North Texas returns home to Apogee Stadium for homecoming still smarting over one that got away a week ago.
The blueprint to once-unthought of bowl eligibility included a victory over UT San Antonio. However, if there is any lesson learned from losing it’s that there is no assuming victories for a young Mean Green team, though showing promise, that is still in the cocoon.
Nowhere in the hypothetical textbook The Art of Winning Football Games will you find a recipe for triumph that includes minus-4 in turnover margin and coming away with no points in three of five trips to the red zone.
“We understand what the mistakes are,” said North Texas coach Seth Littrell, whose team is 4-4 and 2-2 in Conference USA. “You’re not going to win games minus-4 turnovers. The real glaring issue was red zone. You’re not going to win doing that.”
The week-long sermon heading into today’s conference game with Louisiana Tech is move on. The Mean Green’s bowl goal remains attainable, though a finely tuned locomotive awaits them.
5 Louisiana Tech’s national ranking in total offense. The Bulldogs average 555.1 yards per game.
The Skip Holtz-coached Bulldogs (6-3, 4-1), with goals, too, come in winners of five consecutive games, most recently a 61-16 victory over Rice last week. Louisiana Tech is led offensively by Hutto-native Ryan Higgins, a redshirt senior quarterback who accounts for more than 400 yards a game on a team averaging 44 points a game.
In addition to protecting the football and taking the ball away — North Texas collected seven turnovers against Army the week before — the Mean Green’s prospects of getting back on track would also again seem to depend on junior running back Jeffrey Wilson finding his footing, despite what the coach said.
UTSA put Wilson in a Bermuda triangle, holding the junior standout, who is tied for second in C-USA with 12 rushing TDs, to 43 rushing yards on 19 carries. That total is in line with a trend. In North Texas’ four victories, Wilson has averaged 147 yards. In four losses, he has been held to 45 yards per game.
“I don’t see it as ‘we go as Jeffrey goes,’ ” Littrell said. “We have to be balanced and spread the ball around to different positions. When Jeffrey is going, and more importantly our running game is going, it opens up more things.
North Texas allows 403.4 yards per game.
“We have to get better executing in the passing game as well, and that is all positions from offensive line to the running backs to receivers. We can open up the run game more because of our passing game.”
The quarterbacking remains in the hands of freshman Mason Fine, who had 257 yards and a touchdown last week, plus two interceptions. He was also sacked four times, though Littrell emphasized that those were not the fault of the offensive line.
“I think he’s grown,” Littrell said. “He’s in a tough situation. There aren’t many freshman in the country who can do what he’s doing. I have confidence in him. He’s had some freshman mistakes, but pretty much every position has. He’s still a long way from where he wants and expects to be, but I think he has a very special future.”
A bright immediate future likely hinges on being less freshman-like.
John Henry, JFHenry1970@gmail, @John_F_Henry
North Texas vs. Louisiana Tech
4:30 p.m. Saturday