Mason Fine threw for 5 TDs but it was not enough. NT needed two more points to win this thing and they were not there. This was the best offensive effort in some weeks for Mason Fine and HC Seth Littrell, but the defense was shredded late by a Charlotte team in its first year under Will Healy.
Charlotte has some talent — Benny LeMay ran the ball and caught the ball well, and for the first three weeks of this season the 49ers led the league in scoring. All that has been mostly forgotten the last couple of weeks — after getting smoked by Clemson (understandable) and beaten by FAU (self-inflicted).
In the 4th quarter, Charlotte’s effort and resilience were rewarded with a little luck and success. The key was obviously the final 34-yard TD to put them ahead by a point (the 2-point attempt failed after). North Texas had Charlotte pinned back deep but allowed two consecutive big pass plays to allow the score.
The pass rush was not there in time, and the secondary was too small for the big WRs.
Fine and company came up just short on a brilliant offensive day. All season we said this offense needed to be nearly-perfect to pull out wins and they were just short of that. The key failures in the 4th quarter aided the comeback effort. NT scored on a little out to Jaelon Darden late but it was called back because of penalties. The subsequent field goals attempt was blocked.
North Texas only scored three in the final frame.
Mason Fine threw for five scores — three of which went to Jyaire Shorter, who caught all three of his passes for scores and 111 yards. Jaelon Darden also continued his stellar play, grabbing 104 yards worth of passes and a score on a 68-yarder early. North Texas went deep early and often against the Charlotte secondary and it mostly worked.
The issue was that Charlotte kept scoring and NT didn’t keep it up in the final quarter.
This team was always imbalanced coming into the season. The defense is young and inexperienced, with transfers in the secondary trying to replace quality multi-year starter in some cases. The pass rush has been missing consistent pressure this season, also. The departed Ejiya was a leading sack-getter last season and no one really has stepped up in that place.
To be a threat, NT had to score like it did in 2016. Early this season that has not happened, to much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments.
This game, against a porous defense, NT looked something like the team that we hoped to see all season. Unfortunately, the offense did not get the luck it did even last season, when the would-be tying passes did not always get completed — that UTSA game? — or in 2016, when the offense was always able to deliver late even against poor odds.
Fine threw a deep seam route to Darden with 14 seconds left that, if complete, would have set up NT for a nice chip-shot field goal attempt. Instead, it was incomplete and the protestations for a flag were ignored.
The bright spots are these: WR Jyaire Shorter looked amazing and so did Jaelon Darden. Deonte Simpson and others also shone bright, giving us some hope for their development long term.
The bad news is that Mason Fine is very close to not having a chance to compete for his first bowl victory. NT is 3-5 and the schedule is tough.