The Mean Green clinched the west division with a win over UTEP on homecoming. Jeff Wilson had 20 carries for 155 yards and a score, including a 66-yarder before the 4th quarter started. He moved up the all-time ranks and went over 1000 in a season for the first time in his career. He also led the team in receptions and yards (7 for 58).
Wilson is now fourth all time on the career rush list at 3,133 just behind Jamario Thomas, Patrick Cobbs, and Lance Dunbar. He tied his 2016 single season record for TDs in a year with 14. He’s also tied for fifth all time in NT history with his 12th 100-yard rush game. His 1,143 yards are 9th all time on the single-season NT charts.
Mason Fine had his first career 4-TD game this season and his 7th multi-TD pass game of his career (all this season).
North Texas started slowly, which has not usually been a problem. Jeff Wilson fumbled and Kahani Smith returned it 45 yards for the opening score. NT followed that with a turnover on downs.
Despite the help from NT’s offense, UTEP was stuck on offense. NT then tied things with a 13-yard TD to Jaelon Darden (on mesh) which covered 10 plays and 64 yards in 3:55. NT then scored another on a Darden TD to make it 14-7. UTEP battled and controlled clock. and that’s ow the half ended.
North Texas then put the game to bed with three straight TD drives to begin the second half and added a field goal on the fourth drive. By then NT was up 38-10 as UTEP could not do much of anything offensively despite an occasional nice play from Greenlee in the pass game.
Zack Greenlee finished 13/25 for 109 yards and one bad interception. He was replaced by Mark Torrez, who completed three of seven for 22 yards. RB Josh Fields was held to 45 yards on 16 carries, and Zach Greenlee managed 39 on 7. Eddie Sinegal had 38 yards receiving on 6 catches and Terry Juniel also 38 on 4.
North Texas’ defense was aggressive all night and feasted on the anemic UTEP offense. Nate Brooks got the start over Eric Jenkins and led the team in tackles with five solo. La’Darius Hamilton had four and an INT. Rod Young nearly had one himself but dropped it. Joe Ozougwu had a couple of QB hurries and looked good despite Zack Greenlee getting the best of him twice. Once he pump-faked Joe O and completed a long pass, the second time on the same drive he evaded him on a blitz and got yards along the sideline.
For the NT offense, it was all Jeff Wilson. He led the team in receiving and rushing while Jalen Guyton was held to one catch for a 2-yard TD. Rico Bussey got free for a big 60-yard score and finished with three catches for 65 yards. Mike Lawrence had five catches for 63. Jaleon Darden had five grabs for only 11 but 2 scores.
What It Means
North Texas have clinched the CUSA West division in convincing fashion. This was the biggest NT win since the opening week win over Lamar. The crowd was listed as 26,108 which is just behind the 26,119 in 2013 vs UTEP, also at homecoming featuring an NT team entering the year at 6-3. Tonight’s crowd was the 3rd largest at Apogee (Houston opener was the first).
As of this writing FIU is playing ODU and needs win tonight and next week over FAU in the Shula Bowl to take the East division lead. EDIT: FIU lost to ODU 37-30. FAU currently leads the division after destroying La Tech in Ruston 48-23. All signs point to a rematch with the Owls in Boca Raton. Florida Atlantic would need an incredible two-game losing streak to FIU and Charlotte to lose the division.
Next week North Texas hosts 8-2 Army in a rematch of last year’s Heart of Dallas bowl.