Let’s be real, you really didn’t think North Texas was going to bounce back from that 66-7 loss and pull off an upset against the conference’s best team. I wanted to believe. I wanted to be dead wrong. I wanted to feel like Greg did, but WKU has looked too efficient this month and our defense too porous to feel differently. I predicted 55-21 and it ended 55-28.
So yeah. I guessed right.
The real question of the night was “How Will This Team Look?”
They most obviously quit on Dan McCarney last week. There is no reason North Texas should have been beaten 66-7 by anyone in CUSA on down to FCS. 2015 North Texas wasn’t expected to rack up very many wins but they weren’t expected to be the nation’s worst team, either.
The great news is that tonight the offense looked full of promise with DaMarcus Smith at the helm, but promise does not equal production. Smith can rocket the ball down the field but struggles with short throws. This, if anything, was where McNulty looked better this season and probably the reason McCarney was choosing him in practice. Having watched DaMarcus tonight — despite his mistakes — I can declare him as obviously the best QB we have on this team.
Unfortunately, this offense still looks like one tailored for McNulty, because only a few plays seem to fit Smith’s skill set. Those plays would be the reads, the QB draws, and the ones where he was able to unleash the cannon that is his right arm.
Given the questionable short-range accuracy 1, this offense really should be built around Wilson dives, Smith keepers, and play action passes deep. Canales mentioned on the broadcast that Smith was a bit too excited. That accounts for the wild throws, and hopefully with nine days of preparation as the starter, he’ll be more comfortable and settled and maybe can run this offense that likes short, accurate passes. Next up is Marshall, and after that a showdown with rival UTSA. One of these is a very winnable game if we have our QB playing well.
Whoever the next coach will be will have at least a seed of ability to build an offense around. This team can run really well and hit deep passes as a change up. His main problem will be the defense.
But before we go there, lets acknowledge that the offense benefited late from WKU substitutions, and the low pressure of a blowout. North Texas was offense-ing below WKU’s averaged allowed. At one point NT was at about 5.5 yards per play and the Toppers allow about 5.9. We ended at 5.8. They allow an average of 439 a game and we ended with 431. WKU averages a 20 point lead at half and we were down . . . 20 at half. So we can maybe take solace that we are an average WKU opponent. That’s good in that we look like every other team they’ve destroyed and not a historically bad team that could only manage 2.75 yards per play against Portland State.
Jeff Brohm’s charges are the offensive class of the conference. They can run and throw with equal explosiveness and efficiency. Contrasted with our unit, we look very poor. Whereas Wilson and Smith can occasionally break open a 10+ yard run and we can toss an occasional 50-yard strike, we mix in far to many drops and fumbles. This is from seniors and juniors, to boot. Mix in the terrible snaps that killed the opening drive of the second-half (and the later ones that nearly killed the final drive) and you can see why this offense has been historically bad up to this point.
Thankfully, we had a playmaker with the ball in his hands. DaMarcus is explosive, and has a cannon arm. He makes plays. Period.
Were the defense the 2013 version — or at least 75% of it — and the run game able to control the game, then I could totally see why you would want to have a mistake-free, low risk quarterback as starter. Smith is feast or famine at this point and especially against a WKU team that is so complete, every mistake hurts double. That said, we need the occasional feasts he provides.
Give him the week-plus before the next one and he has the potential to be a game-winner, and not just a game-changer. We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt since he was the most exciting player on the field. Next week we should be a slight bit more critical. Tonight he gets a pass.
After all, the offense put up 28 points — a season high — and second highest yards-per-play average of the season (6.2, after 7.71 against Rice).
Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear.
This defense allowed 683 yards on 82 plays — an 8.2 yards per play average. We came in allowing 547 on 369 plays — 7.42 per play. This was the second straight 670+ yard allowed game, the third straight 8.0+ yards per play allowed game. It was the fifth game in six that we allowed over 200 yards rushing. (Rice only tallied 189.) It was the fourth in six that we allowed over 300 yards passing. It was the third game in five that we allowed 49+.
Tackling looks horrendous, and the defensive line is getting blown off the ball so much that the linebackers are unable to make a play anywhere near the backfield. The secondary is allowing chunks of yardage and can’t step up and make tackles like previous teams did. Oh, and they are getting beat deep.
Is the entire blame on the players? Like, is it all their fault? No. It is hard to say exactly how much is just talent differential and how much is inexperience. We knew that it was going to be another difficult year defensively considering the Chris Cosh coaching change, and the injuries to quality players. The secondary is going as deep as it can right now, and has played some quality quarterbacks.
The bad news is that CUSA has good quarterbacks all the way through.
Defensive Coordinator Chris Cosh doesn’t have the greatest reputation among fans of our team, or fans of his previous teams when you look around. Even though the players seem to like him, he has presided over the worst defenses since the Dodge Era. Some individuals have played well, but there hasn’t been one complete game.
Even the one game where they played solidly for three quarters — against SMU — has an asterisk considering the Ponies are winless against everyone else but us. We patted ourselves on the back and excused away the fourth quarter melt-down by saying it was because they were gassed. I don’t know how much of that is true.
Canales apparently asked the defensive coaches why we couldn’t blitz more considering we have ‘nothing to lose’. Blitzing wasn’t going to stop this WKU squad 2. Still, we all kind of hoped that we’d be able to slow them a bit. A few times we forced a stop, but mannnnnn they turned it up a few times and made everything look hopeless.
How much of that was WKU being awesome and how much was our defense being porous? Can you tell absolutely? I can’t.
It’s easy to complain every time a team drives easily down the field, but we have to remember that our secondary is very young. Our best tackling cornerback was lost for the year, the other starting corner was suspended, and we have a converted linebacker playing CB. This was to be expected, if you remember the the value a secondary with experience plays in defensive strength.
I want to believe the defense was finding it hard to play for an offense that couldn’t hold possession, or move the ball let alone score. It was hard to tell tonight, considering how good WKU is. Next game we’ll see them against a Marshall offense that isn’t nearly as good as they were last season. Compared to the Hilltopper’s blistering 7+ yards per pay, the Herd are only mustering a paltry 4.95. They aren’t explosive, nor efficient. Here’s hoping for something a bit better.