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Two In A Row: North Texas 38 Southern Miss 14

North Texas came into this game as the top rushing offense in the league at 216 yards per game. While this is a fun statistical note, to the majority of close-watching Mean Green fans this is simply a reminder that NT cannot pass. NT is eleventh of fourteen in pass yards per game at 191 per contest. 

Knowing who you are is essential, as it allows you to comfortably game plan and mitigate risk appropriately. North Texas is best when they are running the ball and Aune is simply a counter, throwing the ball to open receivers on easily ran routes. 

NT took on a Southern Miss squad that has played six quarterbacks, including a former student coach in there. We did not write a preview but if we did we would note how USM was last in every category worth looking at: Rushing offense (86), Passing offense (168), Scoring offense (13.6) and if there ever was a sure-thing kind of game it was this one. NT came into this matchup as a -5 point favorite, which was bold, Mr. Gambler man. 

By those measures, NT performed above expectations: They blew out the Golden Eagles 38-14 thanks to 38 unanswered. If you groaned and rolled your eyes at being down 14 early, you were not alone. NT had another first quarter end down 14-0. A TD and a pick-six saw NT down before NT’s offense started running on leg-power. 

Isaiah Johnson ran 17 times for 119 and a score, Ikaika Ragsdale had 15 carries for 112 and a couple of scores, and Ayo Adeyi, and Torrey (left injured) had 23 for 86 between them. All told, NT ran 59 times for 321 and 3 scores. 

Austin Aune added 216 in his typical 53% passing effort (the one pick). Pirtle caught five, Detraveon Brown had four, and Damon Ward had 3. It was utilitarian and practical and while not anything that will change hearts and minds and opinions, it was effective football. It was winning football.

There were 9 penalties for 99 yards. That hasn’t changed. There were mistakes. That hasn’t changed. If Southern Miss had a decent QB the secondary would have been put under greater stress. They don’t and they didn’t. 

NT had 537, 216 throwing, 321 rushing. 

Southern Miss had 229, 116 throwing, 113 rushing. It was a great performance without the scoops-and-scores and they had two of them! 

*** 

I joked that NT was proving that they are not as bad as Southern Miss, and that only means something to us, but no one else. The division is lost, barring some miracle combination of losses or ties by others. The only thing left aside from pride, is *maybe* a bowl appearance — something that does not really excite the fan base right now 

To even get to bowl eligibility, NT would need to win out — not impossible considering the next opponent is paper tiger UTEP, followed by all-but-quit-on-the-coach FIU. The real sticking point is that UTSA, currently ranked 13th in the AP and about to be ranked in the CFP. NT hosts them, and our guys do not match up well in any respect. 

Whereas NT is a one-dimensional team, that dimension is not a weakness for UTSA. Whereas the defense played well against a poor opponent, UTSA has talent at every skill position and coaching to put them in positions to win. 

That is a conversation for another time and a worry for another day. Right now, NT are winners again and have put together two wins in a row. We win next week that’s called a winning streak. It has happened before. 

I do not know what is going to happen with Seth Littrell, but winning out would do him a lot of good with everyone. Right now, a long-term solution at QB is a must-have and the right conversation can lead to the right commitment, and that can lead to a whole lot of offense. The shiny new head coach we are all fantasizing about will be tasked with the same challenge. There is a good argument for keeping Seth Littrell in the seat, with caveats, not least of which is the cost of booting him and finding someone else. Winning and parting ways would leave the cupboard at least partially filled and that has done Jeff Traylor a ton of good if NT decides to go in that direction.

Besides, who out there makes perfect sense? 

But I digress again. Knowing who you are, as we mentioned above, is important. NT has dispensed with a large bulk of the pass game now that everyone with scholarships and top line talent is injured, and Jace Ruder and Austin Aune have demonstrated their struggles. It is all about the run game, an while Torrey is quite having the Jaelon Darden-like season he was seemingly set up for, the emergence of the young guys in the back field brings hope. It is an opportunity to build an identity and NT has done exactly this the last two weeks.

Rice and Southern Miss are not good, but neither is North Texas. Establishing the hierarchy of bad is not going to win many ESPN appearances, but it goes a long way to calming some of the fringes of the fanbase. It also means some highlights to show around to the new recruits. I can envisage a possible version of NT next season that has a solid option at QB and some returning talent at WR bolstered by a good running back depth chart. I don’t hate it.

This league is not deep or very good. The road to the division championship is usually about one or two teams worth of challenge followed by making sure you don’t beat yourself against the poorer squads. This little two-game stretch is evidence of that very fact. A couple of wins against a UTEP and FIU and NT would have four league wins going into the final game vs UTSA. Again, the division is way out of reach, but a four-win division season was not a bad result from the pre-season vista.

In short, enjoy this little stretch. It is nice to see some winning football by the guy in green, but remember that it doesn’t meant too much.

Notes:

  • My wife disliked our helmets
  • It sucked to see Torrey go down in his homecoming back to MS.
  • I like NT playing at 3pm for a lot of reasons not least of which is that I can nap after
  • MGN did not post a lot this week because of work, again. It keeps me fed and warm so I cannot hate too much
  • I am excited about basketball and we have a preview coming.