North Texas appears to have hit its ceiling for 2016.
In a game no one could have predicted would be a defensive struggle, the game was just that for three quarters. North Texas scored on their opening drive, Mason Fine and company taking the Mean Green 87 yards before scoring on a 1-yard run from star RB Jeffrey Wilson. UNT would not score again until the 4th quarter.
On the other side of the ball, Middle Tennessee struggled against the North Texas defense, which is good news for fans of the Mean Green, and potential bad news for the Blue Raiders down the line. Grinding out the 2nd quarter, MTSU managed two field goals and a late touchdown, making the score 13-7 at halftime.
Multiple times throughout the day, NT had the opportunity to sack Brent Stockstill, and their failure to do so allowed for huge gains. After a shaky start against SMU and a blowout against Florida, this is the game film that UNT will most need to study for the remainder of the season, as examples of both what not to do, and the heights they're capable of.
They held MTSU to a single touchdown in the first half, but just could not get enough stops, or avoid stupid penalties, when they needed to. That's the difference between a good team and a great team. It's also the difference between a bowl team and a team that stays home in December.
A week after throwing for 504 yards against a very good Louisiana Tech team, Stockstill was shut down by the Mean Green defense almost entirely. A pass interference call late in the 3rd allowed MTSU to score their 2nd touchdown of the game, making it 20-7 in what had up to that point been a series of punts. If not for that stupid mistake, the game would have remained close into the 4th quarter. Stockstill finished with 295 yards passing.
North Texas holding Middle Tennessee to fewer passing yards than Louisiana Tech did is wonderful and frankly surprising, but shows their defense is right where it needs to be, just needing more time and experience to avoid dumb penalties and let the offense do its job. Mason Fine threw for 303 yards, but needed ten more completions than Stockstill to get there.
In our preview we noted that Middle didn’t have much of a running game, but it turns out they had a better one than North Texas. Standout I’Tavius Mathers ran for 135 yards on 24 carries, the only significant Raider rusher other than Stockstill. North Texas, meanwhile, finished with 5 yards rushing all day long.
Ultimately, the game exposed huge pros and cons for both teams, as they both suffered from a lot of the same issues (great passing game, no ground game). The Blue Raiders just had more experience at the end of the day, and exposed North Texas for the youthful team they are, a rebuilding project that’s still waiting for the glue to dry.
North Texas hosts Marshall next week, a team they lost to last year by an identical score, 30-13.
Middle Tennessee has next week off, before hosting WKU in their homecoming game on Oct. 15.