Southern Miss defense folds against North Texas
The Golden Eagles were fifth in the nation in total yards allowed defensively, while North Texas was ranked 15th in the nation in offensive yardage.
Unfortunately for the Golden Eagles, North Texas’ offense reflected its rank as they put 535 yards of offense that resulted in 43 points. The Golden Eagle defense had allowed just 242 yards per game.
Fourth down efficiency proved to be biggest statistic that led to the defensive breakdowns later in the game as North Texas was 3-of-3 in the first half and finished 4-of-4 by the end of night.
“They did a good job on fourth and one and kept us on the field,” said Head Coach Jay Hopson. “The big one was the first one [and] that opened the flood gate.”
In the first quarter, the defense held North Texas to 0-for-4 on third down conversion, but penalties and the fourth down conversions helped the Mean Green establish the run game with the short yardage situations.
The North Texas run game was held in check in the first half as they only gained 75 yards on the ground. However, the Mean Green adjusted in the second half and totaled 174 yards on the ground which opened the passing game, proving to be the backbreaker for the Golden Eagle defense.
Once North Texas got to establish its run, the secondary felt the pressure of Mean Green’s high powered offense for the rest of the game. The Mean Green’s quarterback Mason Fine found wide receiver Jalen Guyton 14 times. Guyton accounted for 211 of Fine’s 366 passing yards.
“Fine is a gamer,” Hopson said. “He’s their gun.”
The defensive line, which had been the strongest part of the team, only pressure on the quarterback was one sack and three hurries the entire night.
“They started chipping our ends,” said defensive lineman Xavier Thigpen. “They started doing six man protections [and] seven man protections [and] just slow our rush down but we still have to get there.”
The defense forced two turnovers, a fumble and an interception, but neither were turned into points. They also missed out on other opportunities but several potential interceptions were dropped.
Senior defensive back Curtis Mikell led the team with 12 tackles and had 2.5 tackles for loss.
The defense did have some positives but many of the defensive problems were caused by offensive miscues. The defense will have to adjust better going forward if they are to find success later in the season.