North Texas introduced coach Seth Littrell last year to promises of a spread offense that would eat up yards and defenses.
So high were the new standards of moving the football through the air that a hashtag campaign, #LetItFly, was established to promote its prolific potential. It doesn’t get any bigger today than a hashtag campaign, does it?
To date, however, and relative to those expectations, the offense has been as much a dud as an Elon Musk rocket. In other words, rarely has the Mean Green gotten off the ground.
If observing isn’t enough, there is data. The Mean Green ranks last in total offense in Conference USA at 347 yards per game.
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It’s a chief concern for a team that has surprised by being in bowl contention with three games to go.
North Texas (4-5, 2-3 C-USA) travels to Bowling Green, Ky., as big underdogs in a game against C-USA East Division-leading Western Kentucky (7-3, 5-1). Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m.
This isn’t the standard any of us have on offense, including the players.
North Texas coach Seth Littrell, on an offense that ranks last in Conference USA
A likely culprit at the heart of the offense’s struggles is youth and inexperience, as well as an offensive line with a number of moving parts as coaches seek to find a cohesive unit.
Five true freshman are regulars on offense, including quarterback Mason Fine, who was at his most consistent a week ago in the first half of a 45-24 loss to Louisiana Tech. For that game, he finished 23-of-34 passing for 207 yards and a touchdown, with an interception. He was 16 for 18 in the first half.
“I anticipate always being better,” Littrell said. “This isn’t the standard any of us have on offense, including the players. You have to continue to grow and develop the men that you have.
“They’ve worked hard, but you have some young guys who have been inconsistent. We’ve been inconsistent all around … not only the young guys. We’ve gotten better. We still have a long way to go.”
The Mean Green enter as losers of two consecutive games for the first time all season, all during the team’s most difficult stretch of the schedule.
North Texas again didn’t run the ball as it would prefer last week. Jeffery Wilson had 66 yards on 15 carries, though he finished with 127 total yards from scrimmage and a rushing TD. That scoring run marked his 13th of the season, moving him into a tie for fourth for most in a season at North Texas. He’s tied with Lance Dunbar, who had 13 in 2010.
North Texas has also struggled making plays and suffered rebounding from loss of yardage through penalties, sacks and tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
Littrell also noted his team’s continual poor field position as a factor.
“If we can stay in front of the chains and not drop balls, we can make some competitive plays,” Littrell said. “We just haven’t been able to overcome some of the lost yardage situations.”
An inability to do so will likely be the difference between bowl eligibility and the season ending in three weeks.
“I have confidence in the players,” Littrell said. “I like where they’re at … bright-eyed and still want to learn. That gives you a chance.”
North Texas at
2:30 p.m. Saturday, ESPN3