three games still to go. The luck we talked about in conference games continues on, and after next week against Rice, they’ll need something other than luck against the powerful FAU offense, and whatever non-conference foe they might draw in their bowl game.
Army, meanwhile, is going bowling for the second year in a row, something that hasn’t happened since 1984-85. When they play Navy in three weeks, they’ll have a shot to win their first Commander in Chief trophy since 1996.
Listed attendance for the game at Apogee Stadium was 26,392, the second most of all time behind their stadium-opener against Houston in 2011 (28,075). You can see some shots of the game from Underdog Dynasty photographer Noah Riffe, right here.
An outstanding day all around, and considering where both of these teams were two years ago, these teams’ seasons are both something to be proud of considering all that they’ve built.