A key criticism of the Seth Littrell era has been (rightly) that he has not won big games. A quick peek over at the bowl record will tell you that. There is a counter-argument that even getting to those bowl games is a feat and should be worthy of praise.
Whatever your perspective, let us acknowledge that MGN called this just as big of a game (for the season) as last week’s against just-as-good-of-a-team as UTSA. North Texas went into Bowling Green and completely handled a very good team. Seth Littrell has had his team ready to play in back-to-back big games and won a very huge one on the road.
NT had more first downs (25-23), put up 196 rushing yards, there for 345, and did not turn the ball over. Meanwhile, they held an explosive offense 1 to one touchdown, and grabbed two turnovers.
North Texas is now 4-1 in league play and — surprise! surprise! — now controls their destiny for a league title game. Put simply: win and you are in and champs if you continue to win there.
|UTSA||4-0||Win the regular season and host if they win out||@ UAB, Tech, @ Rice, UTEP|
|UNT||4-1||Clinch 2nd and play in the title game on Dec 2nd by winning out||FIU, @ UAB, bye, Rice|
|WKU||3-2||Need one of UTSA/NT to lose twice + win out||@ CLT, Rice, (at Auburn), @ FAU|
|FAU||3-2||Need one of UTSA/NT to lose twice + win out||bye, @ FIU, @ Middle, WKU|
|FIU||2-2||Win out and they are in title game*||@ NT, FAU, @ UTEP, Middle|
|Rice||2-2||Win out and they are in*||UTEP, @ WKU, UTSA, @ NT|
|UAB||2-3||Need a miracle — like NT, WKU, FAU losing to everyone||UTSA, NT, @ Tech|
|UTEP||2-3||Just about done. Playing for a bowl game||@ Rice, FIU, @ UTSA|
|Middle||1-3||Playing for a bowl||@ Tech, CLT, FAU, @ FIU|
|Tech||1-3||Playing for pride/bowl||Middle, @ UTSA, @ CLT, UAB|
|CLT||1-4||Playing for pride||WKU, @ Middle, Tech|
Western came into this game very good at getting takeaways. NT was very bad at holding on to the ball. Having a no-turnover game while turning them over twice is huge. Aune and NT also climbed the conference ladder and have the same number of pass touchdowns. This wasn’t a pushover team and North Texas pushed them over fairly easily. I mean, Austin Reed is averaging 325 yards per game (2nd in the league behind Frank Harris) and NT had him bottled up for a large part of the game.
The run game was able to gash for some early runs that kept WKU guessing. Aune found Horton and Ward, Jr early for easy pitch-and-catch tosses for scores. When NT has been able to get an early lead, it leads to good outcomes. That has been true for five-straight games 2. This NT squad has played good football for this October stretch.
The defense in particular was fantastic. Logan Wilson won the league’s defensive player of the week, and grabbed an interception. Ridge Texada, DeShawn Gaddie, Mazin Richards, Kevin Wood, and more have all had moments in this game and others in this stretch where they look like the best in the league. Again, WKU is a good offense! They get good yards-per-carry, have dangerous wideouts and a good QB. There were times where that looked like the case, and it was incredible to see Bennett’s defense make the Tops look bad for periods of time.
The coaching staff has mixed up the play-calls, and kept things clever. Now that it seems everyone is keyed on Horton coming over on the jet sweep, NT has mixed up his usage by putting him wide for a quick screen. He also ran a little switch-route where he scored, but stepped out of bounds. He’s a threat every week and Bloesch and company are keeping the opposition guessing. There was no wild-eagle this week, but a little dose of Stone Earle. He can run, but will throw it, and it is another thing that will keep FIU’s defensive coordinator busy.
There will always be mistakes. This team has kept them minimal — and chalk it up to good fortune or good preparation or whatever — NT did not get bit by poor plays. NT’s end-of-half drive stalled out and had to punt (bad). WKU muffed a punt and NT recovers (good). Coordinators scheme up a wide-open Roberts (great!) but Aune throws a bad pass (awful) but we get a field goal (good). Against better teams, which right now seems like it is a one-name list, not taking full advantage is how you lose games. Against teams that are struggling, it is not a big deal. In this one, it sure looked like a WKU team was going to come out in the second and make NT pay.
NT punted to start the second, and WKU drove … but they never scored in the second half. The defense got stops and more stops, even though they allowed some yardage here and there — Corley is a handful — but no scores. NT’s offense took a 20-point start, and added 20-more to the total. The run game got to stretch their legs, and Ragsdale got loose on a clever red-zone play.
Here is a little secret for you: NT has been clever getting guys open in the red zone.
Ragsdale faked a block and slipped out. WKU brought numbers but Aune floated it over them for an easy score. One thing about having so many wide-open misses in the pass game is that it means there are a lot of opportunities that are wide-open. It is beautiful.
NT controls their fate. Win? A rematch with UTSA is the most likely outcome. If UAB and maybe, Rice beat UTSA in the final stretch of games, NT could host the title game in Apogee.
NT is now 5-4 all time vs WKU, and stopped a four-game win streak. Both teams had swapped 4-game streaks. Wren Baker said that given the logistics and distance, this is the last time these two play for the foreseeable future.
Seth Littrell is now 42-42 as a coach. He now is 27-0 when scoring 40 or more.
Aune is now only behind Mason Fine (18) for 300+ yard games (8). He has 23 scores and it is the most since Fine had 29 in 2019.
Damon Ward, Jr had his first career 100-yard game.
The 13-points through three quarters was the least scored by WKU all year. UTSA held them to 14.
FIU is in Denton for homecoming. The gave UTSA a little bit of a game in their 30-10 loss, beat Charlotte, and escaped Tech. They are feeling good and rounding into shape. The paper says we should win this going away, but remember NT was a 10-point underdog in each of the last couple of games — a 4-point loss, and a 27-point win.
Let us note here, that the Western offense has been off for two weeks. They couldn’t throw last week, but I chalked that up to a one-game thing. I mean, you could look at the run yard stats vs UTSA and say “NT can’t run” and we know that’s not the case ↩
It was true against Memphis as well, which is why Seth was happy even though the turnovers let it all go away↩