North Texas beat Incarnate Word 58-16 on Saturday Night in front of a paltry crowd that mostly was concerned with staying warm and dry. There is some kind of lesson there about remembering that what happened last week was no accomplishment worth dwelling on. SMU has proved to be a bad team, and in front of them was an FCS squad that had designs on an upset. Instead of 29,519 there was about half that, looking wet.
Winning in this fashion is what good teams do, and North Texas did its best to prove that it is a very good team even if the rest of CUSA has none with a confident claim on that label.
First, the numbers:
- Mason Fine had 418 yards on 25/40 and 4 scores against one bad interception.
- DeAndre Torrey had 16 carries for 35 yads and 3 one-yard scores.
- Rico Bussey had 8 grabs for 128 yards, 3 scores on 11 targets.
- Jalen Guyton had 5 catches for 111 and one score on 13 targets. He dropped more than was comfortable.
- North Texas produced 607 yards of offense, 32 first downs, went 8/15 on 3rd downs, ran 91 plays, and scored 9 of 10 times in the Red Zone.
The defense looked good again, grabbing two interceptions but did allow UIW’s Ra’Quanne Dickens to run for two long TDs — one for 55 and another for 42. He totalled 139, largely on those two runs. UIW freshman QB Jon Copeland managed only 152 passing, though he found Phillip Baptiste 6 times for 79 including a 32 yard double-move. \
Did We Do What We Needed To Do?
The idea here was to win big and get the backups some repetitions. Cade Pearson, Kason Martin, and Quinn Shanbour all made appearances and threw a combined 9 passes (and completed 7).
North Texas was comfortably ahead by halftime but kept Mason Fine in to seal the deal and pad his stats. He went over 418 late, on a nice strike to Rico Bussey that served simply to get him over 400. In so doing, he became the first NT player to go over 400 yards in consecutive games.
Most importantly North Texas is 2-0 for the first time since 1994. Much was made of this, and it matters only in that NT is still in line to accomplish goals: winning a league title and going to a bowl game — to look for a win.
North Texas is not going to compete for a Playoff spot — especially since the league is so poor — and so winning is winning just for winning’s sake at this point.
That is to say NT should be happy to win this because it was a game in front of them, and not to achieve a 2-0 record. Make sense?
Incarnate Word was overmatched, but North Texas fans still shudder at the mention of Portland State (I saw them on TV and quickly changed the channel) and will never, ever overlook an FCS squad again.
The defense was good again. Brandon Garner was all over the field, Jamie King was good at the Jack, and EJ Ejiya was flying all over.
The secondary got two interceptions — one from both corners — and harassed a solid FCS offense into mistakes. There were gashes — something to work on — but this defense looks really good at the moment.
The offense was not perfect. Jalen Guyton had a few drops, and Mason Fine threw an interception. The run game was still struggling until Anthony Wyche got in and started gashing the backups.
There was a personal foul penalty that had Seth Littrell upset, and NT kicked too many field goals. The good news? The special teams was good again and nearly broke some.
No one was injured. That is probably the second most important takeaway.
NT fans have circled Arkansas for months, and their loss at Colorado State will make it more difficult for North Texas and less impressive if the Mean Green got a win.
So it goes.
Chad Morris is still the coach of the Hogs and he has NT’s number. His guys should be better at home, and there is still a talent depth advantage to fear.
What Does It All Mean?
North Texas is far and away playing the best football in the league right now. That does not mean anything, because the only FIU ends the night with a win in league play. If this team is going to stick to the philosophy of getting one week better, this all bodes well for the future. Good football should become great football by the time the league season comes around.
One week better is the mantra, and NT has lots of room for improvement. Arkansas is talented, deeper, and has a coach who has won three straight over North Texas when he had a slighter talent advantage. Oh, and this is on the road in SEC country, where 29,519 is a poor crowd.
Arkansas is not good but they are talented and the room for error will be smaller that it was in the last couple of weeks. Mason Fine may well throw for big yards again, but the little things — hitting a couple of defenders in the chest with the ball, and one in the hands today — will go punished.