DENTON, Texas – Derek Thompson threw a 78-yard touchdown on a screen pass to Antoinne Jimmerman with 1:54 remaining to break a 23-all tie and give North Texas a come-from-behind win over Louisiana, 30-23, in front of a crowd of 17,055 Tuesday night in a live nationally broadcast game on ESPN2 at Apogee Stadium on the North Texas campus.
The loss snapped UL's win streak at two games and put the Ragin' Cajuns at 4-2 overall and 2-1 in Sun Belt play. UNT improved to 3-4, 2-1.
All looked good for the Cajuns after they stretched the lead to 20-6 just three minutes into the second half.
But the North Texas offense, which totaled 242 yards and 524 yards of total offense, wore down the Cajuns defense. UL had entered the game ranked second in the Sun Belt and 19th nationally allowing 107.2 yards rushing per game including just 60 yards or less in all four wins.
"I am terribly disappointed because I feel like we let one get away," UL head coach Mark Hudspeth said. "We did everything we were supposed to do in the first half and then something just got away from us. We didn't make any plays defensively and didn't take advantage of field position."
Trailing 23-20 late in the game, the Cajuns came to life. After Brett Baer's punt pinned the Mean Green back inside the one and led to a three-and-out series, UL was able to generate enough offense for Baer to tie the game with a 47-yard field goal with 3:01 left.
With the Mean Green facing a third-and-eight from their own 22, Thompson found Jimmerson on a short screen pass on the right side. Jimmerson burst through a hole and broke a couple of tackles on the way to the go-ahead touchdown.
"We had them pinned back and needed just one stop to get off the field and give the ball back to our offense," Hudspeth said. "But we let them break a big play and take the lead."
The Cajuns had a chance to rally. However, on the first play from scrimmage following the kickoff, Terrance Broadway completed a seven-yard pass to Effrem Reed over the middle that was fumbled and Marcus Trice recovered for UNT to effectively end the game.
"We needed to make some plays when we had the opportunity and we didn't," Hudspeth lamented. "Our goals are still intact. We need to just head back to Lafayette, practice hard and get ready for Arkansas State next week."
The Cajuns played the game without starting running back Alonzo Harris, who was ill all week and was unable to practice. In addition, starting receivers Harry Peoples (shoulder) and Javone Lawson (wrist) each missed good portions of the game due to injury.
"We knew coming into the game that this was going to be a physical game, so injuries are no excuse," Hudspeth admitted. "They are a good football team whose record is deceptive. They played two teams in the top 10 in the nation this year which goes to show you the level that they are capable of playing."
The Cajuns opened the scoring on their first possession, driving 83 yards in 14 plays covering almost six minutes with Effrem Reed pounding it in from one yard out. Brett Baer missed the extra point, putting UL ahead, 6-0 with 5:37 left. It Ws the first missed extra point of the year for Baer after 22 straight makes to open the year.
North Texas cut the lead to 6-3 with 7:08 left in the half when Zach Olen connected on a 25-yard field goal after a Broadway interception handed the Mean Green the ball.
Broadway made up for the miscue on the next snap when he kept the ball on an option left, cut back across the field and broke free for a 75-yard touchdown run with 6:53 left. The touchdown was the fourth of the season for Broadway and it was the longest running play of his short UL career.
North Texas scored again just before half when Olen connected on a 24-yard field goal with 52 seconds left. UNT was going for it on fourth and 1 at the UL 2 before an offside call against the Mean Green pushed the ball back to the six.
After UL had the ball for 9:17 in the first quarter, the Mean Green ran 27 plays to the Cajuns' nine in the second quarter with UL having the ball for just 2:49. It was a trend that continued in the second half as UNT had the ball for 36:35 in the game (to 23:25 for UL), running 80 plays to 60 for the Cajuns.
The Cajuns didn't wait long to put points on the board in the second half as Broadway found Javone Lawson down the left sideline on a 55-yard pass. Two plays later, Broadway found Harry Peoples open over the middle for a 10-yard touchdown to put UL ahead, 20-6 with 12:35 left.
The Cajun defense executed a goal-line stand, stopping the Mean Green on fourth-and-goal at the 1, which seemed to be the play that would keep the momentum on the Cajun side.
Field position on the next two UL possessions changed the tide in the Mean Green's favor.
After UL was forced to punt and North Texas took over at the UL 46, Derek Thompson found Jimmerson on a 28-yard touchdown pass to allow UNT to close to within 20-13 with 5:04 left in the third quarter.
North Texas evened the game at the 3:42 mark on a Brelan Chancellor 34-yard touchdown run on an end around. The score came on the second play after the Mean Green had forced a three-and-out with Baer managing just a 27-yard punt into a heavy wind.
The Mean Green would take the lead for the first time with 11:44 left in the fourth quarter when Olen made his third field goal of the game.
The change of field at the end of the third quarter put the wind at UL's back for the final quarter and it helped the Cajuns.
Baer was able to pin the Mean Green inside the two-yard line and then inside the one-yard line on consecutive punts. UNT was unable to get a first down on either possession, turning the ball over to the Cajuns at the UNT 47 with 4:53 left. Following a 7 play, 18-yard drive, Baer nailed his 13th field goal of the year to tie the game at 23-23.
The Cajuns return home to play their second straight Tuesday night game when Louisiana hosts Arkansas State on Tuesday, Oct. 23 beginning at 7:00 p.m. in Cajun Field. The contest, which will be televised nationally on ESPN2, will be a Whiteout with all fans being asked to wear white to the contest.
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