SAN ANTONIO — North Texas’ hopes for a late-season run at the Conference USA West Division title came to an end in quite possibly the worst fashion imaginable on Saturday.
The Mean Green were not only hammered in the game that ended their hopes. They suffered that loss to UTSA, their biggest rival in Conference USA.
UNT wasn’t competitive for long against the Roadrunners, who rolled to a stunning 49-17 win at the Alamodome, ending the Mean Green’s two-game winning streak
The Mean Green beat UTSA 45-3 last season. Up until Saturday that was the only blowout in a tightly contested seven-game series that had seen five games decided by eight points or less.
“It’s disappointing to see a chance at the division go away,” UNT cornerback Cam Johnson said. “We all had our eyes on a conference championship after the last two wins.”
UNT (3-4, 2-3) needed to keep its late-season run going against UTSA to have a chance. The Mean Green saw the Roadrunners (7-4, 5-2) move one step closer to locking up C-USA’s West Division instead in their first season under coach Jeff Traylor.
UTSA came into the day tied with UAB (2-1) atop the West Division with a .667 winning percentage in league play. C-USA will determine division champions based on conference winning percentage due to the coronavirus pandemic that has teams playing different numbers of games.
Teams will have to play no less than two fewer conference games than the average number played by all conference teams to be eligible.
The race became a moot point for UNT after it was dominated by UTSA.
“You have to give UTSA a lot of credit,” UNT coach Seth Littrell said. “They came out and battled and won on all phases. We made way too many mistakes early offensively with drops and turnovers. Once you get behind against a team that runs the football as well as they do, you are not giving yourself much of a chance.”
UTSA jumped out to a 14-0 lead and cruised from there behind Sincere McCormick. The sophomore rushed for a program-record 251 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Roadrunners, who set program records for total yards (624) and rushing yards (443).
UTSA quarterback Frank Harris threw for 144 yards and two touchdowns in addition to rushing for 113 yards and another score.
“We knew that we had to stop the run and not let the quarterback get outside the pocket,” Littrell said. “He is way too dangerous. They had a great day and executed very well. We made too many mistakes.”
Seeing McCormick excel wasn’t that big of a surprise considering he came into the game ranked second nationally with 1,094 rushing yards.
What was a bit of a shock was UNT couldn’t keep up offensively after coming into the game ranked fifth nationally with an average of 559.5 yards per game.
UNT finished with just 401 yards against UTSA, which was all over the Mean Green’s quarterbacks. The Roadrunners posted three sacks and were also credited with eight quarterback hurries.
“We didn’t execute,” UNT wide receiver Jaelon Darden said. “We could have been more physical both in the running and passing games.”
That was especially true in the first half, which UTSA dominated while running out to a 28-7 lead.
UNT finished with 194 yards before the break and trailed 14-0 early in the second quarter. A big chunk of the Mean Green’s yards came on the lone highlight of the first half for UNT, a 75-yard strike from Jason Bean to Darden that cut UTSA’s lead to 14-7.
UTSA came up with several big plays of its own, none bigger than McCormick’s 65-yard touchdown run.
McCormick broke free through the middle of UNT’s defense just two plays after Darden scored.
“That was a little adversity,” Darden said of UTSA answering so quickly. “We have to get back on the field and try to put points on the board.”
UNT never reached that goal on a day it used both Bean and fellow quarterback Austin Aune. Bean threw for 102 yards and two touchdowns, while Aune finished with 115 passing yards.
Darden caught eight passes for 143 yards and was one of the few bright spots for UNT.
“We had some bad things go wrong early and dug ourselves way too big of a hole,” Littrell said. “We were atrocious on offense at every position. That was not up to our standards of how we play.”
Littrell and his players were shocked that was the case when so much was on the line against a rival. UNT came into the day with a 4-3 lead in its series against UTSA.
Now the Mean Green face the prospect of playing out the season and watching from afar as the conference title race shakes out with UTSA still in the hunt.
“It’s disappointing to take a step back,” Johnson said. “UTSA is a big rivalry game. We had it in our heads to win this game.”