Tuesday night was no different. Nick Bazaldua kicked a 24-yard field goal as time expired to lift UNT to a 13-10 win against New Mexico State at Aggie Memorial Stadium in a game televised by ESPN2.
The victory gives the Mean Green 18-straight Sun Belt wins and the Mean Green finishes the regular season with a 9-3 mark, 7-0 in league play.
Bazaldua's field goal capped a 13-play, 73-yard drive that took up the final 4:28 of the game. Running back Patrick Cobbs did the damage on the drive with 61 yards, including runs of 16 and 29. The 16-yard run was the most critical as it came on a 3rd-and-9 play. The play was a reverse option pitch. He also made corner Spencer Moore miss a chance to tackle him before getting the first down.
"Cobbs is a very good back and he makes some great moves," NMSU coach Tony Samuel said. "The third down run to get them inside the 30 was a great call."
UNT will represent the league in the New Orleans Bowl on Dec. 16. NMSU finishes 3-9 overall and 2-5 in league play. NMSU lost five games this year by seven points or less.
"We gave a great effort," NMSU coach Tony Samuel said. "North Texas made some key plays down the stretch."
The Aggies tied the game at 10 on a Dario Aguniga 49-yard field goal. NMSU drove from its own three to the Mean Green 32, but a third -down pass to Jared Quick fell incomplete at the 15 when defensive back Jonas Buckles knocked the ball loose with a hard hit to the back of Quick. On the drive, running back Eric Higgins ran for 32 and fullback Tony Bostic caught a screen for 26.
NMSU outgained North Texas on the night 369-267, had more first downs and had more time of possession.
But the Aggies were hurt by two missed field goals, penalties in the red zone, an interception and the loss of quarterback Buck Pierce.
Pierce suffered a broken right ankle on a running play on the Aggies' first drive of the third quarter.
Pierce was tackled at the Mean Green 2-yard line when he was injured. Paul Dombrowski, who had missed most of the team's last five games, was inserted into the offense.
But an offensive pass interference call on tight end Alex Davis pushed the Aggies back to the 17 and NMSU was forced to try a 35-yard field goal by Dario Aguiniga; his attempt was wide right and the game was still tied at 7-7.
"I had a feeling we could win with Paul in the lineup," Samuel said. "North Texas was having a hard time stopping him. He was in a good groove." Pierce was 15 of 19 passing for 180 yards when he left the game.
"Paul is a great quarterback," Higgins said. "But we feel with Buck in the game, we would have won. He was doing some great things. But overall, we had some penalties that hurt us and we struggled in the red zone."
Dombrowski struggled until the Ags' final drive. "I have to be ready to play," Dombrowski said. "North Texas didn't do anything different, but they do have a good defense."
Dombrowski, who has an injured left kneecap, will have surgery next Tuesday. The first half featured missed opportunities by both teams.
North Texas missed two field goals, while the Aggies missed one field goal and threw an interception inside the Mean Green 10. NMSU missed the first chance to score after it drove to the Mean Green 15 after a short UNT punt that gave them the ball at the Mean Green 43.
Pierce and receiver Ronshay Jenkins missed communicated as Pierce threw outside and Jenkins went inside on the route. The result was an interception by Jeremy Peary at the seven. The Mean Green then took the ball 93 yards on eight plays to take a 7-0 lead with 6:51 left in the first quarter.
Cobbs, who finished with 216 yards rushing on 37 carries on the night, capped the drive with a 1-yard scoring drive. Cobbs, who averaged 150.4 yards per game entering the game, had runs of 14 and 43 on the drive, while quarterback Scott Hall hit Johnny Quinn with a 30-yard pass.
NMSU came right back to tie the game on a 13-play, 80-yard drive to knot the game at 7-7. Higgins had runs of 15 and 25 on the drive, while Pierce threw for 24 more to key the drive. Pierce capped the drive with a 1-yard scoring run. The touchdown was set up by a 4-yard run by holder Carl Scaffidi, who ran for four yards down to the one on a 4th and 3.
Both teams had several opportunities in the second quarter to score. Bazaldua missed on kicks of 51 and 52. The Mean Green had driven to the Aggies' seven on one drive, but a botched option pitch from Hall to Cobbs landed the team back at the Aggie 33. NMSU missed a chance to go up 10-7 at halftime when Aguiniga missed a 24-yard field goal with 21 seconds left. NMSU got to the UNT seven and faced a 4th and 2 before deciding on the field goal attempt.
The Aggies converted on a 3rd and 6 and 3rd and 16 to keep the final first half drive going. NMSU outgained UNT 203-119 in the first half, had more time of possession (17:00-13:00) and more first downs (11-4).
Pierce was 9 of 13 passing for 102 yards passing, while Higgins had 70 yards rushing in the first half.
"Our kids never panicked," UNT coach Darrell Dickey said. "To leave this place with the longest conference winning streak in the nation is something. I was very proud of Nick hitting the final field goal. He didn"t panic after missing two kicks early."