In the tailgates and preparation for the game that I felt North Texas could get 60 in this one based on a couple of things: Lamar’s situation, and the talent disparity, and my belief in the quality of this team.
I rambled this point on the podcast so let me clarify it a bit here:
Based on last season we knew that NT’s ceiling offensively was about high 30s, low 40s and the floor was something like what happened to UTEP and Florida. Littrell complained about inconsistency (and so did we). We didn’t know what the team would be from half to half let alone game to game. While a team will play A+ games throughout the year, a good coach likes keep his guys at the highest repeatable level — something like 85-90% of their abilities.
If Lamar had a full week of practice and wasn’t distracted by the Hurricane destroying their town, I’m sure they would have come in and put up a little more resistance. Still, NT is the better, deeper team in this matchup and a blowout was always in the cards. That NT did not let up, take their opponent lightly, or take their foot of the gas for long stretches was great to see.
In short, if you are playing a team that had not practiced since Monday, was less talented, and on the road? You should put up somewhere near 60.
The athletic department has begun rolling out its new programs for game day experience and they were okay. There were some little things that I understand but dislike — the game day woman advertising a hat on the big screen, the dance-off stuff. I do appreciate everything that is modern about the new efforts. They feel like we are trying to be the type of program we always say we want to be. Good stuff.
The turnout was limited, as expected. Not only was this Labor Day weekend a tough one to compete with — nice weather, other college football and soccer games — but the gas ‘shortage’ and hurricane aftermath surely sapped whatever casual fans left.
The student turnout was solid, the tailgating was fun, and the fans that made it out were treated to a fun game with lots of touchdowns. I brought a NT newbie and she enjoyed her time thoroughly. It is for this reason that I do not dismissively scoff at the games scheduled against FCS competition.
Mason Fine put in a workman like effort, only throwing 21 passes and completing 15 on his way to 224 yard and three scores. It was is the kind of line you expect from the QB when the run game is dominant. He tossed a beauty of a lob to Q Jackson that hit him perfectly on the outside shoulder and led him toward the end zone to make it 14-0. Later he found The Standard by looking off the defense, staring down Guyton and firing the ball down the middle. He could have done more, and made a few mistakes he was frustrated with but even Seth Littrell was more bemused than angry. Littrell put his arm around Fine with a smirk as Mason was outlining the pass he missed.
Meanwhile, Jeff Wilson was everything we expected: quick, fast, shifty, strong, and injury-prone. He outclassed the Cardinals easily and broke into space without much challenge. The line created gaping holes for him to scamper into but Wilson was making the most of those and more. Nic Smith and Evan Johnson put in good shifts but the difference between them and Jeff is evident.
Nic Smith caught four passes on top of his 18 carries for 35 yards and a score. He — thus far — is doing an admirable job replacing Wily Ivery. Meanwhile the top pass-catcher (yardage) was The Standard Mike Lawrence. I think it is fair to say we did not see a full pass game but it was a good runout for the squad.
Nate Brooks allowed the 68-yard strike that made it 14 for Lamar, and earlier the defense was beaten for a 1-yard TD on 4th and 1 after the muffed punt (Eric Jenkins).
Even on the second TD the defensive line was in Lamar’s face and a good amount of credit should be given to the kid for standing tall and making the throw in that situation. Brooks was turned around by the move and does not come away looking great there. Still, that play is a preview of what we will see against better teams and better offenses. The big blitzes we bring need to reach their targets and the corners need to stay step-for-step if this thing is going to be successful.
As it was, this was an A game for everyone.
What It Means
Hey, North Texas is 1-0 for the first time since 2013, a year in which they won nine games and went to the HOD bowl against UNLV. Then they had a chance to control their fate for the CUSA West division title. This season sets up nicely for an outsiders’ run for the division and this kind of performance was one that indicates this team is maybe that kind of outsider. The point total was the the highest for a season opener.
The rest of the conference looks questionable as even the best teams looked a bit shaky. North Texas takes on SMU next week who won 58-14 in their home opener. NT has a real chance to go 3-1 in the first month of the season and that continues with next week’s rivalry game agains SMU, who is one year ahead of the rebuild calendar.