CONWAY, S.C. – In several ways, the cards were stacked against North Texas on Monday in its Myrtle Beach Bowl showdown with Appalachian State, but despite a 56-28 loss for the Mean Green, there were a few bright spots heading into the offseason.
North Texas was playing shorthanded in several areas, but specifically in the passing game as the Mean Green were without leading passer Austin Aune and their two top receivers in Jaelon Darden and Deonte Simpson, making way for Austin Ogunmakin and a true freshman in Loronzo Thompson.
Ogunmakin posted career highs in catches (seven) and yards (131) and caught his first career touchdown pass, and Thompson helped provide depth on offense by grabbing five balls for 44 yards and his first two career touchdown receptions.
Those two stuck out in head coach Seth Littrell's mind as positives going into next season.
"I was proud of Loronzo – he's been back and forth as a true freshman and we needed him to play more wide receiver and he came in and had a couple of touchdowns," Littrell said. "He did very well. Austin did a nice job with a touchdown and some big plays. Our backs (Oscar Adaway III and Tre Siggers) ran really, really hard. And we did some good things up front, but we lost two guards in the first half. We had a lot of young guys out there. This will be a great experience for us. Obviously moving forward, it'll really benefit the young guys. I thought (quarterback Jason) Bean managed the game pretty well all night. He had the one mistake there that cost us, but I thought he saw the field well."
Siggers led the way on the ground for the Mean Green, picking up a season-high 120 yards on 17 carries, while Adaway III added 97 yards on 26 carries. Bean completed 21 of 36 pass attempts for a career-high 251 yards, two touchdowns and an interception that led to the Mountaineers' final touchdown of the game early in the fourth quarter. The Mean Green totaled 509 yards – just shy of their season average of 515 yards per game, which was seventh in the nation entering the game.
After an inspired start to the game by UNT's defense, the Appalachian State running game began to take over in the form of big, explosive plays.
"Early on, the defense did some good things," Littrell said. "We stopped the run for a stretch. We knew that was something we'd have to consistently defend. Once it got going they hit it a few times."
Just when North Texas seemingly grabbed some momentum and pulled to within 28-14 with a 4-yard touchdown run from Adaway III with 27 seconds left in the first half, Appalachian State struck back in a hurry.
On the Mountaineers' ensuing possession, Camerun Peoples broke off a 64-yard touchdown run to instead send Appalachian State (9-3) into the halftime break with a 35-14 lead. That was after Appalachian State's Marcus Williams Jr., reeled off a 70-yard touchdown run on the Mountaineers' previous possession.
"We score with 27 seconds left and we're down 14 and, and they hit that explosive run and put us down 21," Littrell said. "Then, again, we made it 14 in the second half and then we just couldn't stop them again."
Peoples added a 62-yard touchdown run with 2:58 left in the third quarter to put the Mountaineers up 42-21. Peoples had 23 carries for 319 yards and five touchdowns. Williams Jr., finished with 101 yards and a score on six carries.
In all, Appalachian State's big plays on the ground killed the Mean Green, as the Mountaineers had three one-play scoring drives that featured touchdown runs of 70, 64 and 62 yards, respectively.
"It was just gaps and people getting out of their gaps," senior safety Makyle Sanders said. "That was hurting us. One mistake like that and it was to the house."
Littrell said the mistakes start with coaching but also must be corrected by the players, and he added he is excited to get into offseason and begin correcting those mistakes before next year.
"You have to put it on the coaches," Littrell said. "It's my job as the head coach that these guys are put in the best situation, and from there the guys have to do their jobs and fit where they're supposed to fit. We have a lot we need to work on, obviously. I'm looking forward to this offseason. That's something we need right now."
Despite the long list of players who weren't available for the game, most notably Darden, who was named a Pro Football Focus first-team All-American earlier Monday after declaring for the NFL draft last week, Littrell said he was proud of the way his team responded and filled several large voids.
"We're not going to make excuses," Littrell said. "You have to give App State credit. They're a very good team. They're tough to beat when you're fully healthy. But I was proud of how we responded. It's going to happen in college football. You have to have that depth and the next guy up mentality."
