Smith fills in for Wilson to provide spark in win over Monarchs

Smith fills in for Wilson to provide spark in win over Monarchs

Smith fills in for Wilson to provide spark in win over Monarchs
October 28
22:57 2017

On the opening drive of Saturday night’s game against Old Dominion University, senior running back Jeffery Wilson ran it to the left side down to the ODU five-yard line. In doing so, he fumbled the football – or so it appeared. Upon review, the play was overturned and Wilson went in to score a touchdown four plays later.

But something still felt wrong.

Then, late in the first quarter, Wilson went back to the locker room to get fitted for a neck roll. He returned with 11:41 left in the second and proceeded to cough up the ball deep in North Texas territory. Wilson did not return to the field for the remainder of the game, thrusting freshman Nic Smith into the lineup as the team’s starting running back.

“Everyday I come ready to work,” Smith said. “Jeff has taught me a lot of things. I look up to him and he’s a great back. Throughout the game, he was still giving me pointers. I work hard and when they call my number I expect to play well.”

And play well he did. The redshirt freshman finished the game with 71 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries and added two catches for 24 yards, guiding the Mean Green (5-3, 4-1) to a 45-38 win over Old Dominion (2-6, 0-4) at Apogee Stadium.

While Littrell was pleased with the game his young running back had, he admitted he wasn’t happy with the performance of Wilson, who is typically the team’s star in the backfield.

“Jeff is a really good football player, but we have to take care of the ball,” head coach Seth Littrell. “That’s something that is going to get you beat. He’s still a little banged up and I never want to put him in a bad situation.”

Stepping in for Wilson and making the most of the opportunity, Smith’s best run of the night gave the Mean Green the lead with 7:27 left on a 20-yard touchdown run. Smith hit the hole and put a move on a Monarch defender before cruising to the end zone.

“I saw [his potential] from day one of fall camp,” sophomore quarterback Mason Fine said. “Nic continues to practice hard and when he gets his opportunities, he makes the most of them.”

Smith was accompanied by fellow freshman running back Evan Johnson in Wilson’s absence. Johnson only had five carries for 37 yards but provided a nice change of pace for the Mean Green offense.

With Wilson’s lone touchdown, he moved into a tie for fourth in program history with 27 touchdown runs. But Johnson and Smith showed glimpses of what the backfield could look like in the future after Wilson finishes his career in green.

Smith’s 18 carries were the most since the season-opener against Lamar University.

“We have a lot of confidence in Evan [Johnson] and Nic Smith,” Littrell said. “They’re two very talented backs, we trust them a lot and we knew they could come in and make plays for us.”

Wilson is not injured and won’t miss time moving forward according to Littrell, but since Smith proved he has what it takes to step in as a solid offensive weapon.

North Texas enters an important stretch of the season next week and Smith will be prepared no matter his role.

“You always have to be ready,” Smith said. “So I wouldn’t say my mindset changed [tonight], it was just time to step up and that’s what I expect to do.”

Featured Image: North Texas redshirt freshman Nick Smith (21) celebrates after scoring the game-winning touchdown against Old Dominion University. 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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