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Miscues and mistakes doom North Texas in final game of 2016; bowl hopes in question

Miscues and mistakes doom North Texas in final game of 2016; bowl hopes in question

North Texas senior defensive back James Gray tackles Marshall sophomore running back Anthony Anderson. The North Texas defense held Marshall to only 13 rushing yards in their 38-21 win.

Miscues and mistakes doom North Texas in final game of 2016; bowl hopes in question
November 26
20:04 2016

Maybe it was just not meant to be.

Needing a win on the final day of the season to become bowl eligible in head coach Seth Littrell’s first year at the helm, North Texas football fell short of its goal. 

Led by a career day from junior running back Aaron Jones, the University of Texas – El Paso handled the Mean Green (5-7, 3-5) 52-34 in El Paso. Jones torched North Texas for 301 yards on 24 carries with four touchdowns. He is now the all-time single season rushing leader in UTEP (4-8, 2-6) history, and only the second Miner to ever rush for 300 yards in a game.

“[Jones] did a great job,” Littrel said. “It just kind of snowballed. We couldn’t dig ourselves out of a hole. At the end of the day, that’s my responsibility and we’ve just to get better and continue to grow.”

UTEP’s 534 yards of total offense were the most allowed by the Mean Green defense this year – and as a result, North Texas will now have to wait and see if it is invited to a bowl game based on its Academic Progress Rate scores.

But Littrell is not banking on it.

“You just never know what the situations are,” Littrell said. “Now we’ve just got to get back and regroup.”

Graduate quarterback Alec Morris got the start under center for the second week in a row, going 23-for-42 with 190 yards and two touchdowns.

The Miners opened the scoring with 6:27 to play in the first quarter on a field goal from 48 yards out to give them a quick 3-0 lead.

The Mean Green had an answer, though, and put together an eight-play, 81-yard drive capped off with a 14-yard touchdown run by junior running back Willy Ivery – his fifth touchdown of the season – to make it 7-3.

Ivery finished with 98 yards rushing along with 58 yards receiving with two touchdowns.

From that point, however, the route was on.

Jones tacked on his second touchdown of the afternoon on a 48-yard scamper to put UTEP up 17-7, and finished the first half with 198 yards on 13 carries. 

The Miners added another touchdown with 10:50 to play when sophomore quarterback Ryan Metz hit senior wide receiver Cole Freytag for a 30-yard touchdown pass to make it 24-7 UTEP. 

Things really started to go downhill for North Texas just over a minute later when senior punter Eric Keena bobbled a punt on the goal-line, allowing the Miners to recover for another touchdown and extend their lead to 31-7.

After four unanswered UTEP touchdowns, the Mean Green finally had an answer when senior receiver Thaddeous Thompson hauled in a 10-yard touchdown reception to cut the deficit. A few minutes later, before halftime, North Texas notched a field goal to go into the locker room trailing 31-17.

With momentum entering the third quarter, and a quick defensive stop, the Mean Green were hopeful they would be able to get back in the game.

But their offense stalled, and lethal mistakes proved costly.

After a tipped interception, North Texas had a chance to pull back within one possession, until a defensive facemask penalty on the Mean Green gave UTEP the ball back. On the next play, Jones went 58 yards for a touchdown to extend UTEP’s lead to 38-17.

Big plays continued to be the downfall for the Mean Green as the game wound down, the Miners piling on the points to send their seniors out on a high note – and send North Texas home wondering about its bowl chances.

“They were obviously the most excited team out there to play,” Littrell said. “They had some explosive plays.”

Featured Image: North Texas senior defensive back James Gray tackles Marshall sophomore running back Anthony Anderson. The North Texas defense held Marshall to only 13 rushing yards in their 38-21 win. Nathan Roberts

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Clay Massey

Clay Massey

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