Appalachian State now has a 1-0 all-time series advantage over the Mean Green in their first-ever meeting. The Mean Green played in their fourth bowl in five seasons under head coach Seth Littrell but have to yet to claim a bowl victory under Littrell. The game marked the 12th bowl appearance in Mean Green history, and they are now 3-9 all-time in bowl games. The last Mean Green bowl win came in the Heart of Dallas Bowl on Jan. 1, 2014. The Mean Green allowed a season-high 502 rushing yards, and Appalachian State's Camerun Peoples ran for 319 yards on 23 carries, which was the most rushing yards for an opposing player this year. He also scored five touchdowns. The Mean Green totaled 509 yards (267 passing and 242 rushing), which was just shy of their season average of 515 yards per game, which ranks seventh in the nation in total offense. Redshirt sophomore QB Jason Bean (Mansfield, Texas) started the game but left early in the second quarter after taking a late hit to the head. Bean re-entered the game after missing the one snap that led to the Martin-to-Johnson touchdown pass. He finished the day with a career-high 251 passing yards on 21-of-36 passing with two touchdowns and an interception. Redshirt sophomore QB Kason Martin (Manvel, Texas) entered the game in relief of Bean, marking his first action at quarterback since the season-opening win over Houston Baptist. Martin finished the day with 16 yards on 1-of-1 passing with a touchdown. Martin's first snap was a 16-yard touchdown pass to Loronzo Thompson with 13:41 left in the second quarter. It was his second career touchdown pass and first since the 2018 New Mexico Bowl, when he replaced an injured Mason Fine, on what was also his first attempt of that game. Redshirt freshman RB Oscar Adaway III (North Little Rock, Arkansas) finished the day with 97 yards on 26 carries. Adaway III's 4-yard touchdown run with 0:27 left in the first half was his third of the season. Redshirt junior RB Tre Siggers (Duncanville, Texas) finished the day with a season-high 120 yards on 17 carries. It was Siggers' second 100-yard rushing game of the season with the first coming at Middle Tennessee. Freshman WR/DB Loronzo Thompson (Friendswood, Texas) had his first career catch and later in the same drive had his first career touchdown reception on a 16-yard catch from Kason Martin. Thompson finished the day with five catches for 44 yards and two touchdowns. Thompson scored his second touchdown of the game, and of his career, with 6:12 remaining when he caught a 7-yard touchdown from Bean. Redshirt sophomore WR Austin Ogunmakin (Alief, Texas) finished the day with career highs in catches (seven) and yards (131) and his first career touchdown. Ogunmakin tallied the first 100-yard receiving game of his career, as his previous single-game high was 60 yards earlier this season against Rice. His 34-yard touchdown reception from Bean with 6:14 remaining in the third quarter was the first touchdown reception of his career. Senior safety Makyle Sanders (Tyler, Texas) finished the day with eight tackles, including six solo stops. Senior safety Cameron Johnson (Houston) finished the day with eight tackles, including three solo stops, and had a pass breakup. Junior LB KD Davis (Ennis, Texas) finished the day with five tackles. Redshirt senior DL Caleb Colvin (Owasso, Oklahoma) had a career-high five tackles, including two solo stops. direct link: https://meangreensports.com/news/2020/12/21/football-big-runs-doom-mean-green-in-myrtle-beach-bowl.aspx
The 2020 season for Conference USA is headlined by uncertainty in the East Division and a clear front-runner in the West. UAB is Athlon’s projected champion in the 2020 Conference USA predictions, with coach Bill Clark’s squad anchored by a strong defense and an offense poised to improve with a healthy fall out of quarterback Tyler Johnston III and running back Spencer Brown. The East is one of the more difficult divisions to predict in college football. WKU is Athlon’s pick to win it, but Marshall, FAU and Charlotte should all be in the mix.
Southern Miss and Louisiana Tech headline the next tier in the West Division, followed by Rice and North Texas as potential bowl teams. UTSA and UTEP round out the bottom of the West. Middle Tennessee and FIU should push for postseason trips out of the East, but Old Dominion is likely a year away from contention.
Athlon Sports has released its preseason magazine for 2020, and now it's time to preview and predict the conferences. Below are Athlon's picks and projections for Conference USA in 2020:
Read more: https://athlonsports.com/college-football/conference-usa-football-2020-predictions
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