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North Texas offense showing signs of improvement under Littrell

North Texas offense showing signs of improvement under Littrell

Security walks Littrell off the Apogee for the first time as head coach of the Mean Green Saturday. The Mean Green lost to Southern Methodist University 34-21. Tomas Gonzalez

North Texas offense showing signs of improvement under Littrell
September 14
16:23 2016

By Brady Keane

When Seth Littrell was hired to take over the North Texas football program last December, the hope was his explosive offensive scheme – the Air Raid – would revive the Mean Green offense.

Two games into the 2016 season, the offense has shown dramatic signs of improvement. North Texas averaged just 15.2 points and 320 yards per game last season and those numbers played a large role in the team’s 1-11 finish.

This year, the Mean Green has racked up an average of 31 points and 422 yards per game – more than double the scoring output of last season. But while improvement is evident, it hasn’t necessarily come by way of a heavy passing attack.

North Texas ran the ball 51 times for 329 yards in a 41-20 win over Bethune-Cookman this past Saturday, marking the first time the Mean Green eclipsed 300 yards on the ground since September 2014.

“It’s an Air Raid offense, but when you’re running successfully you can’t be scared to keep running it,” offensive coordinator Graham Harrell said. “Run/pass balance isn’t something we look at or think about. It’s just something we roll with.”

Whether the yardage comes through the air or on the ground is something that the coaching staff determines on a game-by-game basis, but the one-two punch of junior running backs Jeffrey Wilson and Willy Ivery gives the offense a dynamic two-dimensional threat.

Wilson and Ivery combined for 186 yards and three touchdowns in the win.

“For different games, we’re going to have different tactics,” Wilson said. “Some games we might be able to run the ball a lot, and some games we might be able to tear them up through the air. That’s why this offense fits us so well. We have skill guys in every position that can step up at any time.”

The passing game may have taken somewhat of a backseat in the Bethune-Cookman game to help freshman quarterback Mason Fine settle into the offense. Fine made his first career start, and posted modest numbers, finishing the game 11-of-22 passing for 108 yards while adding eight carries for 46 yards on the ground.

But while his statistics weren’t eye-popping, Fine’s ability to control the offense and take care of the ball led to a much more efficient performance than the Mean Green offense of 2015.

North Texas averaged more than two turnovers per game last season, but Fine had zero turnovers Saturday night. With Fine under center, the Mean Green are a perfect 6-for-6 in the red-zone this season.

Last year, North Texas was 11th in Conference USA in red-zone scoring conversion percentage last season at just 71.43 percent.

Even though the success in the red-zone has improved, the Mean Green still left points on the board Saturday night. On two occasions, the team was inside the 10-yard line but settled for a field goal after being unable to punch the ball into the end zone.

“When we get those opportunities, we need to execute and be successful at turning field goals into touchdowns,” Fine said. “Seven points is better than three points. That just gives us a better chance at winning the ball game.”

The Mean Green is just two games into the Littrell Era, and the team knows that there is still room for dramatic improvement across the board. To this point, the team’s 15-plus point per game offensive jump would be the most dramatic that a team has experience under Littrell’s direction.

As the offensive coordinator at Indiana University, Littrell increased the Hoosiers’ offensive output from 21.4 ppg to 30.8 ppg in his first season. The University of North Carolina experienced similar change, as Littrell bumped the Tar Heels from 32.7 ppg to 33.2 ppg in his first year, and then to 41.3 ppg in his second season in charge of the offense.

“We’re nowhere close to our standards,” Littrell said. “We still have a long way to go in getting more comfortable and making routine plays. We’ve had hiccups in both games, but overall I’m pleased with how the transition to the new system has taken place. We’re on track.”

Featured Image: Security walks Littrell off the Apogee for the first time as head coach of the Mean Green Saturday. The Mean Green lost to Southern Methodist University 34-21. Tomas Gonzalez

About Author

Reece Waddell

Reece Waddell

Reece Waddell was the Editor-in-Chief of the North Texas Daily from May 2017 to December 2017. He previously served as the Sports Editor and Senior Sports Writer. Reece also worked at The Dallas Morning News and WFAA-TV.

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1 Comment

  1. Kennel Up
    Kennel Up September 22, 15:35

    After three games the average points per game is just below 21. Where is the Air Raid offense? Maybe
    Jacoby Brisset had more to do with the NC increased output than at that time NC OC Littrell. Nothing like having an NFL caliber QB to ride to a new job. When Jacoby left NC so did SL.

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