North Texas’ Prolific Offense Will Present Challenges For Utah State

Dec 2, 2018, 5:52 PM | Updated: 7:22 pm
Mason Fine #6 of the North Texas Mean Green throws the ball during the first half of the R+L Carrie...
Mason Fine #6 of the North Texas Mean Green throws the ball during the first half of the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl against the Troy Trojans at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 16, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

LOGAN, Utah – The Utah State Aggies will face a familiar opponent in the New Mexico Bowl in North Texas. These two teams were in the same conference twice when they were in the Big West and Sun Belt Conference.

The New Mexico Bowl will mark the eighth meeting between the Aggies and Mean Green with Utah State holding a 4-3 record.

They started the series in 1996 when the Aggies won 21-13 in Logan followed by a 51-48 loss in Texas in 1997. When they faced each other in 1998, Utah State was able to sneak away with a 28-27 victory in Logan.

Both teams returned to Texas for the next three games in 1999, 2000 and 2003. In 1999, Utah State picked up a 34-7 win followed by a 17-12 win in 2000 and North Texas beat the Aggies in 2003, 37-27. Their last meeting, the Mean Green found a way to win in Logan, they won 31-23.

This is North Texas’ third straight bowl appearance. They will play in their sixth bowl game since 2003, but haven’t had much success during bowl season with a 1-4 record.

Their only win was in the 2013 Heart of Dallas Bowl when they beat UNLV.

North Texas 2018 Season

The Mean Green finished second in the west division of Conference USA, just two games behind UAB with a 9-3 overall record and 5-3 in the conference.

They rattled off four straight wins to start the season with wins over SMU and Incarnate Word at home and victories over Arkansas and Liberty on the road. North Texas beat their opponents by a combined score of 195-63 during that four-game stretch.

The winning streak came to an end with a 29-27 loss to Louisiana Tech at home. They won two straight after that, beating UTEP and Southern Mississippi.

North Texas lost to division leader UAB by eight points on the road before beating Rice at home. They finished the regular season with wins over Florida Atlantic and UT-San Antonio.

The Mean Green are coached by Seth Littrel, who has been at the helm in Denton, Texas since 2016.

North Texas Offense

They are led by junior quarterback Mason Fine who has thrown for 3,734 yards (first in C-USA), 27 touchdowns (second in C-USA) and five interceptions.

Sophomore running back DeAndre Torrey has carried the load in the backfield for the Mean Green with 942 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground. He can also catch the ball out of the backfield with 24 catches for 201 yards and two scores.

The main target for Fine in 2018 has been junior wide receiver Rico Bussey Jr. He has hauled in 68 receptions for 1,017 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Their offensive line has struggled at times as they have allowed 26 sacks this season despite having an experienced line with two seniors, two juniors and one freshman as their starters.

North Texas’ prolific offense ranks No. 17 (second in C-USA) in yards and 24th (first in C-USA) in the country in points scored. They finished in the top two in the conference in total yards, yards per game, passing yards, passing yards per game, total points and points per game.

Mean Green Defense

Senior linebacker E.J. Ejiya leads the team with 113 total tackles, including 23 tackles-for-loss and 9 sacks, which is good for fourth best in Conference USA. He has also blocked a kick, forced and recovered a fumble.

Fellow linebacker Brandon Garner added 63 tackles, including 17 for loss and six and a half sacks during his senior season.

Senior defensive backs Nate Brooks and Kemon Hall leads North Texas with five interceptions each, which is tied for seventh most in the country and fourth in the conference.

Utah State will face North Texas in the New Mexico Bowl on Saturday, December 15 at 12 p.m. on ESPN.

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