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North Texas clinches Conference USA title appearance with victory over Rice

North Texas clinches Conference USA title appearance with victory over Rice

North Texas clinches Conference USA title appearance with victory over Rice
November 26
22:48 2022

Football held on to win over Rice University 21-17 and head to its second Conference USA Championship game in program history. 

Western Kentucky University defeated Florida Atlantic University while North Texas (7-5, 6-2 C-USA) was playing, making Saturday’s contest a must-win game for the Mean Green. With 1:12 left in the game and Rice driving around midfield, senior linebacker KD Davis recorded the first interception of his career in his last home game and sealed the win for North Texas. 

“Man it is a great feeling,” Davis said. “This is one of the reasons I came back, I had unfinished business — I am ready to lead the team to win a championship.”

After giving up two touchdowns in the second quarter, Davis and the Mean Green defense allowed three points in the second half. Davis tallied 13 total tackles along with his game-sealing pick.

“I caught some picks in practice [this week],” Davis said. “I dropped two so I was getting picked on at practice by some of the staff. The ball came my way and I knew I had to pick it to get my first career pick.”

The game against Rice (5-7, 3-5 C-USA) is Davis’ last home game as a member of the Mean Green. Currently, Davis has 407 tackles in his collegiate career, 11 away from the program record of 418, set by Byron Gross from 1987-90. 

“It still [has not] hit me yet that that is my last game at Apogee [Stadium],” Davis said. “That was a great way to go out.” 

Senior kicker Ethan Mooney became the Mean Green’s all-time leading scorer with an extra point in the first quarter. Mooney has amassed 316 points in his collegiate career, passing former kicker Trevor Moore’s total of 313.

Special teams played a role in the outcome of the game. Rice graduate student kicker Christian Vansickle left two field goal attempts short from more than 40 yards out and Mooney had an early first-quarter field goal from 46 yards out blocked.

North Texas senior punter Bernardo Rodriguez caught a high snap and punted to the Rice 20-yard line in the fourth quarter. If the snap had not been corralled by Rodriguez, the Owls would have had the ball deep within North Texas territory with four minutes remaining in the contest. 

“That was a great play by [Rodriguez],” Davis said. “My heart dropped a little bit, but we put a lot of trust in [him] and he made the play.”

Sophomore running back Ikaika Ragsdale was the team’s leading rusher and receiver. After the team rushed for 42 yards in the first half, Ragsdale finished the game with 122 yards and a touchdown in addition to catching five passes for 59 yards and a receiving touchdown.

“The [running] backs had that chip on their shoulder, you could see it in their eyes,” head coach Seth Littrell said. “That is exactly what we needed to do.” 

The victory sets up a rematch with the University of Texas-San Antonio (10-2, 8-0 C-USA) in the Alamodome for the C-USA Championship. The two teams met in week eight, where Texas-San Antonio won 31-27. 

“I can off the top of my head remember what it felt like in that locker room, what everybody felt like,” junior quarterback Austin Aune said. “We are all ready to get back to San Antonio and play again. We will be ready.” 

North Texas will kick off against the Roadrunners on Friday, Dec. 2 at 6:30 p.m. The contest will be the Mean Green’s first appearance in the C-USA title game since 2017.

Featured Image: The Football team takes the field at Apogee Stadium on Nov. 05, 2022. Photo by Marco Barrera

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James Carroll

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