North Texas Daily

With two games left and two wins needed for a bowl, it’s do or die for North Texas football

With two games left and two wins needed for a bowl, it’s do or die for North Texas football

North Texas junior running back Jeffery Wilson runs through the hole in the defensive line to gain a first down. Wilson put up an impressive 188 yards on the ground with two touchdowns in the North Texas 38-21 win over Marshall.

With two games left and two wins needed for a bowl, it’s do or die for North Texas football
November 16
14:57 2016

Three weeks ago, North Texas marched into West Point and beat an Army team that at the time boasted the No. 2 defense in the country.

The victory put the Mean Green two wins away from bowl eligibility with five games to play. Hopes were high.

Since then, North Texas has lost three in a row, including a game last week that may resulted in an injury to freshman quarterback Mason Fine.

On a brisk fall day at Western Kentucky, the Mean Green were pummeled.  When the clock hit zero, the final score read 45-7, which meant a sixth loss for North Texas and an inability to move towards the ever-so-desired six in the win column.

The six means that first-year head coach Seth Littrell and his squad would reach the goal they made before the season started – to make, and win a bowl game. The first part is the most crucial, and something North Texas is now in danger of not doing.

Now, the stage is set for a two-week dash that will have to be done without at least one of the Mean Green’s best players in junior running back Jeffery Wilson, who is out for the season after knee surgery.

Wilson’s 767 yards and 12 touchdowns will be missed. In the games North Texas has won, Wilson has been at the center of them. He is tied for the sixth most rushing touchdowns in the nation. That production is near irreplaceable without another star back on your team, something North Texas does not have.

But what North Texas does have is a group of backs who, collectively, can help fill the void Wilson’s surgery has left. Juniors Andrew Tucker and Willy Ivery along with sophomore Anthony Wyche tallied 118 yards of rushing in the loss to Western Kentucky.

“It’s been a rollercoaster all year,” Littrell said at his weekly press conference on Tuesday. “Other guys around you have to make plays. No one can do it on their own. You have to play well as a group, and that’s where we’ve been a bit inconsistent.”

Now it comes down to two games.

For North Texas to make a bowl, they will have to first beat a .500 Southern Mississippi University team at home on Saturday, likely without Fine, who has a sprained AC joint in his shoulder. His ability to play may rest on his pain tolerance, but if he cannot go, graduate Alec Morris will likely be the man under center.

Morris, however, has struggled this season. What he has in experience he lacks in mobility, something Fine has used to his advantage several times this season. Both Morris and Fine have thrown four interceptions, but Morris has only played around six quarters this year.

It’s not certain Fine is out Saturday, and things don’t change dramatically with Morris at the helm, but as Littrell said Tuesday morning, others have to step up.

North Texas freshman quarterback Mason Fine (6) gets sacked on a play against Bethune Cookman. Colin Mitchell

North Texas freshman quarterback Mason Fine (6) gets sacked on a play against Bethune Cookman. Colin Mitchell

If the Mean Green can manage a win against Southern Miss, it all would come down to a road game against a three-win University of Texas at El Paso squad in the final weekend of the regular season. North Texas is 2-3 on the road this season.

It seems bleak, I know, especially given the position they were in a few weeks ago.

But it is do or die.

The Mean Green have to win Saturday, and both teams have a lot to play for. Southern Miss can clinch a bowl game, and North Texas is fighting for its postseason lives.

It has the chance to be quite epic on the turf of Apogee Stadium.

But should they lose, because someone has to lose, you should reflect on Littrell’s first year in charge. In less than a year, he has brought excitement and had the chance to put a one-win team last season into a bowl game.

It’s been an emotion ride for Littrell. He is a first-time head coach, and has had to build his foundation from the ground up with a staff that he hired specifically for this.

The season is not over, but if it is, it was a damn good one.

“We’ve got good men here,” Littrell said. “I have an emotional attachment to this team because of how they work and how they’ve come together. They’ll always be my first team, and I love them. They’re my guys, man. We have a long way to go as a team, but the great thing about it is we have a long way to go getting better fundamentally. The one thing I don’t think we have a long way to go in is chemistry…it’s do or die. Let’s get it.”

Featured Image: North Texas junior running back Jeffery Wilson runs through the hole in the defensive line to gain a first down. Wilson put up an impressive 188 yards on the ground with two touchdowns in the North Texas 38-21 win over Marshall. Nathan Roberts

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Clay Massey

Clay Massey

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1 Comment

  1. Kennel Up
    Kennel Up November 17, 11:15

    Alec Morris has a much stronger throwing arm and is a much more polished QB than Fine. It is really up to the OL. It is tough to be a pocket passer without a pocket. If the OL holds up and the receivers catch, we could easily win the next two, make that three games. Good luck guys.

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