Mason Fine is injured with something that looks very serious. He tried to continue with what looked like a shoulder injury once, did so, and then hurt that same shoulder bad enough to sit out the rest of the way.
Without NT’s all-time passing leader in pretty much every category, there is even less hope for digging out of a 2-4 hole. Even with Fine at the helm, NT has struggled to move the ball the way we all expected. Fine’s numbers are down slightly from last season, and he has been hit more often than he has been since his freshman season where he took a beating.
Watching USM explode for 563 yards while NT struggled to get 378 was telling. NT’s playmakers are not making the plays that USM’s Quez Watkins (8 grabs for 198) or De’Michael Harris (19 touches for 186 yards and 3 scores) are.
The offense is not getting players in space to run against hesitating defenders. Tre Siggers went out early and NT was back to not having an identity any longer. Jaelon Darden had 5 grabs for 87 and 3 scores, but one of those came in garbage time and there were not enough plays by the other guys to help him get more.
At half this game was 28-20 USM. This game was lost in the third quarter, however, where NT went Missed FG, Punt, and INT and USM scored 10. By the start of the 4th quarter Mason Fine was injured and NT was down 18.
That is not to say the first half was really good. No, NT punted three times in the first quarter, continuing the streak of poor starts. Mason Fine threw off his back foot (bad) and the ball was intercepted through a bit of luck (which happens when you are in good position) and USM was set up for a short, go-ahead score.
This loss would not feel as bad if it were not on the heels of a poor performance against Houston two weeks go. It would also be much better if Mason Fine were not ending the game getting medical scans.
NT is 2-4 and 1-1 in conference play. This is not a completely untenable position, but a bowl game and a conference title appearance do not look too likely at this point.
With Mason Fine there are no guarantee wins the rest of the way — even UTEP can be dangerous. Without? Well, NT may have to squint really hard for another win the rest of the way.