It is best not to write a game preview the day-of. At least for me. Alas, Real Life Work was asking a lot of your favorite MGNer, and that meant I had the day of the game to scratch out some thoughts. The Mean Green really did have an opportunity in this one. You could see that as UAB QB Tyler Johnston III went 1-6 for 32 yards. The Mean Green defense attacked and got stops.
I did not anticipate a complete implosion on the part of the offense. Before we continue to complain and rip Seth Littrell and the coaching on display, we have to acknowledge that the squad was playing down a few guys: Jyaire Shorter, Tommy Bush, and Oscar Adaway III are all out. Shorter was a game-day scratch and Deandre Torrey was a game-time decision. Deonte Simpson go this first snaps of the season in this one as well.
That acknowledged, let us not that none of those guys being out meant that QB Jace Ruder had to throw an interception on the first play. He threw right at the defensive back.
Okay, let us organize this thing somehow, some way.
North Texas had 220 yards of total offense!!! and 99 pass yards!!!!! Somehow, they managed 18 first downs and ran 78 plays for 2.8 yards per play. Jace Ruder went 6 of 13 for 34 yards, one score, and one interception. Austin Aune came in and stunk it up with 8 of 21 for 65 yards, no scores, no interceptions.
UAB’s front line was aggressive, hitting and hurting Jace Ruder early and often. They chased Aune as well. Their corners pressed and covered the NT wideouts hard, and there was nothing obviously available. A good QB could have probably found something, a great WR would have made catches. A great coach would have had some answers. North Texas looked surprised. It was incredible to see. NT knew it was going to likely be down some guys at the outside spots and would not be able to do the normal stuff. They knew that the UAB defensive line had talent and the game plan would be to get in Ruder’s face.
And yet, they attempted to run right at the UAB line, throw stuff that required deep drops, and had nothing prepared that was not on film already. That is how you get only 220 yards of total offense.
Jaelon Darden shown brightly last year in an otherwise mediocre pass game. I mean, he caught 19 of 28 touchdowns thrown. In this game it was painfully obvious that the weaknesses of the last couple of season under Littrell were laid bare: inattention to detail, over reliance on big plays from stars, poor short yardage execution, and uncreative play-calling.
There are a lot of reasons why a team can come into a game flat. It has happened to the Alabamas and the Patriots and hall-of-famers. Humans can not be ready for the moment. It happens. Coaches are there to help change that. They motivate, they prepare, they choose the depth chart to play the hungriest guys to get the squad playing at the highest possible level. North Texas has consistently looked unprepared, unready, and unenthused for the game.
I mentioned they looked surprised at the UAB game plan. All of these are indicators that we either do not believe in the game plan, are not fully prepared by it, or do not completely understand it. Is the answer a smaller playbook? A more complicated one? A harsher practice environment? Pay me a cool $1million per year and I will try them all and get back to you.
The guy responsible for figuring that out is not doing it well enough to have a competitive team on the field of play. I am having a hard time keeping track of the number of three-score deficits in the first quarter. There is bad luck and there is not being ready to play.
Nearly all of the complaints we have about the players — technique, focus, awareness — have some aspect of coaching in there.
North Texas came out softly offensively. That interception set up UAB for the winning points and that says it all, really. NT’s defense got a stop, they got smoked by the tight end Prince, who had 3 grabs for 136 yards and 2 scores. Both scores were easy open grabs and he had a lot of open space in front of him. A lot of people on the twitter were upset that he was a TE and he walked through the defense easily. He is a speedy guy, and we should give him credit, but it certainly does not look good for the TE to outrun everyone.
Dylan Hopkins threw 6 of 7 for 202 and those three scores. The defense was gashed often but ultimately only allowed 402 yards and held them to 168 rushing. The point is that if the offense were competent, this all could have been different.
The signs have been there all season. The game against Northwestern St saw an NT offense overly rely on Deandre Torrey for points and yards. Against a better SMU, that was not there. In this one, he was still banged up and it showed. NT had no answers anywhere. I saw some criticism of the depth, and well, sure. There is talent on the team and they didn’t play as well as we all would hope but I do not see them being put in the greatest position. Every player has to accept responsibility for beating the man in front of him, but good offenses do not ask them to do that every play. It is not smart.
NT was asking the depth chart to beat the starting UAB corners one on one the entire game. Yes, they should have done a better job. Yes, they have a lot of work to do. The coaches can put them in better positions. You saw how UAB’s Prince was running free? Let’s draw up some plays where we have Pirtle running free, there. What do ya say?
This is obviously much easier than it sound but I ask you: Isn’t that the job?
Louisiana Tech might be the second-best team in this division. I follow a lot of CUSA (Cusareport.com) and even though UTSA was picked second in this division, I have seen Tech go out and compete with Mississippi State and SMU. They got burned on a last-second TD last week. That is to say the team that whooped us last week was nearly beat by this Tech team at home.
This NT offense is a lot of hot garbage right now. The QB play is poor-to-quite-poor. The run game is all Deandre Torrey. The WRs cannot get separation as a whole, and when they can if it hits them in the hands, it is a 60/40 shot whether they come down with it.
The bright spot has been the defense. Still, they get gashed. We have an incomplete team that is not even living up to last year’s promise. Not good folks.
Should Seth Littrell keep his gig? Right now, he has lost a lot of confidence of the internet fan. When the big money folks start holding on to checks and / or agitate to Wren Baker about the direction of the program that is when the seat gets hot. The department is not doing super well financially after the pandemic year and things have not quite got back to where they were before 2020. It is not wise to buy this coach out and then get into a bidding war with anyone else. Coaching searches can be expensive. Add to that the uncertainty of realignment and it is not the bet time to have one of the highest paid coaches in the league underperform.
It would be tremendously easier for Littrell to simply improve. For everyone. I have heard from a few people that point to his dislike of tough coaching — yelling, getting on players — and that is why guys like Reffett et al were let go. I do not know. There are lots of ways to win games and lots of ways to get good football out of people. I really do not care so much how he goes about it 1 as long as the results are there.
Folks, the results are not there.
Does his staff not coach hard enough? Does his staff not have the right answers for this league? How about is it his job to make sure they are coaching the right amount and that they do have the answers? Yes. That is the only question that matters. The results go on his record and we can hold him accountable. Well, we can’t directly hold his feet to the fire because we (myself and you reading this — likely) do not have the big cash required.
But we can complain on the internet.