Feels Good To Win: NT 41 Bethune Cookman 20

I used to take these games for granted. Then Portland State came to Denton and obliterated any concept of embarrassment I could muster. The loss to SMU and especially the manner in which the team lost really colored our view of this game. When Seth Littrell hyped the opponent in the way coaches often do, I almost believed it. “Really, North Texas should not be overlooking anyone.”

That is true, but only because it is good advice for any team. Every team should respect their opponent or risk losing.

Scholarships and athletic measurables aside, North Texas is more football talented than Bethune Cookman. Tonight we saw the team prove this by executing their game on defense, special teams, and in the run game.

The QB situation and the pass game are gigantic question marks, and this type of performance will not result in a win against Florida but this team executed and won.1 That felt good.

It is important to enjoy the win. It is important to celebrate and feel good about this. Not just us, but the entire program and everyone associated with it.

Offense

North Texas is an Air Raid team and they only managed 121 yards passing on 33 attempts and 15 completions. That is 3.7 yards per attempt. That is gawdawful. That yards-per-attempt was akin to something Dan McCarney’s pass offenses produced last season.

I was shocked to see that Mason Fine was starting the game even though against SMU the freshman looked crisp in his first drive at the helm. Tonight he was decisive, but inaccurate throwing vertically. He seems comfortable in the offense — unlike Alec Morris — but neither QB can throw deep with any consistency. Morris threw three fade routes that should have been picked off along with a bad cross route that ended up intercepted (his fourth INT of the year). Fine lofted a few into double coverage.

Mason Fine is able to run and that means the offense has an added dimension when he is in. He scampered for 46 yards including 25 when he trucked the safety.

Jeffrey Wilson is the best offensive player on the team. Willy Ivery led the team in rushing, but Wilson set the tone early with two scores of his own.

In the season preview I called the RB position the deepest on the offense. Now that Ivery and Tucker are back, and Wyche is rid of the jitters, this was more evident tonight. The backs (not including Keena, Morris, Fine) combined for 271 on 41 carries.

The line was firing off on blocks and North Texas was able to wear down Bethune Cookman.

It was great to see and only concerning here because we do not know for sure that the pass game will be able to take enough pressure off the run game. It is a strange thing to say about an Air Raid team. BC was able to sniff out some of the staple plays that make the offense run, and force deeper throws. Our guys could not complete them.

The scary thing? These first two games were way softer than Florida will be.

Defense

Dominant. Outside of a late big run that padded the offensive stats, the defense won this game. The consistent pressure that SMU’s Matt Davis was able to escape was there, but Larry Brihm and his backup were unable to make the type of plays Davis and Courtland Sutton did.

We can be concerned that there were more than a few overthrows of wide-open WRs, and a few drops that would have changed things otherwise. In the spirit of enjoying things we can say those were the result of consistent QB pressure. Three sacks, seven tackles for loss, and an interception is winning defensive football.

Special Teams

The Special Teams were okay. They allowed a TD and a blocked punt and those kinds of things overshadow everything. That said, they managed a blocked punt and score, two field goals, and one inside-20 punt. The kick coverage was good, also, only allowing 15.75 yards per return. One net TD failure, but good coverage and good kicking. I’ll take it.

Oh yeah, and a successful fake punt.

Coaching

We know this staff will be aggressive and they were. We know they want to score points and they managed four TDs and two field goals. The offense has moved the ball and scored in two games — something that was nearly unseen last season and infrequent the year before. That is the good.

The bad is that the pass game is still dysfunctional and the staff might have caused a QB controversy by unnecessarily destroying one QB’s confidence. Alec Morris does not look like the All-Conference QB we predicted him to be largely because of his yips throwing 15-yard+ passes.

Next Week

Florida destroyed a Kentucky team that is quitting already. They struggled with UMass in week 1. If the NT offense were humming along smoothly, I could talk myself into an upset. Given the regression in the pass game this week, that will be difficult.


  1. Florida is to NT as NT was to BC in talent.