Okay, Missouri is not in the Ozarks. That is a little bit south of Colombia, but I wanted to put that headline and re-use this picture.
If you simply read the box you would see Austin Aune’s 305 and 4 scores and then glance again at the 35 points and think “well, the offense was back!” That was not quite the case. You maybe also look at the 300+ yards rushing allowed and the 48 points on the board and think “The defense sucked again!”. That was not quite the case, either.
There was good here. Aune threw the ball well in the 4th quarter, finding his guys wide open and then they made plays to score. That is transferable to an extend. Aune also got scared early, missed guys, and the play-calling decided running Aune into the line instead of dialing up that TE leak play that is seemingly always good for 6-points. In short, NT went down 14 points to start another game, and the defense mixed in allowing 60 yard runs around forcing 3-and-outs.
The proper mix of attention to detail and allowing some freedom to create is a balance that is not achieved in Denton this season, or really in the last few seasons. The defense was caught out of position again multiple times. The DBs were called for some bad PIs but also didn’t help themselves by losing track of the ball. Again, the detail is not there.
Offensively, we hoped to see a better Torrey, given the break. We did, but only just. He rushed for only 85 yards, but the run game overall showed enough to keep Missouri honest and allow those big throws downfield. NT had a 15-play drive early that saw them cut it to 7. Torrey caught one out of the backfield and put a nice spin move on the defense to get the second TD. In between those there were a lot of poor offensive things.
This was an opportunity game for a well-prepared team. Missouri was reeling from a loss, and boasted just a bout the worst run defense in the nation. NT did not take full advantage. That points were scored is relatively unsurprising. That it came from CUSA’s worst offense is, however.
We can be satiated that the offense scored in two ways and kept competing. Those two ways: big plays down field, and a long, execution-heavy drive. NT needs more of that. Austin Aune played well, for his own standards, and that is encouraging.
Defensively, I liked the competitiveness. They got punched early, bounced back. They competed. They got gashed. They competed. In the third they mixed in three straight 3-and-outs. They can build on that. Overall I think this defense is good enough to be a mid-pack CUSA squad with the right offense.
The overall squad is still unbalanced and inconsistent. I was reminded of this watching the post-Alabama loss and all the streaks that were broken. Saban has his squads playing well every week because of his radical attention to detail. Sure, he has the best guys but his attention to detail happens when recruiting as well.
I am not advocating for a Saban clone, or someone from his coaching tree. Lane Kiffin is clearly the same kind of guy he was pre-Bama, but he has admittedly learned a lot from the great one. Improvement is needed.
On the podcast, I mentioned that six wins is still possible, however unlikely. The Mean Green take on Marshall this week in Denton, and then have Rice, UTEP, and FIU on the schedule after. There are no Alabamas or even UABs left. UTSA lurks at the end of the season but NT has a real shot of climbing back into winning territory before then.
That only happens if Aune/Ruder plays at the level required, and NT’s defense plays more like they did vs Tech and less like they did this weekend.