Old Dominion 34, North Texas 31: Another lead squandered, this one more frustrating than the rest

Photo by Hoss McBain

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They say there's a German word for everything. What's the one for that feeling when you've had your hopes up for a long time, and they slowly get destroyed and then finally collapse in a giant heap? Because that's what happened to North Texas against Old Dominion.

Deja vu all over again


The Mean Green have lost three games this year. In all three games, against very different opponents, Seth Littrell's squad jumped out to a comfortable lead before it eroded slowly and then snowballed out of control. Against Louisiana Tech at home, while still undefeated, North Texas led 21-6 after the first quarter of play. Louisiana Tech would go on a 23-6 run to win the game 29-27. Against UAB on the road, North Texas led 21-10 at halftime. UAB would go on a 19-0 run to win the game 29-21. Louisiana Tech is a stalwart of the upper tier of Conference USA. UAB might be the conference's best team this season. Against Old Dominion, a team with two wins entering Saturday, North Texas led 28-0 in the second quarter. The Monarchs went on a 34-3 run to win the game. The first two were disappointing, opportunities missed. This was a football disaster of the highest order.

Mason Fine makes history

It was only a matter of time before the Mean Green QB took his place at the top of most of the school's record books, and he started cementing his place at the beginning of this game, becoing the school's all-time leader in passing yards on a 23-yard touchdown pass to Rico Bussey Jr. Fine already holds four other passing records at the school, including passing efficiency, games with at least 300 yards passing, passes and completions. His junior season is not yet over and his senior season awaits. So it wasn't all bad.

Inability to shut down drives on fourth down

The weird thing about this game, even when North Texas held a healthy lead, was the sense among the Old Dominion players that they were still in it. After every big play, despite being substantially down, the energy level and celebrations were high. That little edge started to show up on fourth downs. The Monarchs converted four of their six fourth down attempts, and it's too simplistic to say that's the difference in the game, but it would have ended drives that proved costly. With 57 seconds left in the second half, trailing 28-7, Old Dominion faked a punt on fourth-and-10 from its own 48. First down. The drive ended in a field goal. That's 3 points. On their first drive of the third quarter, facing fourth-and-2, the Monarchs completed a pass for a first down. That drive ended in a touchdown. That's 10 points. We'll spare you the details, but this went on during two more drives (including two fourth down conversions on a single drive) that led to two more touchdowns. That's 24 points that could have been prevented by fourth down stops. And here's the crazy twist ending: Entering today, UNT led the nation in fourth down conversion perecentage defense. Only one conversion against in nine attempts. Go figure.



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