July 11, 2018
DENTON - As fall camp approaches, with players reporting on August 2, MeanGreenSports.com takes a look back at some of the biggest moments from the 2017 season. Stay tuned each Wednesday as MeanGreenSports.com relives each of these key moments from the nine-win season last year. We continue our series with some key plays from the game-winning drive against Army West Point, including a big bounce-back from Rico Bussey, Jr.
In mid-November the Mean Green were looking to finish the season undefeated at home when they hosted Army on senior night. The third meeting between the two teams in 13 months resulted in a thrilling 52-49 win for the Mean Green, capped off by a game-winning 39-yard field goal by Trevor Moore.
With 1:23 to go in the fourth quarter, North Texas took over after an Andy Davidson touchdown for the Black Knights, which tied things at 49. Quarterback Mason Fine engineered a 46-yard march to set up Moore's game-winner, rushing for 17 yards and completing a pair of passes for 24 more.
Fine opened the series with three straight runs, picking up six on third-and-five to extend the drive. That set up a big-play opportunity on first-and-10 from the North Texas 43. Fine rolled out to his right and was looking for Bussey on the backside post. A well-placed ball looked to be heading into Bussey's waiting arms for a sure-fire touchdown, but uncharacteristically, Bussey dropped the pass.
That drop could have been deflating for Bussey certainly, but also could have taken some air out of the Mean Green in general. This could have easily stalled the drive, and after an incompletion on second down, it came very close to doing so. Thanks to an offside penalty on Army on third-and-10, that set Bussey up for a quick opportunity at redemption.
Fine picked out his fellow Oklahoman, who ran a curl on the outside. The pair connected, as Bussey caught the ball about seven yards downfield and eluded a defender to work his way from the Army 45 to the 38.
This put North Texas on the edge of Moore's range, and gave the Mean Green some options with 19 seconds to play.
Fine then picked up six yards on a quarterback draw to give Moore a good chance from 49. The field goal team ran on to the field, and after Army attempted to ice the senior with 13 seconds remaining, head coach Seth Littrell decided to send the offense back out to pick up some more yardage.
Offensive coordinator Graham Harrell dialed up a quick out to the right sideline, as Fine threw a dart to Turner Smiley at the 22.
With nine seconds left, the Black Knights tried yet again to ice Moore, but he stepped up and coolly put the winning kick through the uprights.
North Texas moved to 8-3 and wrapped the home slate at a perfect 6-0, the first undefeated season at Apogee Stadium. The Mean Green also won their second game against the Black Knights in a bit over a year, grabbing some bragging rights.
Fine completed 24-of-36 passes for 386 yards and four touchdowns, while Bussey led the way with seven catches, for 85 yards and that key bounce-back grab on the final drive.
What they said:
Wide Receiver Rico Bussey, Jr. â€" "On that drop, I'm looking to see if they're two-high or one-high and then get myself ready for Mason to throw me the ball. I've dropped passes before in practice, so I just caught my breath and went back out there. On that third down, I saw them pressing me, so I just focused on how I was going to beat my man.
"What really kept my head up [from the drop] is that I saw [Atlanta Falcons wide receiver] Julio [Jones] drop that same ball that Sunday. I thought if Julio can drop it, I can drop it and bounce back. That's really what kept my head up and Mason coming back to me so quickly showed how much trust he has in everybody. Anybody can drop the ball and he'll still throw it to them and keep giving us chances, so that feels pretty good. After we hit those next couple plays, there was no doubt. Trevor is like LeBron, he's so clutch.
"The win felt really good for me because in high school, we didn't really win that much and this is the best team I've been a part of. I'm really excited about this year because everybody has made a big leap with their body and has advanced physically. Everyone is bigger, faster and stronger and I'm ready to see what it's going to look like."
Quarterback Mason Fine â€" "It was exciting to have another shot at [Army] and we went out there and executed on offense and moved it up and down the field. You're going to have mistakes out there and you're going to make errors, but the important thing is to bounce back and make that next play."
Special Teams Coordinator Marty Biagi â€" "Everybody in our team is very supportive and it is our job as coaches in this profession to really make sure we do a good job of getting our guys to focus on playing the next play. When something like that drop happens, it's important to remind that player that they are capable of going out and making a great play. It creates the confidence that their teammates and coaches believe in them to just go out and do it again. The biggest thing is that you want to see kids have success; it's what we coach and prepare them for and we saw that with Rico on third down.
"Trevor just has ice in his veins and he had proven that so many times that it was really just a matter of him just doing what he does and it was really that simple of a thought. We knew he would do what he normally does and rise to the occasion and make the kick.
"The most exciting thing was that it continued to show that everyone has bought into coach [Seth] Littrell's belief and vision and the win took us one step further. Though I wasn't here for the first two matchups with Army, you could definitely tell it was a high-energy atmosphere where you would have thought a conference championship was on the line or something to that effect. That was really due in part to the atmosphere and the crowd, which allowed our players to embrace it and gave them the ability to do it by believing in each other."
Top Moments Series
Do The Twist