HATTIESBURG, Miss. – North Texas wide receiver Jalen Guyton demonstrated why he was so highly touted coming out of Allen High School, catching 14 passes for 211 yards and igniting a Mean Green rally from two 14-point deficits in a 43-28 victory over Southern Miss Saturday night.
The Mean Green trailed 14-0 and 21-7 before the defense stiffened and the offense went high octane, racking up eight plays of 20 yards or more, including four by Guyton, as North Texas scored 26 unanswered points.
Running back Jeffery Wilson followed up his 211-yard performance of a week ago by rushing for 148 yards and three touchdowns, including a 43-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, capping a streak of 26 unanswered points, overturning a 21-7 deficit and pushing the Mean Green to a 33-21 lead. Wilson’s most impressive running, however, may have come on a two-yard carry on fourth and one at the midfield and a six-yard touchdown run that responded to a Southern Miss TD that cut the North Texas lead to 33-28.
North Texas becomes the first team this season to score more than 24 points against Southern Miss, which came into the game with the eighth-ranked defense in the nation, and the first to score in the first and fourth quarters against the Golden Eagles.
“I was really proud of the way we bounced back after some things went against us in the first half,” North Texas coach Seth Littrell said. “It took a little bit for us to get settled in, but once we did we had some positive plays and got some momentum.
“They wanted it,” he added said. “They’ve been itching to finish off games.
The critical road win over the Golden Eagles, considered one of the top contenders in Conference USA, pushes North Texas to the top of C-USA’s West Division at 2-0 in league play and 3-2 on the season. Its North Texas’ first 2-0 start in league play since 2004. This was the conference opener for Southern Miss, which is 2-2 on the year.
North Texas quarterback Mason Fine (Cherokee Nation) struggled in the first half but came on late the end of the second quarter and through the second half, throwing for 366 yards to top the 3,000-yard mark for his career, connecting eight receivers. But the star was Guyton.
“We’ve been pretty balanced, but tonight was Jalen’s night,” Littrell said.
The defense, meanwhile, took control in the second half, allowing just one scoring drive and permitting USM to convert just two of its final 11 third downs. Khairi Muhammad and E.J. Ejiya had 10 tackles apiece and Kemon Hall recorded eight tackles and had a pass break up.
“I’m proud of the way we dominated in the second half,” Littrell said.
The game featured a remarkable reversal for the Mean Green, whose first six possessions resulted in three punts, two turnovers and a touchdown, while the next five resulted in scores.
North Texas has its bye next weekend before continuing C-USA action on Saturday, Oct. 14, against UT San Antonio at Apogee Stadium. Kickoff is 6 p.m.