Losing by two at home to one of the best teams in the division is not anything to be ashamed of.
North Texas was not “exposed” or revealed to be a fraud. Two good teams played a good game and NT’s previously existing flaws — that up-and-down offense, and the defense reliant on two outstanding corners playing exceptionally well and a fierce pass-rush — was going to be challenged by a team that had tape and talent.
So it goes.
The real loss was losing Loren Easly — officially ruled out for the season — and having QB Mason Fine and CB Kemon Hall still in evaluation mode. UTEP is not good enough to exploit NT’s weaknesses unless North Texas really just comes out a shell of itself — perhaps something like the 2016 game in El Paso.
Keeping Fine upright and healthy all season was always going to be goal 1A for each game. While Seth Littrell has worked on building depth at the QB spot, that ceiling was always going to be lower without number 6 back there. Nothing has been made official just yet, but I would not be absolutely shocked if NT trots out Quinn Shanbour or Cade Pearson out there on Saturday.
The schedule does not let up until November 3, when NT is idle. Four conference games, split home and away, including the very tough UAB game in Alabama, are on the slate. NT with a limited offense is favored in only the UTEP game without Mason Fine. That is the reality of college football especially at this level.
Loren Easly was rounding into the clear number one option and was making individual plays — breaking tackles and punishing the lighter lineups in front of him. The good news is this group has good depth. Nic Smith was expected to be the feature guy, splitting reps with Torrey. DeAndre Torrey has gotten the second team reps, with some explosive results. He looks shifty, but had trouble holding on to the ball. He fumbled and muffed a kick return.
There is also Anthony Wyche, the D. Torrey before D.Torrey made his way to Denton. Oh, also Christian Hosley and last year’s surprise: Evan Johnson.
Kemon Hall is tough to replace, if that is the situation. Cam Johnson came in and did some nice things, but not enough nice things that Jordan Roberts could stay sitting. Seth Littrell said nice things about Roberts in the post-game press-conference but was never going to say anything negative about CJ.
Between the two, there is talent there but they will be picked on viciously by everyone including UTEP’s questionable pass game. Increased reps at practice should help speed things along but losing Hall is tough.
The reality is that there is plenty to play for for everyone in this division, including La Tech. The Bulldogs have a very tough UAB run game to try to stop in Ruston this Saturday. You should definitely keep an eye on that one.