Let us all give due praise to the new UTSA football program. They came into Apogee and put up 450+ yards against a good defensive unit, on a cold day in Denton. The didn’t look scared, they didn’t get rattled, they played their game and won.
That said, it wasn’t as we haven’t seen this before. This was more a North Texas loss than it was a UTSA win. The offense struggled, and the defense — although it gave up 75% conversation rate on 3rd downs and got lit up for 450 yards — did what it was supposed to do: hold UTSA out of the end zone for a lot of the game. Giving up 21 points is not an automatic loss. On the flip side, the offense couldn’t move the ball because of drops, overthrows, and penalties, and even worse — couldn’t score once it got to the end zone. UTSA has a nice defense, and our offense isn’t very explosive. We know this. This shouldn’t have been such a dismal effort.
If it was the bye, the coaching, the mentality or the cold — I don’t much care. The fact remains that the offense was not good enough until late. The defense played poorly but wasn’t awful. Also, we were on the end of some terrible calls. That all adds up to a night where we finally caught a break — a gift of one second to run a play — and we throw an interception.
Let’s break it all down, in order of Outrage:
I hate, HATE, to blame the refs for anything but they sure made it hard for me to stick to my own rule. The punt thing sure looked like UTSA’s Monroe touched it. That would have set up the offense in the red zone (which I mean, with the way we were playing offense means a field goal? Maybe?). They ruled the play ‘stands’ which means they couldn’t see it touching him. That is either bad luck, or terrible reffing. It was early, so this is forgivable. Everyone makes mistakes.
Later, there was another play right before the half where Soza hit Marcellus Mack — the ball bounced off the grass and into his hands. Clearly. I was sitting in the lower Wing Zone so I had a perfect view of this. Called a catch. WUT.
Most egregious was probably the terrible no-call on the pass interference along the West sideline on the pass to Darnell Smith.
All that said, the refereeing just made the game more difficult. These calls were and are very easy to overcome.
Derek Thompson wasn’t his best again today. He made some very nice plays late, however. He is usually good for a couple of those per game, but in a game where we needed the offense to score touchdowns, they were kicking field goals. The run game wasn’t getting much traction today but this wasn’t UTEP so that was to be expected. The dirty little secret all year has been that the running game has been less-than-mediocre. The biggest games have been against the absolute worst teams defending the run. That made it harder for Derek and company to move the ball down the field. Still, it was the less-than-perfect accuracy on some of the throws that killed drives. When Eric Soza is hitting his guys on the hands, in stride, and Derek Thompson is throwing the ball high or slightly behind Darnell Smith, it is easy to get frustrated.
Derek made some very nice, very tough throws on the very last drive of the game. He was nimble, found space, and made two or three beauties to Darnell, Kidsy, and Darnell again. Kidsy dropped his, but it was still an excellent throw.
The offense only averaged 20 points a game last season. This year, the average is boosted by the defense and special teams helping the scoring. There is still a lot of room for improvement here. On games where the defense doesn’t absolutely dominate this is especially glaring
We got a bit spoiled. The UNT Defense has not only been holding teams to practically zilch in this win streak, but also has been scoring themselves. This game, they faced an experienced, good QB who has played big games (and won) on the road before.
Things are a bit easier when you are playing a freshman in his first game ever.
That said, given that Skladany likes the bend-but-don’t break approach, the 450+ yards aren’t as terrible as they look. They only allowed 14 points going into the 4th quarter. That isn’t bad. The tackling wasn’t nearly as good as it has been. UTSA’s Seth Grubb beat Kenny Buyers on a quick catch and run and took it about 40 yards. Soza was able to get first downs because Marcus Trice went for blow-up hits and not squaring up. UTSA’s Okotcha was able to get a few extra yards after missed tackles down the middle. Worst of all was that some of those short wide receiver screens and throw backs went for 5,10, or 20 yards longer than they should have because of missed tackles by Will Wright and some others.
The thing is that the defense has played awesomely but is by no means Alabama out here.
Do I think they did enough to win today? Yes. They held UTSA from scoring 30 or 40. They got some stops late. They played hard.
Did they play well? No. They allowed 450+ yards and allowed 75% conversions on third down. 16 of 20. Ridiculous.
There were a ton of weird calls — the fake FG? The lack of urgency at the end of the third quarter? Completely abandoning the run game for a long stretch? We’ll talk more about this on the podcast.
UTSA did an amazing job of staying within themselves and playing hard. Larry Coker did a great job of preparing his charges and keeping them sharp. Eric Soza looked the part. He was tough, accurate, and decisive. He didn’t stretch the field but he didn’t have to. He hit his guys in stride and got rid of the ball before Bellazin and company could get a hand on him. When he did get sacked, he didn’t get rattled or let it ruin his game. He was the perfect answer to our tremendous defense.
Seth Grubb, Kam Jones, Marcellus Mack, and the other Runner wideouts did a great job avoiding or breaking tackles. That is a feat, considering the great job we do there. Kam Jones turned a Bellazin would be tackle for loss into a 15 yard gain by dancing around him. That was the story of the game, practically — in position to make a play but UTSA made one move better.
There is more to talk about. Let’s do it tomorrow on the podcast. Live at 10am or so from someplace in Lewisville.