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UNT-Iowa running blog

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Brett Vito, Staff Writer

North Texas will face Iowa this afternoon at Kinnick Stadium, where the Mean Green will try to pull off a stunner against the heavily favored Hawkeyes.

UNT (1-1) lost its last game against SMU and is a huge underdog against Iowa, which is 2-0 and received votes in this week's Associated Press poll.

The one news tidbit of note coming into today's game is that defensive end Tillman Johnson is out today. Johnson started UNT's opener, but has been banged up and hasn't played much this since.

This is the final tuneup for UNT before the beginning of Conference USA play next week against UAB, a game that is going to be a whole lot tougher than people think. UAB is up 16-5 on Coastal Carolina at halftime. 

UNT was drilled last week 54-32  by SMU in a game that wasn't as close as the score indicated. The Mean Green are hoping to head into conference play with as much momentum as possible.

What might be even more important for the Mean Green is how healthy it is. Linebacker Joshua Wheeler returned to action last week after missing UNT's season-opener and finished with five tackles. Guard T.J. Henson also returned to the lineup.

UNT is about as healthy as it has been all season. The Mean Green typically come out of games against Power Five teams beaten up pretty badly. 

Getting out of town without losing a host of key players might be UNT's biggest concern today.

One matchup to watch is UNT's offensive line against Iowa's defensive front. Quarterback Mason Fine was hit often and hard by SMU last week. The Mustangs finished with five sacks.

UNT can't afford to have Fine pounded into a pulp today. Iowa freshman defensive end A.J. Epenesa was a five-star recruit and has already posted 1.5 sacks in two weeks.  UNT's offensive line will have its hands full with Epenesa and the rest of Iowa'e line.

UNT is wearing all white today.

Stay tuned. I will update the blog all day.

2:23 -- There are a few fans who made the trip to Iowa today. Hall of Famer C. Dan Smith is here. There is a small section of green-clad fans in the stands. Two fans are holding signs in support of E.J. Ejiya, a Minnesota native. Looks like the starting linebacker had a couple of friends/family members who made the trip. 

2:30 -- UNT won the toss and deferred its choice to the second half. Iowa will receive. UNT won the toss and took the ball last week in its loss to SMU. That didn't turn out well for UNT. SMU was on a roll heading into the second half and got the ball coming out of halftime. 

15:00 -- Iowa starts at its 23.

8:18 -- Iowa drove right down the field and scored on a 7-yard pass from Nate Stanley to Nick Easley. The Hawkeyes converted on fourth down on the drive on a pass to Noah Fant. The play is under review. Easley fumbled at the end of the play.

8:18 -- The call was overturned. Officials ruled that Easley fumbled the ball before he crossed the goal line. UNT has the ball at the 20. We are in a 0-0 tie. Big break for UNT.

5:34 -- UNT is on the board. Jeffery Wilson broke free for a 41-yard touchdown run. UNT didn't face a third down on that drive. 

5:34 -- Wilson's touchdown run moved him up to seventh on UNT's career rushing leaders list.

5:34 -- Iowa has the ball back at its 25.

:52 -- Iowa has tied the score at 7-7 after a crazy drive. The Hawkeyes scored on a pass from Nate Stanley to Akrum Wadley, but had the play called back for unsportsmanlike conduct when Stanley danced into the end zone. Iowa scored anyway on an 8-yard pass from Stanley to T.J. Hockenson that was tipped. It's 7-7.

:52 -- UNT has the ball back at its 12.

Start of the second quarter -- In a side note, UNT's lead over Iowa was its first over a Power Five team since its game against Kansas State in  2012.

13:07 -- Iowa has the ball back at its 44 after a 27-yard punt by UNT. The Mean Green are struggling in the punting game.

10:36 -- UNT has the ball back after Iowa went for it on fourth-and-4 from the Mean Green's 34. Nate Stanley overthrew what looked like a sure TD pass on third down and then overthrew another receiver on fourth down.

8:12 -- UNT had a chance to go back up on its last possession, but Trevor Moore had his 40-yard field goal attempt blocked. Iowa got a guy clean off the edge. Big mistake for UNT on special teams.

5:23 -- Iowa has gone up 10-7 on a 42-yard field goal from Miguel Recinos. UNT committed a couple of key penalties on that drive, a pass interference call on Khairi Muhammad and an unsportsmanlike conduct call on Ashton Preston

3:15 -- UNT went three-and-out on its last drive. Iowa has the ball back at its 43 after a 23-yard UNT punt. 

1:03 -- A crazy play turned momentum to UNT late in the half. Iowa had the ball at UNT 47. E.J. Ejiya sacked Stanley and stripped the ball. T.J. Tauaalo picked it up and was lumbering toward the end zone. Iowa running James Butler ran Tauaalo down, knocked the ball loose and recovered it. Big swing of momentum right there.

:33 -- Mason Fine is down. He was hit low on that last play. Iowa was flagged for a late hit. Fine looks like he's OK.

:18 -- UNT has driven to the Iowa 13-yard line. Iowa just took a timeout. Quinn Shanbour is in for UNT.

:11 -- Shanbour just hit Jalen Guyton for a 13-yard touchdown. UNT is up 14-10. Gutsy performance on that drive for Shanbour. 

Halftime -- The report from the sideline is that Mason Fine has a sprained knee, but should return in the second half.

15:00 -- UNT has the ball at its 25 to start the second half.

11:16 -- UNT drove the ball on its last possession, but had to punt. UNT was flagged for kick catch interference when it would have had Iowa pinned deep. The Hawkeyes have the ball at their 24 to start their first possession of the second half.

8:03 -- Iowa is driving and has the ball at the UNT 49. Hawkeyes running back James Butler is down after a short run.

4:24 -- Iowa has gone up 17-14 on a gutsy call. The Hawkeyes went for it on fourth-and-5 from the UNT 23 and scored on a pass from Nate Stanley to Noah Fant. That was a 14-play drive.

2:06 -- UNT drove into Iowa territory, but stalled out. Iowa has the ball at its 13.

15:00 -- UNT has the ball at its 25 to start the second half.

11:16 -- UNT drove the ball on its last possession, but had to punt. UNT was flagged for kick catch interference when it would have had Iowa pinned deep. The Hawkeyes have the ball at their 24 to start their first possession of the second half.

8:03 -- Iowa is driving and has the ball at the UNT 49. Hawkeyes running back James Butler is down after a short run.

4:24 -- Iowa has gone up 17-14 on a gutsy call. The Hawkeyes went for it on fourth-and-5 from the UNT 23 and scored on a pass from Nate Stanley to Noah Fant. That was a 14-play drive.

2:06 -- UNT drove into Iowa territory, but stalled out. Iowa has the ball at its 13.

Start of the fourth quarter -- Iowa has driven to its 43 as we start the fourth quarter.

13:01 -- Iowa has the ball at the UNT 39. Joshua Wheeler went down, but got up and walked off. 

11:57 -- Iowa just picked up a first down on third-and-7 from the UNT 36. Huge play for Iowa.

9:54 -- Ivory Kelly Martin just broke free for a 24-yard run. Iowa has the ball at the UNT 1-yard line. 

8:16 -- Ivory Kelly-Martin just scored on a 2-yard run for Iowa. The Hawkeyes are up 24-14. UNT is going to need to score quickly. The Hawkeyes ate up 8:16 on that drive. 

5:58 -- UNT will have to punt from inside its own 20. 

5:46 -- Iowa has the ball back at the UNT 43.