DENTON — The North Texas Mean Green put together arguably the best game they’ve played all season in a 45-10 blowout victory over UTEP in Denton on homecoming.
North Texas (7-3, 6-1) has two regular season games remaining before heading to the Conference-USA championship game for the first time since leaving the Sun Belt in 2013.
“We had an opportunity to win the west, and getting that monkey off our back is huge,” head coach Seth Littrell said after the game. “The hardest one to get is that first one.”
The win came in front of a crowd of more than 26,000, the biggest the Mean Green have had all season and the third-largest in Apogee Stadium history.
“The energy was great,” Mean Green quarterback Mason Fine said. “I feed off the energy here. I play better at home.”
Fine threw for 213 yards and four touchdowns in the win and led an impressive offensive attack that got going in the second half. The Mean Green lead was only 14-7 at halftime, but things would have been closer if Fine didn’t connect with receiver Jaelon Darden for two scores before the break. UTEP (0-10, 0-6) was able to get on the board on the first possession of the game, returning a Jeffrey Wilson fumble for a touchdown.
Defense was the key to the dominant performance for North Texas. They allowed 231 yards of total offense, the lowest of any game this season. They were also able to make big plays, including an interception by LaDarius Hamilton and a blocked punt by Dee Baulkman, both coming in the second half.
“The defense was dominant. We’ve seen flashes of that this year,” Littrell said. “This was one of our more complete games.”
North Texas outscored UTEP 17-0 in the fourth quarter and scored the last 24 points of the game, taking advantage of a worn-down Miners defense. Fine connected with Rico Bussey Jr. for a 60-yard touchdown strike on a post pattern down the middle of the field late in the third quarter.
Wilson got back to his usual high-level performance in the fourth, taking a run for 66 yards to give the Mean Green an opportunity to score on the goal line. He finished with 144 yards on 20 carries.
“The defense wore down in the second half and we didn’t make any plays on special teams,” interim UTEP head coach Mike Price said, via the official team website. “It was a tough loss to a good team.”
The win marked the first time North Texas defeated UTEP since 2013. They lost 52-24 to the Miners last year.
Next up for the Mean Green is the final home game of the season against Army, the same team that defeated North Texas in the Heart of Dallas Bowl in 2016. Kickoff is at 5:30 p.m.