The game started slowly for North Texas. Derek Thompson threw an interception and LaTech went down and scored a touchdown. Very quickly UNT turned that thing around behind a stellar run game and stingy defense. Nort hTexas scored 28 straight points after going down 10-0 and then held on late to win for the second straight game, the first time since 2004 that has happened.
Unsurprisingly, it was the best players that made the biggest plays for NT. Brelan Chancellor broke free late in the second quarter, snatched a pass from a scrambling Derek Thompson deep down the middle and out ran everyone to the end zone for a 61-yard TD. The next possession, the defensive line broke through, pressured the throw, and Zac Whitfield grabbed a floater on the sideline and took it to the house for the lead.
Later, Derek found Darnell Smith on streak to set up a 2-yard run on an inverted veer. Zach Orr and company bottled up the LaTech offense and UNT scored again. The run game took over the rest of the way.
It was, in short, a very Dan McCarney win. Lots of defense and running, complimented by timely passing. A well-executed plan is always beautiful to watch. There is no reason to think this can’t continue into and through next week against a very terrible Southern Mississippi. The difference between this iteration of Mean Green and the previous losing ones is that this one doesn’t aim the gun at its own foot. Less shooting-of-selves. Even compared to the early losses against Ohio and Georgia, this is a better team and one more focused, and more aggressive.
North Texas was favored in each of the last three games, at Tulane, home against Middle Tennessee, and away to Louisiana Tech. They went 2-1, 1-1 on the road, and 1-0 at home. Next game is in Hattiesburg against the worst team in the nations. Although most of us have every confidence that this will be a (big) win, Southern Miss will beat someone, eventually. Being that team to break the losing stream would damn near eliminate all these good, warm, tingly feelings right now.
The next game is a big one against Rice, at home, on Halloween. Rice is presently 3-0 in the conference, which puts them atop the CUSA West division, tied with Tulane. With our loss to the Green Wave, we need them to lose twice, but we can get the tie-breaker over the Owls with a win in Denton. Yes, the conference title game is still a possibility if Tulane drops two games.
The two toughest games on the schedule are Rice and Tulsa, and Rice is at home. I expect UNT to be favored for Souther Miss, UTEP (homecoming) and UTSA. We just need two of those five to get to bowl eligibility.
Before the year I called a loss to LaTech and a win against the Green Wave on the way to a 9-3 record. In actuality those were swapped. I still see a 9-3 finish. Depending on what happens with Tulane (I think they will lose to Tulsa and Rice) we have a CUSA title game to play against (I’m prognosticating here) whoever wins the ECU-Marshall battle on November 29th.
Of course, two more wins means UNT is bowl eligible for the first time since 2004.
It is a great day to be mean and green, guys.
Things to Be Excited About
The Run game and the Defense. Hey! Nice to see the run game look formidable as it did all last season. All three running backs are performing at a high level. It is exactly as we envisaged preseason. The offensive line was opening up nice, big holes and when they weren’t Antoinne Jimmerson created some space. Their success created time and space for Derek Thompson to flourish. He was able to make good decisions and hold on to the ball late. When the lead was secure, and even though LaTech knew we were going to, we ran with success.
The defense continued the dominant streak. Last week we shut down Middle Tennessee’s pass game. This week it was LaTech’s run game. Sure, a lot of it has to do with the relative youth and quality of the opponents but we’ve faced younger and worse teams and yielded gobs of yardage and lots of points. Zac Whitfield picked off two, tackled well and didn’t get beat over the top. The entire secondary tackles well. Richard Abbe and the defensive line pressured the QB, forced bad throws, and bottled up Kenneth Dixon, La Tech’s most dangerous threat. It was a clinic. One that has been going for three weeks now (and a little more if you count the good plays in the Georgia game).
Things to Be Concerned About
Another slow start and methodical offense. The comebacks are dramatic, but it would be nice to see more MTSU and less games where we allow a lead and make our way back into it. Derek Thompson threw another interception to mar his good day. The offense, despite the big margin, has the defense to thank — again — for padding the scoreline. It is great because of the wins, but it is toeing a dangerous line. The slow starts have something to do with it and there are still too many possessions ending in punts or turnovers. If some of those would at least get into FG range? Well we’d see a good 3-4 point bump in scoring average.
The North! Texas! chant was loud and clear on the broadcast! That was all kinds of awesome.