BOCA RATON, Fla. -- North Texas showed the ability to score at will against nearly every team it has played this season and entered the Conference USA title game ranked second in the league in scoring offense.
Florida Atlantic brought that run of success to a grinding halt Saturday at FAU Stadium, where the Owls clamped down on the Mean Green in a 41-17 win.
UNT didn't score in the first half, gave up nine sacks and finished with its lowest point total since a 31-14 loss at Iowa in the second week of the season.
The Mean Green came in averaging 37.5 points per game.
"We knew it was going to be a challenge," UNT coach Seth Littrell said of facing the Owls' defense. "They are smart in what they do and don't give up big plays. They keep everyone in front of them but are also aggressive."
FAU had UNT out of sorts early. The Mean Green went three-and-out on three of their first four possessions, struggled to run the ball and trailed 27-0 at halftime.
UNT running backs Nic Smith and Andrew Tucker combined for 15 yards on seven carries in the first half.
UNT rebounded and scored 17 points in the second half, but by then it was too late.
Mason Fine threw for 356 yards to lead UNT, which finished with 81 rushing yards on an average of 2.3 yards per carry.
"We came out hesitant in the first half," UNT wide receiver Michael Lawrence said. "Guys weren't doing their jobs. In the second half we started doing our jobs, getting open and moving down the field. We relaxed in the second half and started driving down the field."
-- FAU shut down Jalen Guyton, one of UNT's top offensive players, for the second straight time. Guyton didn't have a catch in the teams' first meeting and finished with just one catch for 6 yards Saturday.
Guyton entered the C-USA title game leading the Mean Green in both receiving yards (758) and receiving touchdowns (nine).
-- UNT was without starting running back Jeffery Wilson for the second straight game. The senior suffered a foot injury in the Mean Green's win over Army and has not played the last two weeks.
Wilson has 1,215 rushing yard and 16 touchdowns in 11 games. He was at the game on crutches and is not expected to play in UNT's bowl game.
-- UNT trailed 27-0 at halftime and would have been down by an even larger margin had it not made several key stands deep in its own end. FAU had a Devin Singletary 2-yard touchdown run called back on a holding penalty. Greg Joseph missed a 30-yard field goal four plays later.
FAU settled for field goals after driving to the UNT 4-yard line and 6-yard line on two other possessions.
-- UNT safety Kishawn McClain finished with four tackles and passed Lance White for seventh place on the Mean Green's career list with 328. White finished with 325 from 1983-86.
-- Trevor Moore hit a 26-yard field goal and moved into a tie for the all-time lead for a single season at UNT with 19. Keith Chapman made 19 field goals in 1989.
-- Fine moved into sixth place in UNT history in both completions (449) and passing yards (5,332). He threw for 356 yards against FAU, his seventh 300-yard passing game, tying him with Derek Thompson for the most in program history.
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito