North Texas Daily

North Texas offense on pace to shatter school scoring record

North Texas offense on pace to shatter school scoring record

October 03
15:12 2017

Before head coach Seth Littrell and company took over in the 2016 season, the Mean Green were coming off a year in which they scored 15.2 points per game. The offense was anemic and laughable at times, including the time they put up a whopping seven points against FCS Portland State University at home.

Starting last year, the offense was no longer a comedy club for opposing defenses. The Mean Green improved their scoring output to 24.8, showing dramatic strides under quarterbacks Mason Fine and Alec Morris as well as running back Jeffery Wilson. But even then, the team had not reached its ceiling.

Now, five games into the 2017 campaign, North Texas is putting up numbers many thought were unthinkable two years ago.

This season’s offense is scoring 38.8 points per game and appears to be clicking at every level.

“I think every group on the offense has improved over the offseason and summer,” Fine said. “It’s another year in the system, so we feel more confident. I think that’s a big thing, confidence. We go into every game knowing we’re going to put up numbers and knowing we’re better than the guy lined up [across] from us.”

The confidence has shown primarily through play calling, trust in Fine and the passing game in general. The Mean Green are no longer afraid to take shots down the field with receivers like sophomore Jalen Guyton, who is in his first season with North Texas.

Offensive coordinator Graham Harrell, who is largely in charge of the more dynamic and open offensive play-calling from the booth upstairs, has played a big role in the continued improvement.

“[He] is getting much more comfortable,” Littrell said. “Understanding our strengths and weaknesses, putting the players in the best position, he’s done a really good job of that.”

As is the case with most strong offenses, the engine of the Mean Green’s ability to light up the scoreboard starts with the offensive line. Although junior Jordan Murray always faces the opposing team’s best edge rusher, he’s been serviceable, and sophomore left guard Elex Woodworth and senior right tackle Riley Mayfield have both had very solid seasons.

Pro Football Focus put Mayfield and junior center Creighton Barr on the Week 3 C-USA team of the week and graded their performances against Iowa. Mayfield received a grade of 84.5 and Barr received an 82, both of which were best in the conference for that week.

In his final season, Wilson is the most consistent force for the Mean Green, averaging over seven yards per carry and 133.2 yards per game. He is third in the country in rushing yards through five games.

When asked about his success, Wilson always praises the line because he has seen the improvement come with the work they put in.

“The way they attack things [is impressive],” Wilson said. “Those guys put in work this offseason like I’ve never seen before, and I’ve been here four years. Those guys put in crazy work so to see it pay off for them is crazy. I love it.”

While this offense has increased its output to exciting new heights, its only real protruding issue has been the third-down conversion rate which sits at just 33 percent (24-of-66).

Littrell and Harrell have been adamant about remaining balanced on offense, which has shown on first downs. But the troubles come when the offense faces a third and long situation.

On third down and nine or more yards, the offense is 4-of-21. They are 20-of-45 on third and less than nine, which inches closer to the 50 percent mark.

“We just have to execute better,” Harrell said. “We have to lock in on third downs. If you execute on third downs, good things happen. That’s the biggest place we need to improve and we know that.”

The wide receivers are a big piece of what the offense has been able to accomplish so far. The explosive Guyton lines up opposite side of senior Turner Smiley, with reliable options in sophomore Michael Lawrence and freshman Jaelon Darden in the slot.

That group’s ability to make big plays is what has opened up the running game, as Fine and the receiving corps keep the safeties from overcommitting to the run. Guyton ranks No. 21 in the FBS in receiving yards and Fine is 11th in passing yardage. The offense as a whole is sixth in the country in total yards.

If the Mean Green keep up their pace of 38.8 points per game, they will finish the year with 465 points in 12 games and 504 in 13 games.

The school record for most points in a season is 428, which was set back in 1951.

“Our ceiling is high,” Fine said. “We haven’t yet reached our potential and that’s a scary [thought]. It should make us feel good about where we’re going to be at the end of the season.”

Featured Image: North Texas sophomore quarterback Mason Fine throws a pass in a game against the University of Alabama at Birmingham on Sept. 23 at Apogee Stadium. North Texas defeated UAB 46-43. Sara Carpenter

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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