This week, Your Favorite MGN Writer opened up the twitter Direct Message service and sent the following “I think NT runs for 350 against these dudes.” The tape (stream) suggested that Louisiana Tech had about one or two game-changing defensive lineman, one solid linebacker, and safeties that would prefer to be bull-fighters in Spain. By the end of the first half, North Texas had put up 278 yards rushing on the way to a program-record 475.
The magic happened because of some old-fashioned bully-ball, where the lineman — and let’s call them out individually — Cole Brown, Gabe Blair, Manase Mose, Febechi Nwaiwu, Jett Duncan — just pushed their opposition out of the way for GAINS. That by itself was and is impressive, but the recent emergence of Kaylon Horton — 97 yards on sweeps! — was the extra creativity for which NT fans have been begging. Mix in some some tosses from Aune to Shorter (beauty!) and Gumms (clever!) and NT had a great day.
First the numbers:
Total yards: 671
Pass yards: 196
Rush yards: 475 – program record!
Yards per play: 9.9
Yards per rush: 10.1
Austin Aune: 11/20 196 yards 2 TD 1 INT 55% 160.3 rating
Ayo Adeyi: 7 carries 122 yards 1 TD long of 92
Oscar Adaway III: 16 carries 113 yds, 1 TD long of 32
Kaylon Horton: 3 for 96, 1 TD long of 66
Isaiah Johnson: 13 for 77, 0 scores, long of 28
Ikaika Ragsdale: 7 for 62, 1 score long of 42.
Now the narrative:
The game plan was to run the ball and not turn the ball over.
Game plan: Run the ball. Limit the out routes and the triangle reads, as that is where Aune gets in trouble. Throw the deep ball (where he succeeds) and the easy curl stuff. Keep it simple and save the clever for the jet sweeps, wild eagles, and the like.
Well, A+++. NT ran the ball with authority, threw only when the matchups were favorable (and scored on them) and only threw the one interception late in the half when the kicker was still suspended (wut) and Tech had no chance to turn that into points. There were 97 yards from Horton on sweeps and a score, and wild eagle was used with success.
NT got short yardage gains, converted fourth downs (3 of 3) and was overall aggressive. A new wrinkle was a shift to wild eagle, a handoff to Austin Aune, a fake to Horton, and a toss to Gumms for a score. That was all on one play!
We complained that the offense was predictable, and it was, and now it isn’t, and we can stop complaining a bit. There is room for improvement, but there is also a half-season left in which to do so. NT probably left some meat on the bone in not finding Shorter more often (had just the one catch, on 2 targets). MGN has written about the importance of an Aune pitch count, and well, he only had the 20 tosses. That’s ideal. NT has found a way to be dynamic in the run game, and explosive in both aspects. The points are there (47) and the yards, too (671). Things are going well.
Defensively the game plan was also to limit the number of big plays while acknowledging that they would be there for Tech.
Game plan: Bring pressure and do not let McNeil get comfortable looking for Smoke Harris. Trust Texada even though he will make mistakes. Make the tackles in space — don’t need to blow the runner up! Just bring him down.
I like that NT got to the QB (7 sacks!) but still allowed a ton of yardage. Tech had 504 yards, including 424 through the air. Smoke Harris got loose for 10 grabs and 156 yards. Tech had the talent to get loose, and NT is still improving in the secondary but we did see tackles in space. Let’s call out Logan Wilson in particular for some notable tackles in space, including one on Smoke Harris.
A note about tackling: The leading stopper for NT were KD Davis (19!!, 11 solo!!), Kevin Wood (11) and Mazin Richards (9). Those are all front-six dudes. For Tech: Cole, Singleton, Williamson, Morrison. Those are all defensive backs. NT only threw for 196 yards! They were. Running.
North Texas got pressure by dropping eight and letting Rod Brown attack from that front three. There were a lot of yards given up but only 27 allowed. Tech is averaging 30/game so this was holding them to below their season average. We said FAU and Tech were very similar and the final scores reflect that: 45-28 win over FAU, 47-27 over Tech. So it goes.
North Texas is rounding into good form at the perfect time. October is a challenging month with two top-half league opponents at home (FAU, Tech, both dispatched) and two contenders away (UTSA, WKU). The game plan needs to be very similar but there will be less margin for error.
Both UTSA and Western have quality QBs that can make you pay for mistakes, and make winning plays when it matters. Both squads boast top-class (in CUSA) wideout talent. There is also a much better set of defenses than Tech has at the moment. Four-hundred yards rushing was a possibility in this one, but not a guarantee in the next two.
Let us discuss the future later. Right now it is time to enjoy the game, and the result. North Texas absolutely demolished a program that has owned the series in CUSA play. Tech was 7-1 in Denton coming into this game. This was something like exorcising some demons right before the opportunity to do so was closed (for a while). NT is fun to watch again, because winning is fun. Winning in style is even more so.
What Does It Mean?
NT is now 3-0 in conference, which is good for top of the standings. Next up is UTSA in San Antonio. They are also 3-0. That will be a battle for first place, with the winner having an inside track to winning the regular season title and hosting the title game. Yes, it is early and there is a lot of football to play but that does not mean it is untrue. UTSA will have revenge on their mind for the 45-23 whooping NT put on them last time. That win stopped their undefeated season, dropped them from the top-25 and secured bowl eligibility for NT. This one has less meaning for both teams but the Runner staff and remaining players will want a little ‘get-back’. So it goes. A couple of things stand out: NT put up 45 that game, and 45, 47 in the last two weeks. They put up 340 vs UTSA last year and 300 vs FAU, 475 vs Tech. Basically, NT has the blueprint for the game they need to play and have executed it in recent weeks. This is a better team, but it does not mean it cannot work.
NT moved to 8-13 vs Tech, 3-7 in CUSA vs Tech, and stopped their 4-game win streak vs NT.
MGN Hey Kid, The Next One Is On Me, Presented by MGN
Kaylon Horton — The running back room dominated but Horton was dancing through the defense. Get him the ball more!