North Texas blew a 28-point first half lead to an Old Dominion team that had only won two games prior to Saturday, as the Monarchs outscored the Mean Green 28-3 in the second half to eek out a 34-31 victory in Norfolk, VA on Saturday.
Mason Fine completed 26-of-44 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns in the loss, which dropped UNT to 7-3 overall and 3-3 in Conference USA.
Old Dominion capped a 14-play, 71-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run from Lala Davis with 15 seconds left to give ODU the lead. The Monarchs kept that drive alive with a 36-yard reception on a 4th-and-6 from the UNT 40 with 3:22 left.
North Texas’ defense got things going on Old Dominion’s first possession when, on the third play from scrimmage, Kemon Hall intercepted a pass from Blake LaRussa at the UNT 44.
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The Mean Green then proceeded to go 56 yards in nine plays over the next 2:59 to take a 7-0 lead when Rico Bussey Jr. hauled in a 23-yard touchdown pass from Fine. Bussey Jr., the junior from Lawton, OK., came into the game with 55 receptions for 822 yards and 10 touchdowns this season.
That drive was kept alive when DeAndre Torrey gained five yards on a 4th-and-1 from the ODU 42.
Torrey would find the endzone from 37 yards out on UNT’s next drive.
Hall came up big a few drives later when he broke up a LaRussa pass on 4th-and-7 from the UNT 46 early in the second quarter. Torrey then found the endzone from 7-ayrds out seven plays later to give the Mean Green a commanding 21-0 lead with 10:44 left in the first half.
On the ensuing possession, Old Dominion, sensing a bit of desperation, went for it again on fourth down from the UNT 46 and, again, were unable to pick up a first down.
North Texas then capitalized on an ODU roughing the kicker call on a punt attempt when Fine found Bussey Jr. for a 26-yard TD to make it 28-0 with 3:48 left in the half.
That’s when things really changed.
Fine threw an interception and ODU scored the next 10 points before halftime.
Torrey coughed up the ball at the ODU 32 at the start of the fourth quarter with UNT up 31-24. The Monarchs converted that fumble into a field goal and held pat on defense until the late touchdown.
North Texas will look to get back on track when it hosts Florida Atlantic on Nov. 15 at 8:30 p.m. The game will be televised on the CBS Sports Network. The Mean Green will then close the regular season in San Antonio on Nov. 24 against UTSA before figuring out where they’ll go bowling.