The UIW was founded in 1881 in San Antonio, and only allowed women. So there is that in common with NT back in the day. It is a Catholic school located north of downtown but in what was some of the oldest parts of San Antonio.
The school is trying to boost enrollment by focussing on athletics and recently sponsored 23-sports – on par with some P5 schools. This is an issue, and it all may be a bit unsustainable.
New Head Coach Eric Morris is a former Texas Tech WR under Mike Leach and Seth Littrell who played with current NT OC Graham Harrell and later coached under Kliff Kingsbury and Kevin Sumlin. He was a part of some explosive offenses at the forefront of offensive innovation and has coached some NFL talent.
His going to UIW as something of a surprise, but the aforementioned aggression from the school intrigued him.
He calls his offense spread / air raid and plays fast, throws the ball a ton but emphasizes the run a bit more than Leach and Kingsbury.
He overhauled the roster in his image a bit over the summer, getting 40 new players over the summer including freshman QB Jon Copeland out of Argyle. Copeland played behind Nick Starkel — current A&M guy —
All told, the Cardinals will be very much like North Texas but with FCS players.
His staff is filled with young, hungry, talented coaches. Cody Crill, his OC, won a bunch at Navarro Junior College were he was part of a few staffs that won titles. His DC, Justin Deason, won the 2017 D-II title at TAMU-Commerce along with Darren Garrigan, his corner back coach.
UIW opened their season with a 62-30 loss at New Mexico against Bob Davie and his Lobos. The Cardinals took the ball straight down the field and got a TD on the first drive on the way to a 7-0 lead.
QB Copeland has mobility — he played slot receiver his sophomore season in HS — and uses his legs in designed stuff along with some scrambles. He was not overly accurate on all throws, but he had some nice ones and can burn the defense if it is slipping. He put up 328 yards and had two scores (one 2-yard rushing score).
The offense is very Air-Raid, with a lot of the sets and tempo that you’ve seen in all the various flavors of this offense including NT’s. While they rotate threw some WRs, all the first team guys are seniors.
RB Ra’Quanne Dickens broke a 90-yard TD. He has the ability to slip the first tackle and then turn on some speed. He got out in the pass game and a long one in the screen game. He would have done more had he not been ejected for pulling his helmet off after a score combined with an earlier personal foul call for his involvement in a scuffle.
Defensively, UIW was rocked.
DC Deason told the ESPN3 broadcast that his unit was “thin” but they were trying some things. The Cardinals played a lot of three man fronts. There were six true freshman on the defensive two-deep and it showed. Mistakes were made that helped the Lobos get free, but there were some bright spots for the Cardinals.
New Mexico debuted a new spread-option attack from new offensive coordinator Calvin McGee, the long-time Rich Rodriguez assistant. That offense is predicated on spreading to run, but UNM as able to throw the ball all over the field. Former triple-option QB Tevaka Tuioti threw for 327 on just 13 of 21 passing with 4 scores and 1 interception.
The Cardinal defense left guys wide open all over. Again, this was a team that had run the triple-option last year and finished near the bottom of the nation in passing.
The question every week is this: Can the other team stop Mason Fine and his quartet of pass-catchers? This is the weakest team NT has faced in some time. Even last year, when a weakened Lamar team dealing with Hurricane was a little stronger up front and was able to get to Fine. NT relied on the run game then, but with a fully operational pass game now, Fine should be able to get 300 by halftime if everything goes to plan.
If everything goes to plan.
It is really easy to think the game is won by simply walking on to the field, and that is how ODU gets whooped 52-10, or NT got beat 66-7 etc. Seth Littrell has emphasized practicing the right way and building in the right habits to prevent that kind of drop-off. We can expect things will go according to plan but acknowledged that it could not.
Defensively, NT should be very familiar with the Cardinal system. Some of the signals and looks will be the exact same, and so it really is about executing and not so much surprising anyone. That said, Morris and company could use that foreknowledge to spring a trick play or two.
Morris was aggressive in his play-calling and tried a fake punt, also.
Copeland has a little spunk, and will be playing right near his hometown of Argyle. He will want to impress and so will the contingent of Dallas-area guys on the roster. He is not afraid to take deep shots and let his senior receivers make plays. The backs have talent, and Dickens can break a tackle and get yards if not watched closely.
SMU game notwithstanding, the NT defense has been the weaker unit. They showed out and impressed for 3.5 quarters but Reffett will be looking to pitch another shutout. The situation is largely the same — facing a similar system, with a person from the same coaching tree, in Apogee.
The biggest difference is that the average talent level is lower than SMU’s and the UIW experience level is low. Morris has 12 freshman on the two-deep with a lot of walk-ons filling the roster.
This is a mis-match. North Texas should win this easily and in dominating fashion. The offense alone should score near every time they have the ball, and the defense and special teams should get good chances to score themselves.
This could reach the 70-point mark for North Texas much like the 2014 77-3 whooping NT put on Nicholls St.