A dominant first-half performance propelled Lousiana Tech to a commanding lead that the Mean Green could not overcome in a 42-21 loss Thursday night at Apogee Stadium.
The glow of last Saturday's decisive win over SMU quickly dimmed in Thursday's Conference USA opener, as the North Texas offense was ineffective until the third quarter and the defense was unable to stop Louisiana Tech's prolific passing game, which in turn enabled the Bulldog ground game to have success. Louisiana Tech had 371 yards of total offense to 255 for the Mean Green.
"That's a real good football team," North Texas coach Dan McCarney said of the Bulldogs. "We knew this was going to be a real challenge, and we didn't meet the challenge."
For the second time in three games, North Texas came out punchless on offense, going three-and-out in its first six possessions and accumulating just three yards total offense. The Mean Green didn't pick up a first down until late in the first half and was shut out in the opening 30 minutes for the second time this season.
The Mean Green defense kept the game scoreless, allowing just three first downs in the opening quarter, until Louisiana Tech got its passing game moving in the second period, cashing in three consecutive drives for touchdown passes and a 21-0 halftime lead.
North Texas finally mounted a drive in the third quarter as quarterback Josh Greer, who struggled in the first half, completed five-of-six passes and directed the Mean Green into Bulldog territory. But North Texas wide receiver Carl Caldwell had the ball knocked loose, and Louisiana Tech recovered the fumble and returned it to the North Texas two-yard line, setting up a Kenneth Dixon scoring run and a 28-0 lead.
The Mean Green put together an eight-play, 59-yard scoring drive to cut the margin to 28-7 in the third quarter, and had a pair of scoring drives in the fourth quarter capped by touchdown runs by Antoinne Jimmerson and Erick Evans.
What They Said
"They were the better team tonight. They made more plays."
--North Texas coach Dan McCarney on Louisiana Tech
"The biggest thing to fix is staying together. It's a brotherhood. We weren't pointing fingers, but we were out of whack. We'll get this fixed."
--Senior defensive back James Jones
"They loaded up the box and wanted to take the running game away."
--Senior offensive lineman Mason Y'Barbo on the Bulldogs defensive approach
"We weren't nearly as ready or as good as we could be or should be. It's everybody's fault. We didn't play well on offense, defense, or special teams."
--McCarney on his team's performance
• North Texas held Louisiana Tech running back and Doak Walker candidate Kenneth Dixon well below his career average of 6.2 yards per carry. Dixon aveaged 3.9 yards per rush on 19 attempts for 75 yards.
• Sheldon Wade pulled in his first interception of the season and second of his career after a third-quarter pass bounced off his helmet. Wade located the ball and secured possession before sliding out of bounds. The pass was originally ruled incomplete but overturned on review.
• Quarterback Josh Greer's first touchdown at North Texas came not through the air, but on a five-yard quarterback draw, which was his longest run of the season.
• The Mean Green's streak of forcing at least one turnover was extended to 19 games by Wade's third-quarter interception.
• North Texas came into the game allowing just 20 percent of opponent third-downs to be converted into first downs. But Thursday night, Louisiana Tech converted six of 10 third downs in the first half, fueling their run to a 21-0 lead.
• North Texas put good pressure on Louisiana Tech quarterback Cody Sokol early in the game, registering two sacks and two more pressures to force incompletions in the first quarter.
• The Mean Green's first first down of the game came in the final two minutes of the first half, when a Louisiana Tech pass interference gave North Texas a new set of downs.
• Sophomore defensive end Malik Dilonga recorded the first sack of his career in the first quarter.
• Sophomore defensive end Jarrian Roberts had his second sack of the season and fourth of his career Thursday night.
• Linebacker Derek Akunne had a season-high 10 tackles Thursday night.
North Texas completes its three-game home stand against Nicholls State on Saturday, Sept. 20, at 2:30 p.m.