Knocked silly by Army’s opening salvo, North Texas and Alec Morris responded with a counteroffensive any West Pointer could admire.
The Mean Green came back from a 17-point first-half deficit Tuesday and tied the game in the final minute of regulation on kicker Trevor Moore’s 37-yard field goal. But UNT fell in overtime 38-31 to the Black Knights in the Heart of Dallas Bowl in front of an announced attendance of 39,117 at the Cotton Bowl.
Jordan Asberry’s 3-yard run on a gutsy fourth-and-goal play call in overtime was the game-winner for Army, which gained a bowl-season-high 480 yards rushing in a matchup featuring teams that combined for three victories in 2015.
North Texas (5-8) walked off the field miffed, of course, at a missed opportunity but not moping, considering the ride it took to get here. That is, going from 1-11 a season ago to a work in progress headed in the right direction.
Although we didn’t win we got better today. I’m extremely proud of them. This has been fun.
North Texas coach Seth Littrell
“We may not have accomplished our mission of winning a bowl game, but these men sitting up here and those downstairs accomplished a lot this season in setting a solid foundation,” UNT coach Seth Littrell said. “Although we didn’t win we got better today.
“I’m extremely proud of them. This has been fun.”
Morris, a fifth-year graduate transfer from Alabama who was benched in the second game for freshman Mason Fine, had his best game of the season. He threw for 304 yards and three touchdowns, including one to running back Jeffery Wilson of 22 yards in the flat and another to freshman Rico Bussey that cut a 24-7 deficit to 24-21 at halftime.
Tyler Wilson, a freshman wide receiver from Arlington Martin, hauled in an 18-yard TD pass that cut a 10-point deficit to 31-28 late in the third. Wilson had his best game of the season with five receptions for 81 yards, including three catches on the game-tying field-goal drive in the fourth quarter.
His 14-yard catch on second-and-23 put the Mean Green back in Moore’s range after false start and holding penalties sent North Texas in retreat.
Jeffery Wilson opened the scoring on a 22-yard TD run on the Mean Green’s first possession.
North Texas had trouble getting off the field, yielding 10 successful third-down conversions in 15 tries to Army (8-5). But the Mean Green turned the screws at just the right moment, holding Army on fourth-and-4 from UNT 28 with 2:18 left.
I think our future is very bright. I think we’ve got men that are learning what it looks like, understand what our culture is going to be moving forward ...
“It wasn’t the prettiest drive we’ve ever had with the couple of penalties, but that’s been a pretty common theme for this team all year … of overcoming adversity,” Morris, who reclaimed the QB job after Fine was injured Nov. 18. “We would have liked to put it in the end zone, but we got the job done.”
Game MVP Ahmad Bradshaw of Army had 129 yards on 18 carries and a 65-yard TD run early in the third quarter that momentarily stemmed North Texas’ momentum swing. Bradshaw’s rushing total was a Cotton Bowl stadium record for a quarterback.
Darrell Woolfolk had two TDs runs, of 5 and 1 yards, with Tyler Campbell’s 70-yard scoring run sandwiched between as Army scored four of the game’s first five TDs.
Army outgained North Texas in yardage 533-410.
The game was a rematch of North Texas’ 35-18 victory in October in West Point. Army made good on its reprisal by taking better care of the ball. In the first game, the Black Knights turned the ball over seven times. They turned it over once on Tuesday. It led to Wilson’s TD.
129 Yards rushing for Game MVP Ahmad Bradshaw of Army. He broke the Cotton Bowl stadium record for rushing yards by a quarterback set by Texas’ Vince Young of 127 in 2003 in a loss to Oklahoma.
Extra points almost were the difference in the game. Army missed the extra-point attempt on Woolfolk’s first run and started chasing points, failing three times on 2-point conversion attempts.
Successful extra points would have given Army a seven-point cushion in the final minutes of regulation.
“What a fun game, two really competitive teams getting out there and competing at a high level,” Littrell said. “And just looking out there, guys that made plays … a lot of true freshmen out there making plays, playing this game, and that experience is invaluable.
“I think our future is very bright. I think we’ve got men that are learning what it looks like, understand what our culture is going to be moving forward, and I’m excited to get back to work.”
ARM—Woolfolk 5 run (kick failed), 9:18
NTX—J.Wilson 22 run (T.Moore kick), 6:35
ARM—Campbell 70 run (run failed), 4:56
ARM—Woolfolk 1 run (run failed), 13:05
ARM—Davidson 6 run (pass failed), 6:37
NTX—J.Wilson 22 pass from Morris (T.Moore kick), 2:26
NTX—Bussey 27 pass from Morris (T.Moore kick), :10
ARM—Bradshaw 65 run (B.Wilson kick), 7:41
NTX—T.Wilson 18 pass from Morris (T.Moore kick), :45
NTX—FG T.Moore 37, :28
ARM—Asberry 3 run (B.Wilson kick), :00
Time of Possession
RUSHING—Army, Bradshaw 18-129, Woolfolk 22-119, Campbell 4-88, Davidson 12-56, K.Walker 9-49, Asberry 7-36, Trainor 1-4, (Team) 1-(minus 1). North Texas, J.Wilson 20-81, Morris 3-14, Tucker 2-13, Wyche 1-1, (Team) 1-(minus 13).
PASSING—Army, K.Walker 0-1-0-0, Bradshaw 2-3-0-53. North Texas, Keena 1-1-0-10, Morris 26-38-1-304, T.Wilson 0-1-1-0.
RECEIVING—Army, Campbell 1-38, E.Poe 1-15. North Texas, Smiley 8-79, J.Wilson 6-46, T.Wilson 5-81, Thompson 3-21, Bussey 2-57, Rutherford 2-20, Buyers 1-10.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—None.