DENTON, Texas – Middle Tennessee could not slow down an explosive North Texas offense, as the Raiders fell 34-7 to the Mean Green on Saturday evening at Apogee Stadium.
An early 7-7 ballgame changed quickly when the Mean Green (3-3, 1-1 Conference USA) scored two touchdowns in the span of 16 seconds to take a 14-point lead. Middle Tennessee (3-4, 1-2 C-USA) was limited to a second quarter touchdown in the loss.
The Raiders put together 205 yards on 59 plays for 13 first downs. However, North Texas managed 416 yards of offense with 25 first downs. Both squads committed three turnovers, while NT dominated time of possession 37:49 to MT’s 22:11.
Quarterback Austin Grammer played the majority of the game. The redshirt freshman ran 15 times for a career-best 106 yards and one touchdown. He completed 6 passes out of 22 attempts for 36 yards with an interception. Logan Kilgore completed 8-of-8 for 30 yards. Chris Perkins led MT with five grabs for 33 yards.
Kevin Byard led the Blue Raider defense in tackles for the second consecutive week. The sophomore upped his previous best of 15 stops with 17 on Saturday against the Mean Green.
The bruising defense of the Raiders forced three North Texas turnovers. MT forced two interceptions and recovered a fumble. MT has forced 19 interceptions during the last 12 games.
North Texas jumped on the board first with a 4-plus minute scoring drive. NT used a five-yard rushing touchdown by Reggie Pegram to put the Mean Green ahead early.
T.T. Barber‘s interception in the second quarter set up a 57-yard Blue Raider scoring drive. The freshman Grammer hit the pylon on a rushing touchdown to tie the game, 7-7, early in the second quarter.
The next few minutes would be controlled by North Texas. A near five minute drive put the Mean Green up by seven. The NT defense then took over with a pick-six touchdown by Lairaime Lee to take a 21-7 edge. North Texas tacked on a field goal to take the 17-point edge at the break.
Statistically in the first half, NT accumulated 197 yards on 36 plays, while MT was held to 132 yards on 38 plays. Kilgore was 7-of-7 for 28 yards, while Grammer completed 2-of-6 for 8 yards and an INT. Grammer ran 8 times for 60 yards and a touchdown in the opening frame. NT’s Thompson completed 10-of-12 for 82 yards with two interceptions.
In the second half, North Texas added 10 points and held the Blue Raiders scoreless to pick up their first win as a member of Conference USA.
Thompson would complete the game 13-of-19 for 113 yards. Brandin Byrd led the NT rushing corps with 139 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown.
Middle Tennessee takes a week hiatus before hosting Marshall in the Blackout game on Thursday, Oct. 24. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. CT and will air nationally on Fox Sports 1.
PICK MEN: Middle Tennessee came away with its ninth and 10th interceptions of the season when Xavier Walker recorded the first of his career in the first quarter and T.T. Barber had his second of the season in the second quarter. Over the last 12 games, MT has 19 interceptions.
GRAMMER SETS RUSHING HIGH: Middle Tennessee freshman quarterbackAustin Grammer established a new personal-best in rushing against North Texas. Grammer rushed 15 times for a career-high 106 yards and a touchdown. Grammer’s previous high on the ground was 14 yards against WCU.
TACKLE MACHINE: For the second straight game, sophomore Kevin Byard set his personal-best in total tackles. After being credited with 15 against East Carolina, Byard came back with 17 in the loss to North Texas.
QUICK HITTERS: Blue Raiders wore all white with silver helmets for the first time since defeating FIU last year … WR Kyle Griswould made his team-leading 22nd straight start today … Kyle Griswould has now caught at least one pass in 29 straight games which ranks fourth longest in school history … DT Jimmy Staten, P Josh Davis, and OL Josh Walker all played in their 43rd career games which is tops on the team … Xavier Walker recorded his first career interception in the first quarter … UNT’s blocked field goal was the first against MT since Troy did it in 2012 … North Texas’ interception return for a touchdown is the first against MT since ULL’s Devon Lewis-Buchanan went 55 yards on October 29, 2011 … MT’s opponent has now scored points in the last 30 seconds of the first half four times this season.