In a game that we expected North Texas to struggle in, there was an early fight. The Mean Green forced a three-and-out early and looked focused on stopping the run game that was the main threat from App State. The NT offense still struggled without Jaelon Darden, Deonte Simpson, and even Austin Aune. Right before half the dam burst, and the flood of Appalachian State rush yards washed everything away.
Should we talk about how NT dropped another bowl game — 0-4 in Seth Littrell’s time at North Texas? Should we start with the run defense that allowed 502 yards on the ground? Should we talk about how Camerun Peoples explored for 319 yards and 5 TDs largely untouched? Should we mention that Williams Jr, his backup had 6 rushes for 101 and a score and had a 79-yarder called back because the offensive line blocked so well that they had a penalty called for “excessive blocking”?
Jason Bean had a good day, throwing for 251 and 2 scores. Oscar Adaway added 97 tough yards and Tre Siggers looked like the guy we thought he could be as he ran for 120 on just 17 totes. Austin Ogunmakin did a little bit of a Darden impression as he grabbed 131 with of yards and a score. He got behind the defense a couple of times. The offense put up 500+ yards again.
But the story is the defense and how bad it was. NT started down 14 after one (again!) but looked like they would compete in this one. There was early fight after Jason Bean was initially hit with what was called on the field as a targeting. That call was reverse 1 and everyone got a penalty for fighting.
Here is the situation:
North Texas is down 14-7 after driving 75 yards and getting a TD from Kason Martin to Loronzo Thompson in place of Bean. App State is held to a 3-and-out but NT is pinned back. There are some silly penalties but North Texas manages a 9-play 46 yard drive that fizzles on a failed 4th down call. The field is flipped, however. App State goes 5 plays for 59 yards to score and put things at 21-7. Okay.
Next drive NT goes 12 plays, 51 yards and misses a very long FG. That’s fine, as the field is flipped and there are only 2 minutes left in the half. Oh wait– one-play 70 yard TD. No one touches the guy.
That’s fine. NT can work with the ball – -they go 75 yards in 9 plays to make it 28-14. Jason Bean found Pirtle for a 4th down conversion and Oscar Adaway got a nice 4-yard score. There are only :11 seconds left in the half. App State runs it to run the clock out — and gets a 64-yard score from Peoples. 35-14 App State.
I sat there on the sofa, looking incredulous. Former players, current players, current and former fans are all tweeting about the awful play that is in front of us. We are openly wondering what to do with the defensive coordinator. Many are questioning the scheme — the hybrid 3-3-5/4-2-5 scheme that has been criticized as the source of all the issues.
Let us pause to discuss that. Scheme is about where you start and how you plan to attack. There is very little difference between the modern hybrid 3-3-5/4-2-5 schemes and whatever you think this team should run. Should it be a 3-4? Well, 3-4 looks are mostly 3-3-5 schemes with some 4-2-5 plays. You really cannot tell the difference. That Wolf/Pass rushing End/Whatever pass rushing guy is the Jack/Star/whatever in this look and does the same stuff. Want something like a 4-3 defense? Well that is largely what a 4-2-5 base looks like, and that “third” linebacker is pretty much the Nick/Jack/Star safety in that look.
Because offenses are so multiple defense have had to change and become the same thing. Linebackers across the board are smaller than they used to be — because they have to get out and run. Safeties need to defend the run and be solid in the pass game.
Let us get back to the game — The second half did not really see much change. NT started 3-and-out, and started out better defensively on App State. NT got within 35-21 — Bean to Ogunmakin after a nice set up where NT ran the same play in a row but just took advantage of the variation to find AO on the slant.
NT had the ball down just the two scores with 4:20 left in the third and tried to be aggressive. Bean overthrew Ogunmakin, Thompson, and burns and punted.
Then App state uncorked another 1-play 62-yard score. Peoples again. NT punted. Then another 70+ yard run. Actually it happened twice. Marcus Williams Jr ran untouched for 79 yards and a score but App State was called for a personal foul for pushing the NT defense into the sideline and not letting up. “Too much blocking”. The next play: a 76-yard run up the same sideline for Peoples. He ran in two plays later. 49-21 and NT was done emotionally, spiritually, and factually.
Oh yeah, Bean threw a bad interception. App State scored again. NT scored on a pass to Thompson in garbage time the end.
Okay let’s complain and rage about things:
The Defense Has To Fixed
Clint Bowen was brought in to change up the looks and has been telling his tales of woe to any broadcast team that will listen (they all listen). To hear him tell it, the defense is in a sorry state, and he has had the most awful challenges getting them to be the defense he wants them to be in his mind. Guys gone, linebackers being pulled off for contact tracing, what have you.
I would be more likely to buy this tale if every other team in the nation did not have the same situation. It is one thing for walk-ons to get run over. It is quite another for your first team defense to have the same done to them.
It is one thing to be poor agains the run, and it is quite another to be historically bad. It is one thing to be a bad defense, and it is quite another to be a laughing stock. NT is all of the latter.
Seth Littrell fired Troy Reffett after last season’s defense underperformed and gave up a lot of big plays. This defense is worse by about 100 yards allowed per game. It is worse by about 60 yards per game on the rushing side. It is worse by about 12 points per game allowed.
Is the answer more of Clint Bowen? I truly do not know. There is talent on the defense and open scholarships to fill with good defenders (if they can be signed) but we just might be setting the team up for more of the same next year and then what? If there is a move to make it has to be done differently. Why was Clint Bowen the guy? Why was Bodie Reeder the guy? Why was Reffett the guy? What I mean by this is, if the decision-making process means we get guys that ultimately are fired that needs to change.
Seth Littrell has done really well at North Texas but now has four bowl losses and three of them have been in awful fashion. Add to that the 2017 title game and it does not look good for Seth in games against good teams.