If you had paid close attention, you knew that Mason Fine is good and that the defense had a lot of inexperience. North Texas jumped out big quickly but allowed Abilene Christian to outscore them in the second half 17-13 to make the score look something like respectable.
Mason Fine and company were up 38-10 at halftime, including 31-0 with 2:42 left in the first half.
The first game in Bodie Reeder’s offense started out brightly: Fine threw a TD on his first pass of the game. He completed his first ten passes and seven of those went for either first downs or touchdowns.
He finished 28/37 for 383 4TDs and 1 interception. His former HS teammate Jason Pirtle had four catches for three scores and 88 yards. NT had wanted to future the TE more, and it was converted WR Pirtle, and not Kelvin Smith who shined bright from the TE spot.
The Mean Green struggled a bit in short yardage, but were aggressive all night — going for it on 4th and 11 at one point (which saw Bussey get injured and leave for the night) and kept Fine in until midway through the 4th quarter.
The defense, filled with young and new faces, struggled late. ACU scored 10 to end the first half, and then had 21 in the second. There were some blown tackles and missed assignments, and NT was a step slow getting to the QB which allowed the ACU receivers to win one-on-one matchups outside.
With so many new faces, there was always going to be some growing pains. So it goes.
Mason Fine put up big numbers but they are relatively pedestrian for the competition faced, and the offense he runs. Four scores is nice, but fairly common for good QBs in the modern game. Still, good enough to hit the milestones: Big number of TDs, big yardage.
Bodie Reeder called a nice first quarter. He had ACU reeling. Some of that was unfamiliarity — NT was going to a new offense and showed a lot of new looks and play calls.
There were still a few too many Fine designed runs for my taste and NT struggled in short yardage — kicking field goals instead of scoring touchdowns.
Seth Littrell wanted more aggression and he got it. NT went for it on 4th down a number of times but that also meant they were not getting 3rd down conversions — just 5/13 for the night.
I expect there were a number of things held in reserve ahead of SMU and later California. NT felt they could beat ACU with one or two new things but some basic stuff. For the most part, that was the case.
Totals: 575 total offense, 383 passing, 192 rushing for 8 yards per play. Yes it is an FCS squad.
Troy Reffett calls an aggressive defense and if everyone is not on time getting to their spots, openings will be exploited. We mentioned this in the season preview. There were some nice things shown by the defense, but the free rushers were a step slow too often and allowed ACU to go one-on-one against the new DBs.
Nick Harvey was beat a couple of times, but he had no help in the middle of the field. ACU was running post routes there and had way too much time to throw them.
While the starters are the “starters”, there are a number of spots that were just won in fall camp and so things can change. The good news is that Reffett has Mason Fine giving him some cushion, but the bad news is that is a precarious situation.
Deion Hair-Griffin took one to the house and started the game off with a big return that set up the offense with a short field. It is a three-phase game, as Seth Littrell so often says, and that is important to remember.
Ethan Mooney kicked three FGs from under 30, and Kentworthy pinned the ACU offense inside the 20 twice in two kicks.
North Texas has SMU next week. They are a full-FBS squad but are still in year two of their rebuild. Shane Buechele has more talent and will make North Texas pay for mistakes in the secondary.
Meanwhile, NT will get a little talking-to this week, and look to improve on the things that can be improved upon.