How good is our defense, exactly? Is it good enough to compete in CUSA West? Is it good enough to stop the explosive offenses we see in CUSA? I don’t know. I used to think so. I thought that teams might score but it would be tough, because Lairamie Lee and company would hit hard and create turnovers and maybe even score a bit.
This loss certainly makes reconsider that. As Greg said, this defense looked more average than dominant. Tevin Coleman ran wild. He wasn’t alone. The Hoosiers put up 363 yards on 44 carries to go with four scores.
In the Breakdown I mentioned stopping play-action passes being a key to the game. Indiana used myriad play fakes to get guys open for big gains, particularly Shane Wynn. Twice he benefited from run-fakes to beat our secondary deep. His first was against Kenny Buyers, in which the safeties stepped up to stop a potential Coleman sweep. He won inside leverage and used his speed to get across the middle on a post. His second was against James Jones and looked much like the first. A guy that explosive is going to make plays but when a team’s attention is drawn to another player that can go 70-yards, it makes it even more difficult.
The North Texas offense wasn’t without its flaws. Dajon had two really awful interceptions and Kidsy and Terrell dropped two passes that could have sustained an early scoring drive. Still, Saturday was about the defense getting shredded and the offense being okay. The offense looks miles better than it did under Greer, however and that is reason for hope.
Without further ado let us commence with grading.
PS: Greg wanted me to comment on the uniforms, which I liked. He thinks they are god-awful. Meh.
Offense: B –
Considering the awfulness that the offense was putting out against Louisiana Tech, this game should be cause for celebration. It almost is. Dajon Williams, Freshman Sensation, looked like a player that can win some games for this team. He has a live arm, confidence, the ability to quickly read a defense and be decisive with his throws. It’s great. He also looked like a RS Freshman. He threw two really poor interceptions that cost us a good start and later, a shot at some kind of come back. You can see the talent in his ability to make poor plays into good ones and in his ability to make great throws to his playmakers. You can also see his inexperience. Those high throws when he’s not rolling out are bad. Those include the high bubble screens and the missed deep center throws. Those are improvement areas.
Antoinne Jimmerson looked great. Great. He was the guy we all thought he was going to be before the season. Greg says he needs touches. Maybe. He looked more comfortable running from the gun with a lead blocker and some counter trey action up front. He was way more decisive than he has been previously and he held on to the ball. He is the two punch in our one-two combination with Pegram. Some of his success has to do with Indiana’s relatively poor defense and of course, Dajon Williams.
The best thing about Dajon is that he gets the ball to his pay makers. It was great to see our criminally under-served Carlos Harris catch 11 passes. He was productive with it. He scored once and racked up 120 yards. If Dajon can hit him in stride on bubble screens he could be even more dangerous.
They came out and got punched in the mouth. They were run on, they were passed on, they missed tackles, and they looked beat. That was the worst part. The times Indiana gave up possession — the fumble and the punts — were functions of their own mistakes rather than anything UNT’s defense did. That is a problem. Are they average? Or are the Hoosiers that good? I don’t know. They have looked really poor against the two competent offenses on the schedule thus far (LaTech being the other one).
UAB is next up and they can score points. We think Dajon Williams was the key to unlocking our playmakers on offense, but is relying on a RS Freshman to score 31 or more a recipe for wins? Nope. The defense needs to get more stops against explosive teams. That means turnovers. That means getting more negative plays like Daryl Mason did early.
Special Teams: C-
Trevor Moore connected on his only FG try. The onside kick was bold but a trick play that surprised everyone. They’ll likely work on that all this week. It was bad but I am more lenient on trick plays than on things they plan for.
Mike Canales was awesome. He obviously tailored the game plan to Williams’ strength and it showed. The offense was clever, productive, and at times explosive. 24 points isn’t going to win awards but in most cases it should be enough to win games. Sure, there were turnovers but those came at the hands of the RS Freshman QB trying to make plays and not extremely dumb mistakes. There is a subtle difference between the two things but it is there.
Skladany was less than awesome. His defenses are no-nonsense and they get all the fogies back-slapping about hard hits and old school stuff when it is working (2013) but it looks soft and vanilla when it isn’t (Indiana, 2012). If this defense had a more talented secondary it would be more solid. Those guys are hard to find so we can’t really expect much. The simplicity of Skladany’s defense allows his team to read and react with confidence, making everyone faster and meaner. When those keys are muddled with good play-fakes and misdirection, the defense looks slow and passive. That’s my take here. Since we do not bring a ton of extra pressure, the onus is on the D-Line to basically win every play. That didn’t happen. They were pushed off the ball often (with exceptions) and that caused all kinds of problems in the secondary.
Dan McCarney is taking criticism for his conservatism again. That usually happens when our team loses. He is usually praised for his old-school run-first-second-and-third-if-you-can approach when we are racking up wins. Here’s the thing: he likes to chalk up the road losses to playing better competition. I pointed out that some bad road losses come against beatable competition. Maybe this wasn’t a game we could ever win. I sure think the team could have played better. Every team plays a little bit better at home. Sure. But North Texas seems to play a lot worse on the road.