North Texas hosted Middle Tennessee tonight in a game that was going to hand one of these teams their first conference loss. The Blue Raiders entered this game coming off of a 4th quarter comeback win against Louisiana Tech last week. North Texas was riding a wave of momentum as well after defeating Rice in double overtime with a big defensive stop.
North Texas received the opening kickoff and immediately got the attention of the Blue Raiders and everyone watching. After struggling in the past few weeks to get early offensive momentum, the Mean Green drove 87 yards and scored on the opening drive. Quarterback, Mason Fine, showed just how much he’s improved already in his first NCAA season by controlling the drive through the air. Running back, Jeffrey Wilson, finished the drive off with a 1 yard run to give the Mean Green an early 7-0 lead.
Middle Tennessee took the field, following the score, with their high powered offense that seems to be scoring at will over the last few weeks. However, that was not the case early in this one. The North Texas defense played at the high level that we’ve seen periodically throughout the season and forced the Blue Raiders to punt on their first drive. Unfortunately, their defensive effort was not matched with much success on the offensive side of the ball.
After the impressive opening drive that North Texas put together, the offense never seemed to fire on all cylinders again. The Mean Green were forced to punt on each of their first quarter drives following their touchdown and allowed Middle Tennessee to rack up 2 field goals and a touchdown to make the score 13-7 at the beginning of the second quarter. Middle Tennessee would hold their lead until the end of this one and end with a 30-13 victory.
Brent Stockstill, the very impressive leader of the Middle Tennessee offense, was contained fairly well by the North Texas defense throughout the game. He finished with 295 yards passing, 2 touchdowns and an interception. Running back, I’Tavius Mathers had a great game on the other hand, finishing with 135 yards rushing and 1 touchdown.
The rushing attack of the Mean Green had an uncharacteristically awful game, picking up only 5 total yards rushing. Jeffrey Wilson was held to only 24 yards but did pick up a touchdown to bring his season total to 7. The highlight of the offense was the performance of Mason Fine. Fine entered the game with 472 yards passing and 1 passing touchdown through 4 games. He finished this one with 303 yards passing, 1 passing touchdown and no turnovers. Fans have known that Fine has a huge amount of potential, they may not have known just how quickly he could tap into it.
Although they gave up 30 points in the end, the North Texas defense looked to be improving yet again as they have been week to week. The unit kept the Blue Raiders to only their second highest point total for the season and limited a passing attack that has at times looked almost limitless. They will need to continue to improve for next week when they host Marshall at Apogee Stadium. The Thundering Herd have been rather unimpressive this season, but North Texas cannot afford to underestimate any opponent if they want to have a chance at a winning season.