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North Texas routs the Razorbacks, defeats SEC opponent for first time in 41 years

North Texas routs the Razorbacks, defeats SEC opponent for first time in 41 years

North Texas routs the Razorbacks, defeats SEC opponent for first time in 41 years
September 16
20:54 2018

North Texas just pulled off what is arguably their biggest win in school history, all the while upsetting the Arkansas Razorbacks with a 44-17 score.

The win improved the Mean Green’s record to 3-0, which marks the first time North Texas has been 3-0 since 1989.

“I’m so proud of how far we’ve come and the way we continue to build within our culture,” North Texas head coach Seth Littrell said. “We’re playing in all three phases together, and that’s what it takes.”

The Mean Green were the underdogs coming into the game, picked to lose by seven points according to ESPN.com.

At the start of the season, not many people would have given them a chance to go into Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium and come back out with a win. The Mean Green proved otherwise.

“I felt like our team came in confident, and we felt we were the better football team,” Littrell said. “We proved today we were.”

North Texas was embarrassed last time they squared off with the Razorbacks in 2007, losing 66-7. This is the first time North Texas has beat Arkansas in the 10 times they have faced off.

“It’s a great feeling,” quarterback Mason Fine said. “Defense was great. Special teams were great. It’s a great win for our team.”

The Mean Green’s win over Arkansas is the largest margin of victory for a Conference USA football team over an SEC opponent since 2004.

The offense played well once again, putting up 30 points on their own. However, it was the Mean Green defense and special teams that looked most impressive against Arkansas.

“You’re the reason why we won this game today,” Littrell told his defense after the game.

The Mean Green secondary would end up with six interceptions Saturday, which is second in school history. Nate Brooks (2), Khairi Muhammad (2), Taylor Robinson (1) and Kemon Hall (1) all finished with interceptions.

“[The Razorbacks] were aggressive, and that takes everyone making routine plays and takes everyone doing their job in order to get those turnovers,” Littrell said. “It was impressive to watch those guys fly around.”

Brooks, a senior on the team, went through a 1-11 season his freshman year, so he said that the Arkansas win was a big deal for him.

“We’re confident about how we’re playing, and we feel good,” Brooks said. “Going back to last year, we knew we were going to have to step up and be the reason why we win.”

Senior defensive captain E.J. Ejiya had an outstanding night with 12 tackles, which ties his career high.

North Texas would also put up a season-high five sacks and hold the Razorbacks to just 10 points over 59 minutes of the game, before Arkansas would pop a 68-yard touchdown run during the final minute of play.

“It feels great,” senior linebacker Brandon Garner said. “From going 1-11 my freshman year to going to SEC country and dominating the whole game. It happened the way we thought it would.”

Early in the first quarter, Brooks intercepted his first pass of the game, which would set up a 42-yard touchdown drive capped off by Fine’s two-yard touchdown run. This is his first rushing touchdown of the season.

With 7 minutes, 10 seconds left in the first quarter, Arkansas punted to North Texas, and punt returner Keegan Brewer pulled off what could be one of the best plays of the season in all of college football.

Brewer caught the punt on the 10-yard line and began to casually walk around as if he had just called a fair catch. As soon as the last Arkansas player near him walked away, Brewer instantly turned on the jets and raced 90 yards untouched to the end zone to give the Mean Green an early 14-0 lead.

“One of them actually asked me, ‘Why didn’t they blow the whistle,’” Brewer said. “I didn’t say anything, and as soon as he passed me, I knew it was go time.”

Littrell said it was a designed play that has been in the playbook in the past, but this week was the first time this season they started to work on it in practice.

“You have to give Keegan a lot of credit,” Littrell said. “It takes guts to stand back there and not call for a fair catch, not knowing if someone is going to bust you. It’s just awesome to see that unfold. When something like that works, it builds your confidence.”

On the ensuing possession, Muhammad intercepted his first pass of the season and returned it to the Arkansas 8-yard line.

The Mean Green couldn’t convert the turnover into a touchdown, but they did manage to score three points when Cole Hedlund converted on his first of three field goals on the night to extend the North Texas lead to 17-0.

Arkansas answered with a touchdown and field goal of their own early in the second quarter. Arkansas quarterback Cole Kelley scored on a 5-yard run, and Connor Limpert drilled a 54-yard field goal to cut the North Texas lead to 17-10. Those would be the final points the Razorbacks would score until late in the fourth quarter.

North Texas was able to cruise to a 34-10 lead heading into halftime after a 7-yard Rico Bussey touchdown reception and a 26-yard field goal from Hedlund closed out the scoring in the first half for the Mean Green.

During the second half, the North Texas offense wasn’t able to move the ball as easily as they had in the first two quarters.

A field goal from Hedlund in the third quarter made it 37-10, and cornerback Kemon Hall put the nail in the coffin when he intercepted a pass of John Stephen Jones (Jerry Jones grandson) and returned it 24-yards for a touchdown to cement a 44-17 North Texas victory.

Mason Fine ended up completing 24 of 45 passes for 281 yards and one touchdown. He has already thrown for 1,143 yards in the first three games of the season.

Jaelon Darden arguably had his best game of the season, leading North Texas with a career-high 87 receiving yards.

The Mean Green will travel to Lynchburg, Virginia, on Saturday to take on the Liberty University Flames, who are in their first season as an FBS program.

Featured Image: North Texas’ Darrian McMillan (right) celebrates with teammate Tim Faison (left) after making a tackle in a game against Arkansas on Sept. 15 at Arkansas. Sara Carpenter

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Bronte Hermesmeyer

Bronte Hermesmeyer

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