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Last second field goal wins close homecoming battle for the Mean Green

Last second field goal wins close homecoming battle for the Mean Green

Last second field goal wins close homecoming battle for the Mean Green
November 14
18:39 2021

The Mean Green extended their win streak to three Saturday night as they defeated The University of Texas-El Paso in a close 20-17 game that came down to the final drive. 

A 72-yard drive that ended in a 20-yard field goal by North Texas (4-6, 3-3 Conference USA) junior kicker Ethan Mooney sealed the win for the Mean Green in what was a tight-knit defensive battle.

“It reminded me of those wins back in the day, you know, which was awesome to see,” head coach Seth Littrell said. “[The team] keeps fighting, they keep sticking together.”

With 49 seconds left on the clock, North Texas could have kneeled out regulation and headed into overtime with UTEP (6-4, 3-3 C-USA), but instead took shots down the field, a move that ended up winning the game for the Mean Green. 

“I kind of start remembering back to some of those huge plays we won before, like one of the last plays versus UTSA that one year,” Littrell said. “And I’m like, you know, let’s go find a way to win.”

The UTSA game Littrell referred to was in 2017 when former quarterback Mason Fine drove the Mean Green 99-yards to a game-winning touchdown in what would be memorialized as simply, “The Drive.”

Saturday night, sophomore quarterback Austin Aune, who backed up Fine for two years in 2018 and 2019, led a comeback drive of his own similar to Fine’s. 

“To finish like that, homecoming in our home stadium…it was a whole lot of fun,” Aune said. “We scratch and claw and fight till the end.”

Both teams started slow offensively, with no points scored in the first quarter of play. After a missed 41-yard field goal attempt by Mooney to start the second quarter, the Miners found the endzone with redshirt sophomore quarterback Gavin Hardison tossing a dime to sophomore receiver Jacob Cowing. The 76-yard reception was the longest passing touchdown surrendered by North Texas this season. 

Before the half, Mooney made his second attempted field goal of the game to bring the deficit to four entering the locker room. 

Starting at their own 47 early in the third quarter, North Texas drove 53-yards down the field in under two minutes of game time. Aune finished the drive with a one-yard rushing touchdown, his third career touchdown on the ground. 

Momentum would stay on the side of the Mean Green. In the first UTEP drive after North Texas took the lead, Hardison threw his 10th interception of the season to junior linebacker Kevin Wood.

North Texas capitalized, scoring a 25-yard touchdown via an Aune pass to sophomore receiver Roderic Burns.

With a 17-7 deficit to overcome in the fourth quarter, UTEP’s defense kept the Miners in the game. With 4:26 remaining in the game, Ronald Awatt Jr rushed in for a four-yard touchdown to put the game within field goal reach for UTEP.

Desperately needing a stop, the Miners defense answered the call, forcing a three-and-out. 

UTEP’s offense drove to the North Texas 27 before junior linebacker Tyreke Davis came up big for North Texas on 3rd and 5, swiping away a Hardison throw that would have been a first down in the red zone had it reached.  

UTEP tied the game at 17 off the foot of a 37-yard Gavin Baechle field goal.

With only 49 seconds left, the Mean Green offense took the field. 

Aune found Brown for a first down in the first play of the drive, then rushed for two yards and threw an incomplete pass.

On 3rd and 8, Aune was flushed from the pocket and forced to his left. Stepping up in the pocket, Aune released a 58-yard pass that found the arms of Brown at the 10-yard line. 

“They were giving us the cover two look the whole time,” Brown said of his clutch reception. “I just took it, caught the ball and made a play.”

Following a quick spike, Mooney took the field and nailed a 27-yard field goal that would win the game for North Texas 20-17.

Aune finished with 2 touchdowns total on the night and 240 yards passing. Senior running back DeAndre Torrey also surpassed the 3,000 rushing yard mark in his North Texas career as the fifth-year player finished with 61 yards on the night. 

After six straight losses, North Texas has flipped the script, winning three straight to keep bowl hopes alive. 

“The energy, the excitement [and the] physicality we’re playing with right now is where it needs to be,” Littrell said. “We got a lot of good football players on this team, when we get back to full bore, it’s going to be dangerous.

Featured Image: Mean Green quarterback Austin Aune (2) dives for the end zone at Apogee Stadium on Nov. 13, 2021. Photo by Zach Del Bello

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Reed Smith

Reed Smith

Senior Sports Writer.

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