I called it. I don’t know if I should be proud of that, though. In the seconds before North Texas lined up for what should have been the game-tying-point-after, I turned to my wife–who was shivering in the breeze of the young fall night–and said, “Ah, please don’t miss this.”
Back when Aaron Brooks was the Saints QB they miraculously scored on the last play of the game. It was one of those lateral-fests. They lined up for the extra point and the dude shanked it. So I was hoping that, well, what happened wouldn’t happen. Ugh.
This game was a mix of emotions if you are one of the nine Mean Green fans. Sure, most of the good was not amazing by itself, but only when set in contrast to the horror that has been the last few seasons. But you know that already.
So here are my impressions of the game, in order of impressiveness.
Riley Dodge —
Kid Dodge was a major target of criticism last year and coming into this year. I, for one, am really happy to see him running the show again. I have nothing against Tune or Thompson or any other kid we run out there. Riles just fits better into the style of play we run.
I’ll probably have to get into this more in another post but here is a mini-version. Offensive philosophy is about finding something you do well and building off of that. Building what, you ask? Counters, I answer.
It goes like this:
You find something that you can hang your hat on. You have a dominating run game? Okay, establish your favorite run play: the one you think you can get 5-6 yards a play if they are playing standard defense. When they get tired of getting stomped, they adjust and bring the safety up. Now you bring out play number 2. Play action and throw where that eighth man used to be.
Having said all that–and I promise I’ll get a more detailed post on this later–Riles provides a third constraint option: his running ability. He put said ability on display last week as we basically optioned FAU the whole game. This time, instead of just running the read play, he escaped pressure on at least two crucial occasions and threw the ball away when there was nothing to be gained. As important as playmaking ability is, an often overlooked factor is playsaving ability. Riles is showing said ability and for that I am glad.
Usually I have no faith that they can muster up the resolve (or the talent) to make a comeback no matter the score. It was 28-14 at the start of the fourth quarter. That kind of deficit ain’t easy to overcome. Two long drives sandwiched solid defense — comebacks always start with defense. It was really a great effort and is really awesome for the fanbase (all nine people.)
Not only are we encouraged to stay a while to see what can happen, but we know that it will at least be entertaining. So, yeah. Points for that and stuff.
Despite the quality fourth quarter, I must say that we weren’t completely awesome. The last ULL possession looked like it was going to be a scoring drive. They converted two third down plays on the drive and got all the way to the UNT 35 with something like four minutes left to play. If the defense allowed just five more yards they could have attempted a field goal that would have put the game out of reach. Were it not for Craig Robertson coming up with a huge sack on 2nd-and-2 and then a QB pressure on 3rd-and-8 from the 41 the very next play, the game could have very well ended there. Masson had to rush his throw (or throw it out of bounds) and missed an open wideout. That play by the way, was the same one we started out the ensuing drive on. A rollout to the right where the wideout does a quick curl. (That is really inconsequential, I know.)
So there. The defense did their part to make up for the horrendousness that led to the deficit. Namely, the wide-ass open guys running free in the secondary. Spikes had an 82-yarder and Lawson had a (really nice run-after-catch) 60-yarder. It could have been worse. Early in the game on the their second possession ULL had the ball deep in their own territory and ran a post to Lawson and he just dropped it. Would have been six points. Royce Hill was a good three yards behind the guy.
Again, I have been hard on the dude but he really did some good things here. Not only did he find a way to make our supposed noodley-arm quarterback a passing threat, but he didn’t allow ULL to load up on Dunbar. He mixed run with pass capably and had some really sweet calls. During the last drive he put three quality calls together in a row. North Texas came out with three wideouts to the left, Dunbar in the backfield and a TE right. Dunbar motioned out right taking the corner with him. Here is what is awesome about all that:
–Because we showed them our willingness to run reverses and WildCatt-y plays here and there, the defense had to account for Dunbar not only as a potential receiver but also as a runner even though he was out wide.
–Trips left keeps the defense honest. They cannot just concentrate on Dunbar because of the potential for a quick jailbreak screen (those screens to the wideouts –like the ones we run to Carey).
So what happened? We ran the TE on a corner route and hit him. Riley put the ball a little too far out –but if he is going to miss, that is where you want him to miss. Now here is what was pretty awesome — we ran it again. The Patriots were lauded for doing this back when they were rattling off titles in the early to mid 2000s. The beauty of this play is that the defense was clearly off balance. Surely they won’t run it again, they must be thinking. (Note: I don’t know what they were thinking -but my point is better made if I pretend I do.)
Let me pause and say that the very next play we spiked it. Weird. I wondered why we didn’t just run a play. Especially since we no-huddle all the time anyway. I re-watched the fourth quarter on espn3 and the announcer wondered the same — so at least I am not alone in thinking this. Then again, it was an espn3 announcer so maybe being in agreement is not something to be proud of.
The touchdown came after the spike so it didn’t matter much if we had time left. Adding to the unfortunateness of that blocked kick was the lack of attention to that touchdown play. It really was pretty sweet.
–The play started with four wideouts in a two by two set with Carey in the slot on the right. He motions left like he is coming across the formation but settles in a wingback position. The play starts out with a rollout left (like the second play of this very drive) and Carey moves across the formation behind the lineman. It is a play Florida, the Philly Eagles, Utah and a host of other spread teams run. Very nice.
Here is the video The Woman took of the end of the last drive. Decent work, I must say.
Please excuse all the talking to The Woman. I edited it all out in GarageBand but when uploaded to Youtube it mysteriously popped back up. Eh.