From the press box: North Texas vs. Marshall

Photo by Dave Campbell's Texas Football

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DENTON – The tailspin continued for North Texas (1-5) football in a 49-21 loss to Marshall (4-3) in the first Friday night game hosted by the Mean Green in program history. An anemic offense, a multitude of penalties and a defense incapable of getting off the field on third down created an unwinnable cocktail for the Mean Green. It was the team’s fifth consecutive loss. 

Three things I know

North Texas lacks discipline: North Texas accounted for as many penalties (8) in the first quarter as it did yards. The Mean Green extended a few Marshall drives with costly penalties such as offside or roughing the passer. The lack of discipline is a big problem, and it starts with head coach Seth Littrell. His team racked up 11 penalties for 108 yards in the first half. The offense had 132 yards total at halftime, and 75 of those came on one play. Most teams aren’t good enough to overcome a lack of discipline, and North Texas certainly is not talented enough to commit unforced errors. North Texas would end the game with 17 penalties for 163 yards. The team only accoutned for 18 first downs in the entire game.   

The Mean Green lack playmakers: Take away running back Deandre Torrey and there is not a single player on the North Texas offense that strikes fear in an opposing defense. Torrey entered the game averaging 120 yards of total offense, which leads Conference USA. He was bottled up for most of the first half, but he did break loose for a 75-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. The entire North Texas offense was responsible for 57 yards on the other 27 plays ran in the first half. The passing offense averaged 4.7 yards per completion for 41 yards total in the first half. The box score will deceive some folks because North Texas was able to rack up some junk yardage in the fourth quarter when Marshall rotated reserves in defensively. At one point in the fourth quarter, Torrey had more yards than the rest of the team. He finished with 179 rushing yards and two touchdowns.   

Marshall quarterback Grant Wells is legit: The head man for the Thundering Herd offense showed off his dual-threat abilities against an overmatched North Texas defense. In the first half alone, Wells passed for 280 yards and two touchdowns. He ran for three touchdowns, which is one more than he scored in the entire 2020 season. Wells was the Conference USA freshman of the year in 2020 and looks capable of leading Marshall back towards conference contention over the next two or three seasons.

Three things I think I know

North Texas is trending the wrong direction: The Mean Green were a combined 18-9 in 2018 and 2019 as it looked like Littrell was building a G5 contender in Denton. Since then, North Texas is 9-19 over the last 2.5 seasons. The last time North Texas faced Marshall before Friday night was in 2016. The Mean Green won that game 38-21 in Littrell’s sixth contest in charge. The fact that Marshall was able to blowout the same North Texas program five years later shows that the best times in Denton are behind Littrell. He lacks a quarterback and playmakers, which is a sin for an offensive-minded coach who looked poised for a Power Five job a handful of years ago. 

A transfer quarterback is required: Austin Aune isn’t the answer. And neither is Jace Rudder. Littrell, if he is still around to make the decision, must search for a transfer quarterback to inject some life into the offense. Aune was 6 of 12 for 41 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception in the first half. His performance against Missouri in Week 6 was overhyped because 264 of his 304 yards and all four touchdown passes came in the second half after North Texas was trailing by multiple touchdowns. He finished the game with 121 yards and an interception on 16 of 30 passing. Littrell was winning games in Denton with Mason Fine at quarterback. He needs to find a new quarterback to lead his offense back to success. 

Apogee Stadium could make for a fun venue: The set up at North Texas should create a great atmosphere. The stadium holds 30,000+ fans and it is near campus and the highway. There is plenty of parking and tailgating space in the areas surrounding the stadium. The area is growing, and students will show up if their classmates are winning football games and performing well on the field. The crowd on Friday was sparce at best. It’d be better described as in the hundreds than in the thousands. 

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