DENTON, Texas (AP) - Austin Aune threw two touchdown passes and North Texas fought off Rice for a 21-17 win Saturday to secure a bid in the Conference USA title game against UTSA in the Alamodome on Dec. 2.
The Mean Green (7-5, 6-2) will get a chance to avenge their 31-27 loss to the Roadrunners — also played in the Alamodome — which occurred on Oct. 22.
With the win, North Texas denied Rice (5-7, 3-5) a chance at bowl eligibility.
North Texas’ defense secured the win on Rice’s final drive when Kevin Wood sacked AJ Padgett for an eight-yard loss to set up a second-and-18 from Rice’s own 43-yard line with 1:20 remaining.
On third down, Padgett, lined up in shotgun formation, dropped the ball and kneeled to pick it up but was ruled down as officials believed his knee touched the ground on the recovery attempt.
Facing fourth-and-23, North Texas linebacker KD Davis intercepted Padgett to end it. Davis and fellow linebacker Larry Nixon III each recorded 13 tackles.
Ikaika Ragsdale ran for 122 yards on 17 carries with a touchdown for North Texas. His 6-yard touchdown catch with 10:35 left put North Texas up for good.
Padgett threw for 229 yards and a touchdown for the Owls.