North Texas QB Alec Morris takes advantage of last college start
By John Henry
Zaxby's Heart of Texas Bowl Staff
DALLAS – Before the season, quarterback Alec Morris was expected to be the catalyst for North Texas’ new spread offense.
By Game 2, the fifth-year graduate transfer from Alabama was on the bench watching true freshman Mason Fine take over the team.
Rather than sulk, Morris was supportive of his replacement and continued to work and learn the offense never knowing when or if his next opportunity might come.
It came on Tuesday as he almost led the Mean Green to a comeback victory in the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl. North Texas fell short to Army in a 38-31 overtime game, but Morris ended his college career the way he once envisioned, throwing for 304 yards and three touchdowns.
“I don't know if this is how I would’ve written it,” Morris said. “But after going through all these experiences, what I've learned, people I've met, you know, I wouldn't change it. It's been a great experience and, I mean, the only thing I hate is having to have it end this way.”
The Mean Green (5-8) came back from a 21-point first-half deficit and tied the game in the final minute on kicker Trevor Moore’s 37-yard field goal before finally falling in overtime in front of an announced crowd of 39,117 at the Cotton Bowl.
Jordan Asberry’s 3-yard run on a gutsy fourth-and-goal in overtime was the game-winner for an Army team that gained a bowl-season high 480 yards rushing in a matchup featuring teams that combined for three victories in 2015.
Morris returned to the starting role after Fine was hurt against Western Kentucky on Nov. 12. He had his best game of the season in rallying his team on Tuesday, throwing his first TD to running back Jeffery Wilson, 22 yards in the flat, and another to freshman Rico Bussey that cut 24-7 deficit to 24-21 at halftime.
Tyler Wilson, a freshman wide receiver from Arlington Martin, hauled in an 18-yard TD pass that cut a 10-point deficit to 31-28 late in the third. Wilson had his best game of the season with six receptions for 81 yards, including three catches on the game-tying drive in the fourth quarter.
His 14-yard catch on second-and-23 put the Mean Green back in Moore’s range after false start and holding penalties sent North Texas in retreat.
Wilson also had a 22-yard TD run on the Mean Green’s opening drive.
North Texas had trouble getting off the field, yielding Army (8-5) 10 successful third-down conversions in 15 tries. But the Mean Green turned the screws at just the right moment, holding Army on fourth-and-4 from the Mean Green’s 28 with 2:18 left.
“It wasn’t the prettiest drive we’ve ever had with the couple of penalties, but that’s been a pretty common theme for this team all year … of overcoming adversity,” Morris said. “We would have liked to put it in the end zone, but we got the job done.”
Game MVP Ahmad Bradshaw had a 129 yards on 18 carries and a 65-yard TD run early in the third quarter that momentarily stemmed North Texas’ momentum swing. Bradshaw’s rushing totals represented a Cotton Bowl stadium record for a quarterback.
Darrell Woolfolk had two TDs, of 5 and 1 yards, with Tyler Campbell’s 70-yard scoring run sandwiched in between while Army scored four of the game’s first five TDs.
Army outgained North Texas in yardage 533-410.
The game was a rematch of North Texas’ 35-18 victory in October in West Point. Army made good on its reprisal by taking better care of the ball. In the first game, the Black Knights turned the ball over seven times. The Black Knights turned it over once on Tuesday. It led to Wilson’s TD.
Extra points almost turned into the difference in this game. Army missed the extra-point attempt on Woolfolk’s first run and started chasing points, failing three times on 2-point conversion attempts.
Made extra points would have given Army a seven-point cushion in the final minutes of regulation.
“I thought Alec did a heckuva job,” North Texas coach Seth Littrell said. “I felt like he had his best weeks of preparation, looked a lot more comfortable, confident with where he was going with the football, did a heckuva job managing the game and throwing the football today.
“And he's an unbelievable teammate, and that's something I've been more impressed with than any ball he threw today or any other game, just the man he is and … he will be highly successful in life because of that.”