North Texas Daily

New Orleans Bowl Preview: North Texas takes on Troy in return to The Big Easy

New Orleans Bowl Preview: North Texas takes on Troy in return to The Big Easy

December 14
22:31 2017

North Texas returns to the New Orleans Bowl 13 years after last appearing in the game for four straight years from 2001 to 2004. This time around, the team’s record is 9-4 (7-1) and their opponent is Troy University, which ended its season 10-2 (7-1) as co-champions of the Sun Belt Conference.

What to Watch for

Trojans’ defense vs Mean Green’s offense:

This matchup has taken all of the headlines and has dominated the conversation leading up to Saturday. Troy’s defense is No. 11 in scoring defense in the FBS, allowing only 17.5 points per game. The Trojans are No. 14 both stopping the run and sacks (36), two things North Texas struggled with against Florida Atlantic University in the Conference USA Championship game.

Troy is tied for No. 18 in the FBS in interceptions with 15 this season, but they do give up more than 225 yards per game through the air.

The Mean Green offense needs to do more than they did against a good FAU defense, but they are capable of showing what made them such a special offense in the first place. North Texas is No. 17 in yards per game (467) and No. 20 in points per game (35.9) and has a slew of playmakers despite senior running back Jeffery Wilson out.

It will be important for that unit to return to form to give North Texas a chance in the game.

“[They’re] very multiple, good up front and they mix things up very well,” head coach Littrell said. “They are very multiple in a four-man [front] and [they can] play out of some three-man fronts. On the back end they’re very competitive, so they pose a big challenge for us.”

The North Texas Daily Pregame Show from New Orleans 

The Battle of New Orleans (2017)

In December of 1814, General Andrew Jackson of the United States went against General Edward Pakenham of the British in the Battle of New Orleans for the ever so important Mississippi River. In the last major battle of the War of 1812, Jackson and the U.S. improbably came out on top, effectively ending the war.

203 years later, sophomore quarterback Mason Fine leads North Texas against senior quarterback Brandon Silvers of Troy in a game basically as important as the aforementioned battle.

Okay, that’s a little dramatic.

But in all seriousness, Fine and Silvers have both had incredible seasons even if they play a different style. Silvers has thrown for over 248 yards per game but only has 13 touchdowns this season, and both quarterbacks have a completion percentage over 62 percent. These two generals of their offenses could end up deciding the contest.

“They play a lot of coverages differently than what we’ve seen for most [of the year],” Fine said. “I just have to be sure to go through my reads, hit the open guy and not turn the ball over.”

Winning the battle up front

This subhead is a quote from Littrell almost every week in one of his press conferences. This time, both his offensive and defensive lines will truly be put to the test against Troy.

Troy is No. 13 in the country in sack percentage, dropping the quarterback on over 8.5 percent of dropbacks. Meanwhile, Silver is only sacked on 3.49 percent of his dropbacks, which ranks No. 14 in the FBS.

North Texas needs a big game from both lines against what will be a dominant unit in the trenches on both sides of the ball for the Trojans.

“Their O-line does a vertical pass set so it’s hard for defensive lineman to get a good rush because they’re going back so far,” junior linebacker E.J. Ejiya said. “So what we plan to do is mix up our scheme and just follow the game plan. Also, the quarterback [Silvers] is really efficient. He has a tendency to stay in the pocket and make plays.”

The setup of a great game

With a win over Louisiana State University and a well-played loss to Boise State, Troy has shown it can consistently slow down any offense they come against. The Trojans do have several injuries they must fight through, but even so, Fine and the offense are going to have to play their best game of the season.

Here’s one stat I found interesting, though. North Texas is No. 8 in the country in fourth-quarter scoring at over 10 points on average and has outscored opponents by 44 in the final frame.

Meanwhile, Troy has been outscored by four points in the fourth quarter this season and averages 6.4 points in the final 15 minutes. There is context to both of these numbers, but they could be prominent if it is is a close game.

“As a program overall they do a great job, Littrell said. “It’ll be a great challenge for us but we’re excited for the challenge.


Deputy Sports Editor Matt Brune: Troy 24, North Texas 20

Sports Editor Brady Keane: North Texas 38, Troy 35

Featured Image: North Texas sophomore quarterback Mason Fine (6) throws a touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Michael Lawrence (32) against Army. Colin Mitchell

About Author

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune is the Senior Sports Writer for the North Texas Daily, covering football and men's basketball.

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