— Barry Horn (@bhorn55) September 7, 2014
Saturday’s win was oddly more satisfying than I thought it would be. I am not from Dallas and do not have the history to muster up the hate George Dunham did during the Labor Day coaches’ show.
My relationship with SMU dates to 2006, when I saw North Texas beat them down 24-6. I went to Gerald Ford Stadium in 2007 to watch Todd Dodge’s air show and 600+ yards passing from Daniel Meager. Both were fun in their own way. Both schools could have used a regularly occurring game between the two to drum up some kind of interest in our respective programs in the seven years since.
For me, last year’s loss to UTSA hurt more than 2007’s loss to the Ponies ever did so beating SMU at Apogee is second to exacting revenge in San Antonio this November. Even though we’ll be playing for Metroplex bragging rights for the next decade, non-conference wins and losses can only mean so much. Still, after enduring snooty message board posts from SMUers insisting on calling us NTSU, it was nice to see all fifty of their fans endure that complete and thorough beat down at the hands of their “lessers.”
For the non-message board reader1 you were likely more interested in our quarterbacking situation than “rivalries.” Well, you were impressed by the completed passes to our own players. Yet, you likely wanted a touch more than Josh Greer, Andrew McNulty and even (surprise!) Dajon Williams2 showed you.
Well, the mark of a good showman is always leaving the crowd wanting more. I will be tuning in Thursday night for the game against conference-mate Louisiana Tech.3 I hope to see a lot more of what we showed Saturday morning with a bit more zip on the passes from our trio of QBs.
That said, I am very satisfied with that win over SMU. If we can’t beat a team that everyone knows (Texas) at least we can beat up on a team everyone in the Metroplex knows. 4 Hey. You can’t be famous worldwide if you aren’t famous in your own town-plex.
One other thought before we get into arbitrary grades: if June Jones had worked this the right way he’d be the toast of Dallas right now. He had Baylor, North Texas, TAMU and TCU all lined up. Instead of beating5 an all-Texas lineup and taking his program to new levels of recognition, he is taking SMU on a shame-tour through all parts of the state.
Let’s grade with non-sensical grades!6
We sure can run the ball at Apogee against mediocre-to-bad competition. That sounds like I am being snarky but I am not. Some teams play down to their opponent. We were playing a bad team and ran over them with power. That is about all we can confidently do and for that I am grateful. Reggie Pegram powered through the SMU defense early behind a line that wanted to prove they were better than they showed last week. He ran hard and well, despite what his pedestrian yards-per-carry average may indicate. That average mostly had to do with the Ponies disrespecting our pass game and the intense focus they placed on (attempting to) stop the run.
Josh Greer completed passes early and often, but nothing spectacular, and certainly did nothing that will put a scare in the conference’s best defenses. We do not need a Daniel Meager game, but we do need to keep the defense honest occasionally. He was miles more accurate Saturday than he was in Austin, but he missed some opportunities to hit Carlos Harris, Darius Terrell, and Darvin Kidsy in stride. Too often they had to make a spectacular catch (Kidsy) or get on their knees for a dipping, wobbly ball (the others).
Against SMU’s soft defense, that was enough. Against UTSA — or even LaTech? – those passes need to be crisper.
I think the coaching staff realizes as much. Andrew McNulty was in setup man duty as the game was pretty much over with at halftime. He didn’t get much of a chance but he didn’t do anything ridiculous so it is hard to judge him harshly.
The same can be said about Dajon Williams’ performance. He dutifully handed the ball to freshman running backs a few of times and even scrambled a bit. It was a nice glimpse of his dynamism. I hope he realizes the opportunity fate has presented him and takes full advantage of it. He obviously has the most potential of the three QBs. It would be great if he checks whatever boxes Dan McCarney needs him to check.
The offense moved the ball unspectacularly on a day when they really could have put up jaw-dropping numbers. It was nice to see the simple play-action stuff that we asked for post-Texas game.
Also impressive: Jimmerson, Wilson and Evans.
This is the North Texas defense we remember from 2013. Last year’s group was the team’s heart and soul. They scored, they made spectacular plays, they won games for us. That was with our senior, record-setting quarterback at the helm. If we had any chance to live up to even the third-place hype the defense would have to be something like 2013.
The good news is that they are.
In two games against a decent-yet-talented team (Texas) and a terrible-yet-horrible one (SMU), they have performed outstandingly well. We had hard hits (Derek Akunne) that led to INTs (Dutton Watson) just like last year! Chad Polk forced a fumble that led to Jarrian Roberts‘ score and Lairamie Lee grabbed an interception, too. Everyone tackled well and this would have been a perfect game if the third team had stopped the Hail Mary and if there were not so many penalties all game. 7
Kenny Buyers was targeted deep on double moves a few times. This was mostly a function of SMU throwing to their best wideout and our tendency to jump short routes. It worked only once, and Kenny Buyers was there to defend it. If we can continue to get a good pass rush those double move routes will be more risky for the opponent than they are dangerous to our defense. Chad Polk’s sack-fumble came after Burcham pump-faked.
The team tackled well, made big plays, and even scored. There is damn near next to nothing else you could ask for.
Special Teams: A
How about a hand for true freshman Trevor Moore? Five FGs, three of which were from 40-plus yards out. The only complaint is that he had to be out there at all. I see why he won the job.
The punt team was awesome, again. They pinned SMU deep, which made it easy on the defense, which made it easy for the offense to get into position for Trevor Moore to do his thing. The punt return game still hasn’t found its groove. Carlos Harris had only one decent return (fifteen yards). I thought I saw him yell at Zac Whitfield for not blocking his man well enough. Against better teams we will need this unit to share some of the yardage-gaining load but against SMU that was not necessary.
Of all the super-subjective grades I could give out, this is the most subjective, ill-informed one. The staff did a hell of a job getting everyone prepared to take on SMU after such a disappointing first game. Still, given the collective embarrassment, that wasn’t going to be very hard at all. The real coaching performance will come this week as McCarney and company prepare for a good Louisiana Tech team on a short week. Kudos for not ruining Josh Greer’s confidence. Kudos for motivating the QBs by putting pressure on him to re-win the job. I know Greg and many of you disagree with the on-going QB competition, thinking that it takes repetitions away from the starter when they are sorely needed. I think it is a solid piece of team management. No one else is getting a free pass to underperform and neither should the most important position player. Whoever proves their worth will have to earn it. Right now that is likely going to be Josh Greer.
- A healthy choice! Good for you! ↩
- Freshman Sensation! ↩
- @BleedTechBlue gave me more fan-opposition on Sunday than any SMU fan did all week. Even more reason to put “rival” in quotes. ↩
- Texas’ terrible game against BYU only served to anger me about last week’s game even more. If we had a passing game against the Longhorns I think an upset was a very real possibility. This serves to make me even more nervous about every game we go into this year and at the same time very confident in our chances. Football is weird. ↩
- Or at least being competitive for goodness sake. ↩
- I refuse to spell this “correctly” because it brings me such joy. Inside jokes are the best jokes. ↩
- Kenny Buyers had two pass-interference penalties by my count. One was very questionable and the other was fairly clear. Overall this was a very penalized game. I’ll chalk that up to ornery refs on a hot late-summer day. ↩