MIAMI — North Texas’ regular season finale didn’t look like it would be all that meaningful not all that long ago when UNT was in the midst of a six-game losing streak.
The Mean Green’s matchup with UTSA certainly looms large now.
UNT made sure of it with a commanding 49-7 win over Florida International in a driving rainstorm on Saturday at Riccardo Silva Stadium.
UNT rolled up 611 yards behind quarterback Austin Aune and the Mean Green cruised to their fourth straight win. UNT’s longest winning streak since it won four straight games in 2018 has the Mean Green sitting at 5-6, just one win short of becoming bowl eligible.
That fact alone would make UNT’s game against UTSA meaningful. What the Roadrunners have on the line only adds to the flavor of what will be one of the biggest games in the 10-year history of Apogee Stadium.
UTSA beat UAB 34-31 on a last-second touchdown pass to remain unbeaten at 11-0. The Roadrunners came into the day ranked No. 15 in the AP Top 25 and will be the first ranked team to play at Apogee, which opened ahead of the 2011 season.
“We are excited about the opportunity to go play a team like UTSA,” UNT coach Seth Littrell said. “They had a huge win tonight and are undefeated for a reason. They are a really good football team. It’s a great opportunity to be bowl eligible and send the seniors out the right way.”
The Mean Green have inched closer to reaching that goal over the last few weeks while rolling off wins over Rice, Southern Miss and UTEP.
UNT followed up with its best performance of the season in its win over a struggling FIU team that had lost 10 straight games since opening the season with a win over Long Island.
The Mean Green scored touchdowns on six straight possessions starting in the second quarter.
“We set the tone from the beginning and pounded it in the running game,” UNT running back DeAndre Torrey said. “Eventually they gave up.”
Torrey rushed for 109 yards, while Ikaika Ragsdale added 102 for UNT, which piled up 378 rushing yards and five touchdowns.
The Mean Green dominated the game from the opening kickoff and built a 35-0 lead at halftime behind Aune.
The Argyle product came into the day averaging 142.8 passing yards per game. He rolled up 193 yards and two touchdowns on 5-of-9 passing in the first half alone.
Aune hit Roderic Burns for a 55-yard touchdown, found Khatib Lyles for a 35-yard touchdown and scored on an 11-yard run.
Aune finished with 219 passing yards and two touchdowns on 6-of-12 passing. With the way the Mean Green were running the ball, he didn’t need to put the ball in the air often to come up with one of his most productive games of the season.
“We established the run game really well,” Aune said. “That helps our play-action passing game. The running backs and offensive line did a great [job]. Our wide receivers got open. When they are that wide open, it’s awesome. We had a fun night.”
UNT’s defense took care of the rest while pitching a shutout in the first half when linebacker Kevin Wood made the play that set the tone for the night. FIU drove to the UNT 5-yard line on its opening possession of the game.
Wood stepped in front of a pass from Max Bortenschlager at the goal line and intercepted it. Wood appeared as if he might return it for the touchdown. He was caught from behind but set UNT on course for the win.
The Mean Green allowed just 245 yards on the night and just 58 rushing yards. Bortenschlager threw for 167 yards and accounted for most of FIU’s offensive production.
The Mean Green scored four plays after Wood’s interception, when Aune scored on an 11-yard run.
“I wish I could have taken [it] to the house, but I’m just glad I set the offense up for a big score,” Wood said. “To get a turnover when they were in our red zone meant a lot.”
So will UNT’s game against UTSA, which looms large after both teams took care of business on Saturday.
“It’s going to be a huge game,” Aune said. “UTSA is always a huge game. They are really good this year. We’re looking forward to it.”