North Texas Daily

Analysis: Five takeaways from 2019

Analysis: Five takeaways from 2019

Analysis: Five takeaways from 2019
December 02
00:22 2019

With the final cannon sounding, a curtain closed that didn’t fall the Mean Green’s way, North Texas’ 2019 football season is officially over. After finishing 4-8 overall (3-5 Conference USA) and tied for third in the Western division of C-USA, 2019 left a lot to be desired. However with 279 days remaining until North Texas straps up for their 2020 season opener against the Houston Baptist Huskies, there’s a lot to take away from this season.

1. Mason Fine is the greatest offensive player in school history

There’s no point in debating it. Fine not only sits as the greatest offensive player in school history, he’s short of only one player in my book: Mean Joe Green. Fine’s stats and accolades speak for themselves. He’s top five if not number one, in most major quarterback career, season and single-game statistics in program history and has received conference and national recognition since his freshman year.

He led North Texas to three-straight bowl games, threw together multiple game-winning drives and brought the Mean Green into serious contention for the C-USA title. The kid wore a dinosaur costume to a post-game press conference, it’s impossible to hate him.

While Fine’s presence at North Texas will most definitely be missed, I’m confident in his status amongst the program’s greats and excited to see what his next steps are.

2. The defense missed last year’s seniors but showed flashes

Asking a defense to replace three-fourths of its secondary and its two best linebackers seems very over the top, yet, it’s the name of the game for most of college football. On defense more so than offense, seniority reigns and that rang true for the Mean Green last season. After replacing 18 years of experience on one side of the ball, North Texas came into 2019 with a lot of inexperience and youth. This showed as the defense gave up 390 points (32.5 per game) compared to 314 (24.15 per game) in 2018. The Mean Green dropped from 18 interceptions to four in a single offseason.

Despite the numbers not looking great, the defensive played some really good games. Holding any team to three points while your offense puts up 45 on them is impressive, regardless of who’s playing. That’s what this defense did to Texas-San Antonio. The other standout game was the season finale against Alabama-Birmingham. A team that averaged 25.1 points per game came to Apogee and put up 26. Did the Blazers beat their average? Yes. Should that be considered a win for a defense that allowed 30-plus points in six of their 12 games? Also yes.

Hope isn’t lost. This defense has a lot of youth and that youth got a lot of playing time this year. That playing time will benefit this defense throughout the next two years, despite losing major defensive pieces this offseason including defensive end Ladarius Hamilton and safety Khairi Muhammad.

3. Tre Siggers is the future at tailback

Siggers went down in the season finale with a serious left leg injury and was carted off with a full-leg brace. Barring an ACL tear, I think Siggers is the future for this program out of the backfield. This past offseason and camp was riddled with talk about how much the redshirt sophomore had progressed after transitioning from linebacker.

He overtook Deandre Torrey for the starting position after Torrey won in 2018 following Jeffrey Wilson’s departure to the San Francisco 49ers (where he has played very well for a Group of 5 undrafted player, by the way). This season, Siggers totaled 851 rushing yards and six touchdowns in 11 games (77.4 yards per game). The yardage total isn’t fantastic but he battled through injuries in order to get there and I think if he had played in the Abilene Christian game and never fought injuries, he would’ve eclipsed 1,000 yards.

Beyond rushing, Siggers caught 11 passes for 60 yards this season and served as a formidable sixth or seventh blocker for Fine.

In a vacuum, Siggers is the perfect tailback for the Mean Green. Luckily, he’s got two years left to prove me right.

4. Injuries sucked the life out of games

Injuries are a given in any sport and especially football. But man, some games could’ve ended up so differently without game-ending or season-ending injuries occurring. Fine left two games early due to injuries, senior receiver Rico Bussey Jr. tore his ACL in game 3 against Cal-Berkeley, the offensive line was banged up and the defense lost key players during key moments.

Some of those injuries brought about amazing performances from the backups. Redshirt junior tight end Jason Pirtle got the start in the season opener in place of senior Kelvin Smith and balled out, going for 88 yards and three touchdowns on four passes. Every week, a new receiver stepped up to put together outstanding touchdown receptions in place of Bussey. Quarterbacks Jason Bean and Austin Aune never played terribly, but it was clear that head coach Seth Littrell was just managing the game at that point.

There’s nothing a team can do to prevent injuries, but it’s impossible not to imagine what could’ve been.

5. Littrell needs more time

A team has a bad season and who does the fanbase usually blame? The quarterback and the head coach. With Fine’s departure, I wouldn’t be surprised to see people criticize Littrell for this year. Criticisms might be warranted, but anyone that calls for his firing would be borderline crazy. Only 12 of the players on 2019’s roster weren’t recruited by Littrell. Some of the best talent from the past two years have been products of Littrell.

The recruiting classes are only going to get better the longer Littrell stays at North Texas. He took a chance on Fine and look what he was able to accomplish with the two-star quarterback in four years.

Rumors were flying last offseason that Littrell would be packing his backs and heading to Manhattan, Kansas with the Wildcats or Chapel Hill, North Carolina with the Tarheels. Both fell through and I think that worked in Littrell and North Texas’ favor.

Littrell shouldn’t try to move up so fast before he brings a conference title and bowl game win to Denton. North Texas shouldn’t move on to another coach. Littrell can accomplish both of those, he just needs a little more time. Prior to the 2018 season, Littrell was extended by North Texas through the 2022 season. The next two years will really show the fruits of his recruiting labor and maybe at the conclusion of the 2021 season can his contract be dutifully examined.

This year was an anomaly from Littrell and Co. and definitely a letdown, there’s no way around that. But hey, there’s always next year.

Featured Image: Redshirt sophomore running back Tre Siggers avoids Mustang defensive players at the game against Southern Methodist at Gerald J. Ford Stadium on Sept. 7, 2019. Image by Jordan Collard

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Zachary Cottam

Zachary Cottam

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