Liberty’s Malik Willis was in the grasp, progress stopped, and turned and fired the ball toward the line of scrimmage. Whatever the refs wanted to call, it mattered a little less than that Willis was playing smart football in a seemingly precarious position. A few plays later, scrambling to his weaker, left hand side, Willis back-handed a push pass 15 yards down the field for a first down.
North Texas sacked Liberty QBs six times, and outgunned Liberty by 103 yards. The Flames QBs, however, outplayed the Mean Green easily. Malik Willis was out getting his foot x-rayed for a bit, and the backup QB Jonathan Bennett came in to overthrow his targets but the combination was 19 of 36 for 4 Touchdowns and no interceptions.
Mean Green QB Austin Aune was 22 of 35 for just the 212 and 1 score, but tossed 2 interceptions officially, but also added another that was wiped off the board. All were terrible, and the announcing team was openly speculating at whether NT trusted Aune enough to throw the ball anymore in the first half. He responded to that speculation by throwing his second interception.
Liberty came into this game as 22-point favorites, and there was every reason to think that was being generous, considering the terrible performance of the team at home vs Marshall the week prior. North Texas’ defense look bad in that one, and the offense looked worse. This week, against a possible NFL QB, NT competed, and got to the QB early and often. The offense was run-reliant (good!) and nearly produced two 100-yard rushers. Ayo Adeyi was good in spots last week, and better today, scoring from 42 and putting up 99 yards. North Texas looked like they could move the ball, but the lack of attention to detail cost them a couple of TDs. Those missed opportunities probably cost them the game in the end, but it was nice to see some progress.
All told Liberty played poorly and still won, which was a fair result. North Texas relied a lot on luck, and Liberty’s own self-sabotoge to get the lead anyway. From the penalties keeping NT from punting or helping erase a turnover, to missed throws saving touchdowns.
The Mean Green still found a way to lose through special teams and a porous secondary. Flame WR CJ Daniels caught 7 of 13 targets, for 135 and 2 scores. He ghosted his defenders easily often. Bennett missed him a few times but he got free enough to do damage between both quarterbacks. There were some injuries for NT’s defense but it was boom or bust and the busts were pretty terrible. The inability to cover the opposition has burned NT too often, but in this one the Murphy twins and the linebacking corps were able to get to the QB to stymie some of that offense.
So that is about it: there was plenty of good considering the talent and the recent play. We saw just about the best version of NT we could have and that was very flawed. Malik Willis made some star-player plays and got the benefit of the referees being a bit overawed by the moment. I will not complain and moan about that, as that is the game. Anyone who has watched or played sports knows that you cannot rely on the referee as a true arbiter of truth. You have to keep the game out of their hands and do your best to win. Upset that Willis’ progress was stopped and it should have been ruled a safety instead? Well, next time make sure your pass rush puts him on his ass instead of merely holding him up.
Make plays. Do not let them make plays. Do not put the game in the referees hands. That is what a winning team does. Losing teams complain that they could have, should have, would have been a contender. Instead of being a bum. Which is what they are.