It isn’t as easy to play Blame It On The QB today. 1. Head Coach Dan McCarney’s favorite QB Andrew McNulty played one of his better games — if not the best game of his career Saturday against Rice.
Going by QB rating, his previous best was the 287-yard performance in 2014 at home in the loss to Southern Miss
Note: He had higher rated games but this is the highest rated game in which he threw at least 20 passes. 12/16 in the FAU game for 107 yards, and the part of the UAB game he filled in on were rated higher. They don’t count for our purposes
McNulty wasn’t the reason the team lost. No, that would be because Rice scored five straight times — Touchdown, FG, Touchdown, Touchdown, Touchdown. They did this after North Texas went up 10-7 on Andy’s toss to Carlos Harris for 33 years in the second quarter.
North Texas looked solid on defense early, forcing Rice a 3rd-and-20 on the first Owl possession. They promptly allowed a 20-yard pass to allow the drive to continue. Still, they got a sack on Jackson and forced a FG that went wide. So despite allowing Rice to drive 17-plays, 64-yards, and 7 minutes, they did their job and held Rice scoreless.
I suppose the that’s the emphasis this week. That we need points more than yards and wins more than moral victories.
We complained mightily about the toothless offense we saw against SMU. This week McNulty and company filled the box score with yardage — 478 to be exact. The run game exploded for 6.7 yards per carry and the pass game had some room to breathe. Canales and McNulty looked vertically and not just horizontally, and Harris exploded for 193 yards and 2 scores because of it.
Last week we praised the defense. This week we get to question them. It’s always hard to criticize your best group of guys, because of their importance — if the defense isn’t playing well then this team will lose. This group has been the most consistent of the three — offense, defense, special teams — but even then, they haven’t showed they can win games by themselves.
Cosh’s guys slowed SMU enough to say the offense shouldered most of the blame for the loss. This time the defense was gashed for five straight scoring drives. The numbers are staggering.
Rice averaged a smidgen over 10 yards per play on their five straight scoring drives in the middle of the game. That’s not winning defensive football.
Turnovers Oh My God
Hey so you know how I said the defense really got smacked around and probably did the most to put us in the hole? Well, the offense could have done a bit more than scoring 24 points to help them along a bit. Punt return team could have also. First, Kidsy muffed a punt after the defense held Rice on what would have been a three-and-out. Later, Willy Ivery fumbled at the Rice 33 right before the end of the half. What could have been another three points, ended up being a Rice FG after they drove from their own 9 to our 3 in just a minute-thirty-seven.
The Kidsy fumble allowed Rice to score their first touchdown right after.
It’s cliché to discuss the impact of turnovers when trying to contain an explosive offense. That’s because it is true, and this game is very simple. Rice had the talent — probably more talent than SMU — to score a lot of points against our favorite team. Canales’ group did surprising well moving the ball, but less so scoring it based on the yardage they racked up. That was largely due to the turnovers. Sure, the offense only lost it twice — yet another McNulty interception to begin the second half was the second offensive turnover — but both were crushing in timing. The Ivery fumble helped kill the mood in Apogee on a day where the rain and subsequent heat were taking a toll on the fans in attendance. North Texas went from best-case scenario 17-14 lead with the ball coming possession to start the next half to a 17-10 deficit.
Fans left because of the ridiculous heat. More left after the McNulty interception. Even more left after Rice capitalized.
Aside from the turnovers didn’t there seem to be something else off with the offense?
I mean, I know the guy in the stands was yelling for McCarney to pull McNulty very early. He quieted some after Andy tossed the 93-yarder but that was also Desperation Time. There was not a very realistic chance of coming back.
There was palpable frustration in the stands. Outside of big Harris plays the offense had trouble moving the ball. Two killer 3-and-outs in the middle of the Rice onslaught didn’t do much to stall the Owl’s momentum, nor assuage the frustration in the stands. The passing game is pretty much all #9 and the run game is shaky because of fumble problems.
Really the only way McNulty can get away with getting the ball only to Carlos Harris is if the run game is moving the chains and the defense is playing reasonably competent football.
The problem is when the offense becomes boom-and-bust, turnover prone, and when the defense gets gouged. Basically, if the team repeats this Rice game performance, it will be a very long and frustrating year.
Right now, the QB is tossing an INT per game and we are very fumble prone.
I mentioned that he is the new Johnny Quinn and/or Casey Fitzgerald in the season preview. With his eight catches he moved into fifth all-time in receptions and closer to the two on the leader board. With his 193 yards receiving he moved to 1,912 for his career, which is 20 yards from Pete Harvey’s 1932 in 9th place in school history. If he averages 5 catches a game he’ll just pass the great Johnny Quinn for 2nd all-time. He’d need a ridiculous 8-per-game catch rate to even tie Casey Fitzgerald’s school-record 229. He’s 807 yards away from Quinn’s school-record 2,178 career reception yardage.
- His 193 yards was his second-highest total (behind his 216 yard effort against Southern Miss last year) and ranks 9th all-time in school history.
- He joined Casey Fitzgerald as the only Mean Green players with two games in the top-10 all time single game receiving yardage games.
- He has the longest pass reception in Apogee. He passed Brelan Chancellor’s 85-yard score from Derek Thompson in the Idaho game a couple of years ago. The school record is Fitzerald’s 99-yarder.
1. Jarrian Roberts 2.5
2. Fred Scott, Roderick Young, Chad Davis 1.0
3. Malik Dilonga 0.5
Way to Early Look Ahead
Iowa squeaked out a win against a good Pitt Panther team on their way to 3-0 on the season. They’ve also beat Iowa state and Illinois State. Obviously, being a Big Ten team this would be an Opportunity game insofar as lil’ ol’ North Texas can jump up and get a famous victory.
This is an even bigger game because of the Hayden Fry connection. He famously led North Texas to some of our biggest victories in the 1970s before moving on to Iowa and hiring a young Dan McCarney. Danny Mac, of course, went on to coach at Iowa State. Also Andy McNulty is from Iowa.
Some people speculate that the Iowa game will be the last we see of Andrew McNulty as the team’s quarterback. If he can continue to get the ball to Carlos Harris consistently, and keep the offense from stagnating, that won’t be the case.
Our defense sustained some injuries — Fernandes limped off early in the game and it will be interesting to see if North Texas can play well on the road against a middle-of-the-road Big Ten team. UNT played well against Indiana at home but was rocked in Bloomsburg last season. Danny Mac has yet to prove he can get this program wins on the road against even beatable competition and even less so against Name schools. We shall see.
- Our favorite game here at North Texas ↩