DENTON, Texas – Abilene Christian’s senior running back duo of Tracy James and Billy McCrary combined for 246 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns in the Wildcats’ 51-31 loss at North Texas Saturday night at Apogee Stadium.
Despite the lopsided margin of defeat, ACU head coach Adam Dorrel felt proud of his entire program.
“That’s a real good football team (North Texas),” he said, “and we’re going to build off what we did tonight in the second half (outscoring the Mean Green 21-13). We played some real good football, and did what we set out to do. We had the one turnover, but no real stupid penalties.
“Tonight was exciting. We competed at a high level, didn’t quit and kept battling back. Sure, we got punched in the mouth early on but we kept fighting and making adjustments.
McCrary netted 79 yards on eight carries, including a 69-yard touchdown sprint late in the third quarter, while James, a Dallas native, ran for 109 yards on 16 carries (6.6 yards per game) and broke the Mean Green’s shutout bid with a 19-yard touchdown run that came with 1:15 before halftime.
Unfortunately, North Texas’ big play capabilities extended into the ensuing kickoff as Deion Hair-Griffin returned the ball 96 yards to the end zone, pushing the Mean Green’s lead to 38-7.
Hair-Griffin nearly started the game in similar fashion but was tripped up by Byron Robinson Jr. at the Wildcats’ 32-yard line. However, on the Mean Green’s first play from scrimmage Heisman Trophy watch list quarterback Mason Fine connected with Jason Pirtle deep in the end zone.
Pirtle caught three touchdown passes tonight on four receptions and 88 yards, while pro prospect Rico Bussey hauled in four catches for 156 yards and a touchdown as Fine finished 28-37 with four TDs and one interception (Adonis Davis). Fine was intercepted only five times all of last season.
North Texas went into the break up 38-10 and added a field goal on their first drive of the third quarter. The two sides then exchanged punts, and on ACU’s next drive that started at its own 14-yard line Billy McCrary broke free for the aforementioned 69-yard run off a 3-and-4 situation.
McCrary also had a memorable season opener in 2018 vs. Baylor, which included a 75-yard dash.
On ACU’s next scoring drive that spanned the third and fourth quarters, James started with a 34-yard reception and capped it with a five-yard touchdown dash. James’ most recent two-touchdown game prior to tonight was Oct. 20, 2018 at Southeastern La.
James caught three passes from quarterback Luke Anthony for 47 yards, but it was sophomore Kobe Clark who led the Wildcats with a single-game career high nine receptions for 60 yards.
Anthony finished the game 24-of-34 for 273 yards and hit senior Josh Fink for a 64-yard touchdown pass for the game’s final points of the night.
Qua’Shawn Washington led ACU’s defense with 11 tackles, five of them solo. Brandon Richmond and Jeremiah Chambers added 10 tackles each.
UNT outgained ACU in total yards (575-456), passing (383-273), rushing (192-183) and first downs (26-20).
The Wildcats return to action next Saturday, Sept. 7 with a 6 p.m. home opener vs. Arizona Christian.