North Texas Daily

Football’s slow start doesn’t mean calamity

Football’s slow start doesn’t mean calamity

Football’s slow start doesn’t mean calamity
September 24
12:00 2022


After a 58-27 loss, it’s easy to assume the worst about football’s season.

However, the loss only brought North Texas to a .500 record. Faith in the program across forums and different Twitter accounts seems to be at a season low after the defeat at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.

If one were to look at the most popular Mean Green fan forum, their first assumption would be that the team has lost every game this season and has not come near competing. Sitting at 2-2, North Texas has split its opening four games.

While it’s been an up-and-down year for the squad, the Mean Green have had the best start to a season since 2019. While at two wins and two losses, the games have been anything but balanced. An opening 31-13 win against the University of Texas-El Paso was preceded by a 48-10 loss to Southern Methodist University.

The season has seemingly followed a pattern — after North Texas defeated Texas Southern University 59-27, it was ousted by Nevada-Las Vegas by an almost exact inverse of its win versus the Tigers (58-27). While on paper the loss to the Rebels looks absurdly uneven, the Mean Green were only down by three points before a second half collapse diminished any chance of victory the team had.

It’s truly been a season of two stories for North Texas. On one hand, the team are off to their best start in the last three years. Nevertheless, the team has also been blown out by 30-plus points twice, with the Nevada-Las Vegas loss last week being particularly negative. Even with the blowout losses, the season could be worse which was proven in 2021’s abysmal start for the Mean Green. At this same point last season, North Texas sat at 1-3 with two losses to conference opponents.

A defining issue to the 2021 campaign’s early struggles was a lack of consistency from the quarterback position. In his first year at the university, junior quarterback Jace Ruder beat junior quarterback Austin Aune out of fall camp. As the team struggled, Aune was given reps.

While Aune didn’t light up the stat page, the experienced quarterback provided stability at quarterback becoming an integral part of the team’s eventual late season comeback. Aune was expected to be the team’s starter heading into the 2022 season.

North Texas has amended one problem from the 2021 season with Aune as the consistent starter in 2022. The 29-year-old has been a bright spot on the team turning in solid performances in all four of the team’s contests.

North Texas’ main issue in 2022 comes from the defense’s struggle to stop the passing attack. Every quarterback who has faced the Mean Green has thrown for over 200 yards, with senior Southern Methodist quarterback Tanner Mordecai putting up the highest passing numbers with 432 yards for four touchdowns.

As of Sept. 20, the Mean Green’s defense is the second to last passing defense in Conference USA. The team’s defensive struggles have come as a shock to some after defensive coordinator Phil Bennett was able to improve the team from last in C-USA in total defense in 2020 to sixth in 2021.

If North Texas is able to clean up its defense and continue to see Aune put in solid performances, the season is far from over. Overreacting to a slow start is an understandable, yet rash thing to do. A football season is 12 games, and as the old trope goes — it’s not over until it’s over.

After all, the 2021 team won its final five games and made the Frisco Football Classic after starting 1-6. 2-2 is not a disastrous start, just a slow one that the Mean Green can climb out of.

Featured Image: North Texas wide receiver Zhighlil McMillan loses balance after an incomplete pass in Apogee Stadium against Southern Methodist on Sept. 3, 2022. Photo by Maria Crane

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Reed Smith

Reed Smith

sports editor

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