Jaelon Darden came to NT as a 3-star wideout as part of a new crop of Air-Raid style receivers under Littrell. He had the usual hype, and played early in his career. He showed signs of being a really good receiver but I don’t know that anyone expected him to destroy the record book the way he has this season.
So far, 74 catches for 1,190 yards and 19 touchdowns. His 74 grabs put him in 7th position all time at NT. Last year his 76 put him tied for 5th. His 1,190 puts him 2nd all-time on the single-season list behind Casey Fitzgerald’s 1,322. The 19 touchdowns are by-far the single-season record. The next closest is Ron Shanklin’s 1967 season of 13. Jaelon Darden has the 3rd-all time record at 12. He’s good.
Coming into this year we thought he would have an outside chance of touching the tops of the record books. Last year he had 76 receptions and about 700+ yards and 12 scores. He sat at 19 scores for his three-year career and another 12-TD season would put him at the top of the list. We had no idea he would equal his entire career output in one shortened season. Consider that a normal season would mean at least three more games. This is ridiculous.
He equaled his career output in one shortened season.
Last night he did pretty much whatever he wanted. When the UTEP defensive back talked a little noise after Darden dropped a pass along the sideline, Darden came back two plays later, left that dude on the ground, and outran two others on the way to his 50-yard TD. He finished the night with 8 receptions, 173 yards and four scores. He caught his eight at the expense of a couple of yards. I think the plan was to help him get the record. Fine by me.
This year has been pretty disappointing but Darden has been the brightest of spots. UTEP, one of the league’s worst teams, put up 43 points in Denton and otherwise doubled its season average in points. North Texas allowed 498 yards by the Miners, and put up a respectable 493 in return.
Jason Bean was benched after dropping the opening play pass, and Austin Aune came in and put up a great game throwing to Darden. Four of his five scores went to JD, and 173 of his 302 also. Aune did score once on the ground and tossed a TD to Deonte Simpson, who went for 103 on 4 grabs himself.
This game was about execution and NT had a lot of drops, a mistake by the QB (Bean) and otherwise looked about the same as they have all season long. If you wanted a summary of the season performance encapsulated in one game it was this one. The defense did some good things in spots — Gabe Murphy tallied a sack and the DeShawn Gaddie grabbed two of the team’s four interceptions (Wood and Crosby).
That’s remarkable but so is allowing 498 and 43 points against a team that could not move the ball all year and had its backup QB doing things out there.
I enjoyed watching it because it was all about Jaelon Darden: an excellent representation of the university and the program. Good times.
What Does It Mean?
Well, North Texas is done with the conference season and finishes below .500 again. There are rumors that Houston wants to sneak in a game but I don’t know if that is happening. It would be cool to see Darden one more time in what is an effective bowl game kind of situation, but given the current pandemic climate, it also makes sense to call it a season.
North Texas played seven of nine at home — including this “away” game “at” UTEP and finished 3-4. Forget it, y’all. It’s the Pandemic Season.