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MGN Film Room: Texas

Welcome to the first MGN Film Room session of 2014. Unfortunately we do not have many fun plays at which to look. The best thing to do is look at our worst passing plays of the first half. Why the first and not the second? Well, we combined for three interceptions and a couple of back-breaking sacks in the only half where we had a chance. Let’s take a look at them in order.

First up: Josh Greer early in the first half. North Texas was on its second possession and the defense was playing well. A decent drive would — at the very least — give the defense some good field position to challenge Texas’ offense with.

Here is how it ended:

Greer's First INT
Greer’s First INT

Let’s go through the above. The play call is a version of Levels , a play that does a great job of beating Cover 2. That is exactly what Texas was in so this should have been a successful pass play.

Texas had three down lineman and the linebackers showed blitz. Instead of bringing everyone, they brought only five, and dropped a linebacker into the middle. Greer and Marcus Smith both see the LB. Smith adjusts his route enough to get open in space. Greer simply misses him badly. If he puts the ball about knee-height we’d likely have seen Smith make the catch and avoid the big hit.

Conclusion: This was the right read, the line had good protection, the receiver ran a decent route.1 This should have been a completion.

Next Interception: Josh Greer’s second interception of the day was his worst.

greer INT
Josh Greer’s second interception

The play call is all hitch routes. The idea here is to have an easy read and throw for the QB, and get most, if not all, of the yardage necessary for a first down. It is a fairly conservative play call. The problem was that Texas had this completely blanketed. Because Greer never looks left, he misses the “hot” read in the left slot. This wasn’t going to be open to him unless he saw it immediately. Greg and I discussed the reads Greer has on the podcast. It very well may be that Canales has him only reading half the field here. As both receivers are blanketed by one Texas defender, a normal read would be to the left. This play was designed to get the ball out quickly, and Josh was likely going to get sacked if he did anything else but throw it away. Instead, he tries to force the throw to Darius Terrell, who is doing a good job of adjusting his route. It looks to me like he was going to head for the space int he middle of the field behind Hicks. He wasn’t going to be open, but at least he was trying.

Conclusion:This was likely the only read Josh had so we’ll say it was wrong. I’m not sure, but I’d bet the QB is reading the flats defender. If he takes the outside away, the throw is to the slot (Terrell). He never saw Hicks and that is why he threw it right to him. He didn’t see him because he was staring down his target. There was nothing fancy by Texas defensively, nor was there any great pressure. This should have been a pass into the second row above Carlos Harris’ head.

Greer was benched right after this.

Andrew McNulty benefited from some nice runs from his backs before had a pass play called for him.

It wasn’t pretty.

Minimac sacked
Andrew McNulty sacked

At first glance this looks like RB Reggie Pegram’s fault. I certainly blamed him from my vantage point in Section 31. Texas brings seven men, and UNT blocks with five. If Reggie had stayed in and blocked the free man down the middle Andrew would have had his pick of open guys before the free blitzer got close. Look again how open his outside receiver is when he reaches the end of his drop.

When we look at it from a different angle we can see why Coach McCarney and company were so angry with the offensive line.

Sacked again
Endzone view of sack-eration

Texas had their defensive end lined up wide and the Mean Green offensive line slide over to compensate. I’m not familiar enough with the NT protection scheme to tell you exactly what should have happened, but you can see the miscommunication. It seems to me that Kaydon Kirby should have picked up Texas’ 99 and Y’Barbo should have picked up Texas’ 7. The rules might be that the entire line was supposed to slide, in which case it is Antonio Johnson we should be upset with. We do know that there was miscommunication.

Conclusion: Here is the poor line play that we heard about all week from the coaches, and Y’Barbo himself. This could have been a big gain if Mini-Mac had some time to throw. Instead, NT was forced to punt, and Texas scored on the ensuing drive.

Down 21-0 with no offense to speak of and the defense tiring quickly without any rest, any hopes of keeping it a game vanished after Andy threw his first interception, North Texas’ third.

Operating from midfield with just under a minute remaining, there was plenty of time to get in scoring position. Facing 2nd and 5 against a soft Texas prevent defense, Mike Canales called Four Verticals, the best passing play in football.

Mac's 2nd INT
Andrew McNulty’s first interception

If you’ve watched Mike Leach’s Texas Tech (or any Air Raid team for that matter) you’ve likely seen this play. If you’ve played any NCAA Football you’ve likely called this play. Andrew McNulty’s man was running right down the middle and was overthrown at fifteen yards. This particular play has a play-fake built in. The blitzing DB didn’t bite on the fake and McNulty did not step into his throw. You can judge for yourself if he is avoiding contact or just doesn’t step into his throw for some other reason.

Conclusion: This should have been an 18-yard completion that would have put North Texas in a good spot with plenty of time left and three time-outs.

If North Texas was ever going to produce an upset they needed each of the above plays to have been successful, or at least not as bad as they were. It is simplistic and pretty obvious but football isn’t an overly complicated game. Squandering opportunities so easily was frustrating and you can see why the quarterback competition is going to be re-opened.2 The other passes called ended with a kneel down, poorly thrown balls, and a few more sacks. Take the poor throws you see above and imagine them hitting the ground instead of the other team. That was all the variety we saw.

  1. He should have taken his route to the first down marker or right underneath to put vertical pressure on the secondary. That would create the space he would need in the middle. As it was, the DBs were waiting on this route combination. 
  2. I don’t know how much of this is just motivation. We shall see. 


  1. mitzi mitzi September 3, 2014

    It was a tough game all the way around. Plenty of blame to go around. All the line struggled and got beat at some point. Pretty sure all he blame doesn’t go to the badger. Nobody cares more or takes it harder than he does.

    • MGN MGN Post author | September 3, 2014

      No doubt. Definitely was a tough game. Lots of blame to pass around. I try to illustrate the larger trends that happened during the game with these things while also keeping it simple for the casual fan. Not trying to call anyone out. Thanks for reading!

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