USM drops third straight against Mean Green
The Golden Eagles entered Denton, Texas in hopes of getting bowl berth and their sixth win of the season.
Like most of the contests this season, the Golden Eagles dug themselves into a hole early into the game by getting behind 17 – 0 in the first quarter. Including this first period deficit, the Golden Eagles have been outscored by opponents in the first quarter 125 – 76.
The same problems continued to plague the Golden Eagles along with missing senior quarterback Nick Mullens for a second week. Freshman Keon Howard had to fill the role of offensive leader.
Howard started the contest by throwing an interception. At the end of the night, the Golden Eagles had four turnovers with three Howard picks.
The biggest contribution to the loss was the Golden Eagle defense allowing three back-to-back big plays. North Texas junior wide receiver Turner Smiley had 129 yards and two touchdowns at the end of the first half.
As the first half came to a close, he Golden Eagles found some life in a trick play with junior wide receiver Allenzae Staggers hitting junior running back Ito Smith for a 47 yard pass. On the next play, Smith ran it in for a three-yard touchdown, making the game 20 – 7 to close out the half.
At the start of the third quarter, Smith kept momentum alive with the team with a breakout 69-yard run inside the North Texas 10- yard line. On a wildcat play call, Smith again found the end zone for a second time, yet a missed extra point by senior kicker Stephen Brauchle made the score 20 – 13.
Although the Golden Eagles could not find success in the air, they found it on the ground. The Golden Eagles found a rhythm between Smith, Howard and junior back George Payne’s running game. Payne tied the game with 9:07 left in the third quarter on a 16-yard run, tying the score at 20 – 20.
A muffed punt and a D’Nerius Antoine fumble recovery gave the Golden Eagles much-needed momentum. However, the Golden Eagles stumbled again and were forced to kick a field goal giving them the first lead of the night, 23 – 20.
In spite of keeping North Texas off the board for the majority of the second half, the defense broke down, allowing the Mean Green to score on a long drive giving them the lead, 27 – 20.
The Golden Eagles found themselves in need of a game- winning drive starting inside their own five-yard line.
Howard was thrusted into a prime moment of his young career and was forced into a safety to give North Texas two points and the contest, 29 – 23.
The Golden Eagles will find themselves in a crucial season finale against rival Louisiana Tech on Nov. 25.