If you came into this game with some semblance of confidence, it was not misplaced. There really and truly was good reason to think NT had a decent shot in this one. UTSA was favored — but just by 2.5. Instead, NT’s vaunted offense disappointed thoroughly early and often against a solid defense in UTSA.
Let us acknowledge the solid play from the Runner defense — they were some good plays from their guys — but with Bean and Aune (yes, he was subbed in right before halftime) throwing wildly there was little hope of moving the ball.
NT started slowly and there was concern about wrapping up UTSA’s Sincere McCormick. There was some success there early by the NT defense, but he ran through and around NT as the game went on and he amassed 251 on 23 carries. By he time the game was 49-10, UTSA had over 400 yards rushing.
This wasn’t just a game of UTSA running through NT and that was that. North Texas was competitive early, but once the offense turned the ball over three times in the first half and it was time for a comeback NT did not have the tools to do so.
The game plan was to score often, and rely on timely stops to keep the game within winning distance. As it was, the two Bean turnovers — interceptions that were unforced and ugly — killed early drives. UTSA got extra possessions and capitalized. There was also a bad turnover on downs that killed another drive. After one quarter NT trailed by 7-0. After two, they trailed 28-7.
Jaelon Darden unlocked the defense for 75-yards and a score to make it 14-7, it looked like a rehash of the Rice game. The difference in this one was that Sincere McCormick was able to make big plays to answer where Rice couldn’t. That shouldn’t have been a blowout problem but it was. NT could not move the ball as well as they have vs Middle or Rice.
UTSA asked questions of the NT offense that they could not answer in the positive:
* Can you execute down the field on long drives?
* Can you make plays when we only give you one option?
* Can you stay calm and not panic?
Bean threw wild early and often. He missed Simpson and Darden deep, and overthrew what looked like Darden on the first interception. He misread on the drive right before he was yanked when he threw on his back foot right to the corner. It was a poor read and bad technique. Although Jaelon Darden made up for it, he dropped a sure TD — later Deonte Simpson did the same — early in the game. The game was going to come down to whether or not NT was going to hit those deep balls down the field to WRs. Bean did not, Aune did not. They only were occasionally successful hitting deep ins — 15 yards or so.
Regarding the calmness — Seth Littrell was overly aggressive, overly reactionary, and NT swapped QBs again. They were inconsistently aggressive — going for it on 4th and 2 early was fine, but if there was a time to stop and grab a FG it was then, not later. There was no sense of a cohesive philosophy that propels NT. It is fine to lose doing your thing, but NT was not that. So it makes sense that they got run over in the second half. The play calling did not allow for rhythm for Bean early — whereas Frank Harris was able to complete short, quick stuff to counter the NT run defense, Jason Bean was looking deep. That’s fine, but those need to be executed or else it is punt time.
Aune struggled and he was pulled again for Bean. It could simply be a case of the NT offense just not having the guy that can execute the position the way it needs to be, but it doesn’t seem like there is growth and development there — instead just swings in approach.
As it was, NT’s defense had to stop the runs to get something like a comeback and that was unlikely. When NT got stops, the offense — and the play calling to support it — was not there to take advantage. See above for why.
Beyond that, let us also note that the defense was pretty terrible overall. Even if there was some improvement — better tackling, good pass defense from the corners in spots — the result is the same. They allowed 400+ yards rushing. Dion Novil was not effective. The Murphys were overpowered.
Short version: NT did not play its best game, and did not help itself. UTSA played well (Sincere McCormick was great, and so was Frank Harris). NT’s coaching staff was too reactionary. Jason Bean struggled, so did Aune. This might be the last game of the season and NT went out quietly.