North Texas has twice set a new mark for offense twice this season. Both times North Texas was primarily quarterbacked by Jason Bean. If you have been following along this season you know Bean has been benched since the SMU game, for performance and Austin Aune has run the offense well, and thrown for 277/per game and 8 total TDs.
In this one, it was his turnovers that got him a seat on the bench and gave Jason Bean another opportunity. He made the most of it.
The two interceptions early — one clearly his fault and the second an under-thrown ball to Loronzo Thomas that Thomas didn’t fight for — and a fumble meant Littrell made a switch to Bean. From then on Bean changed the game. He was not spectacular throwing the ball, but he gobbled up yardage on the ground by out-sprinting the Middle defenders time and again.
North Texas finished with 445 rushing and 169 game from Bean including three scores. His first came from 4-yards out but his next two came on twin 48-yard scampers — on in each of the 3rd and 4th quarters.
WR Jaelon Darden continued his campaign for best-receiver with 10 grabs for 204 yards and a score — a 55-yard grab from Bean in which he outran his defender, toyed with him, and ultimately sprinted by him for the final five yards.
North Texas managed to close halftime down just 7, after being down as many as 14. Starting the second half with the ball, NT quickly erased the lead on Bean’s long run, then took it for themselves with Bean’s 9-yard strike to Deonte Simpson. Darden’s TD made it 42-28, then Bean scooted in for his third to make it 49-28 before Middle scored for the final time. NT adde a 44-yard FG from Ethan Mooney to make the final score.
The game was all about the switch to Bean at the start of the second-quarter. Credit Seth Littrell, who has said he would play the hot hand at the position this season, for making the move. It changed the game and North Texas dominated from that point. North Texas scored touchdowns on six of its next seven possessions (not including the kneel-down to end the first half). North Texas put up 468 yards of offense in the 2nd and 3rd quarters alone during that time.
Austin Aune was decent, but his three turnovers were awful and helped put NT into another first-quarter hole. NT was down 21-7 and Aune had just thrown another interception. He had overthrown his targets a couple of times, also and while NT could have still produced a quality offensive game — as they have with him leading the team the last couple of weeks — the switch over to Bean brought a different dynamic.
Middle came into this game being a poor defensive team themselves, having allowed 270 to FIU last week (on 6.14 yards per rush). NT put up 462 (2-yards shy of the program record tied in 2011 against Middle) on 49 carries — an incredible 9.4 yards per rush.
Jaelon Darden continued his incredible season, adding the aforementioned TD and 204 yards. His season totals are now 46 catches 689 yards 10 TDs. Depending on how the day ends, he still will be among the nation’s leaders. What is most remarkable is that he is doing this all with the dual QB system happening. He is also moving up the NT record book. With his ten grabs he has moved to 202 for his career, just 27 short of tying the all-time record held by Casey Fitzgerald. His TD moved him to 29, still at 2nd, but inching closer to Ron Shanklin’s 31. His 204 pushed him up to 2,281 yards for his career, which puts him at 7th all time. The record is Johnny Quinn’s 2,718.
Let us not forget the rest of the run game. Torrey had 143 on 13, including a 60-yarder early that he scored on. He scored twice. Tre Siggers reached 101 on14 carries also. Nic Smith added 57 on 11 carries. NT had two 100+ rushers for the first time since Smith and Jeff Wilson did it in 2017 vs Lamar. They had three this game — including Bean’s 169.
Middle had a nice game offensively, which is to be expected because NT has the nation’s worst defense — allowing 550 yards per game and 47 ppg. Middle moved the ball at a 5.6 yards per play pace, and improvement over their season average of 4.96. Asher O’Hara was having one of the best passing games of his career, having thrown 3 scores early in the game. NT did a great job shutting things down after the first quarter. Middle scored three times in the first — mostly after and because of the NT turnovers. They managed a TD in the 2nd but only scored once more in the entire second half. They even managed a FG attempt — kicking the ball on the ground.
Cam Johnson came up with an interception. The Murphy twins combined for three QB hurries and a sack. There were signs of the 2020 normal NT mistakes : blown coverages, guys looking lost, missed tackles, ball carriers running free in space.
Still, this was a winnable performance for the defense. They were not perfect, but they got stops during the comeback — they forced a punt after the second interception from Aune. Seven points belonged to the offense — Aune’s fumble went for six on a scoop-and-score. So the other 28 points were the defense’s. It is winnable stuff when the offense is playing so well.
Winning sure does feel better than losing. The same problems we noted in the podcast and all season on this site are there. North Texas won but made another QB switch which means more questions about that position when it was seemingly answered already.
Both Bean and Aune are talented — that is without a doubt. Both make mistakes and when Aune is dropping dimes or putting sideline passes on a rope, it seems like he is the clear starter. When Bean is galloping in the open field for 168 and 3 scores it sure seems like the choice is clear there, also.
Let it be noted again that Jason Bean has presided over both 700+ yard games (program records) this season. For me, the subtle difference of bringing a separate dimension to the game while still getting the ball into Jaelon Darden’s hands is the main differentiator. Aune can run a bit, but he is not a champion sprinter like Bean. That speed changes the game.
- Littrell chose to punt from a distance where he might have gone for it if he had complete trust in his QB, or his kicker. He punted instead.
- NT had 635 yards of offense through three quarters, which alone tied the 2007 game vs Navy for total yards
- Darden caught 10 of 18 passes thrown by NT QBs and was targeted 13 times.
- 5 sacks for North Texas: Nixon, T. Davis, Novil (1.5), Johnson (.5), G Murphy
- 7/10 3rd Down Conversion with 4.6 the average distance, and 4/4 on 3rd-and-short (4 or less yards). NT gained 10.5 on 3rd down on average. Two by pass.
- NT 7 plays of 15+ yards passing for 223 yards, 1 TD
- NT 13 plays of 10+ rushing for 338 yards, 3 TDs
- NT 360 yards on 40 first down plays, 254 yards rushing on 27 carries