North Texas Mean Green
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
Date: September 11th, 2014
Time: 7:00 pm CT
Location: Denton, TX
Line: UNT -3.5
TV: CBS Sports Network
Weather: 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Cloudy, with a high near 82. North wind around 10 mph. Tonight- Showers and thunderstorms likely, mainly after 2am. Cloudy, with a low around 70. North northeast wind 5 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%.
What They’re Saying
Adam – North Texas 31 LA Tech 10
Greg – North Texas 20 LA Tech 19
TEAMRANKINGS – North Texas 26 LA Tech 21
numberFire – North Texas 28 LA Tech 14
Bleacher Report – LA Tech 26 North Texas 21
Sports Chat – North Texas to cover -4
Sportsblog.com – North Texas
Brett Vito – North Texas 27 LA Tech 24
Bulldog Barks and Bytes
What to Expect When______?
UNT has the Ball
Last week the UNT’s offense improved, but was facing a less than daunting defense. The Mean Green pounded SMU into submission. Basically the game plan was to run and pass when you have too. Expect to see much of the same this week. The 3 headed rushing attack of Pegram, Wilson, and Jimmerson will look to run through a pretty talented Tech defense. The rushing attack this week will again be facing a loaded box, but its nothing new to UNT. UNT should be able to find success attacking the middle of the Bulldog defense. The running game is successful is because of the OL. The OL is the best and most dominate group on the offensive side of the ball for UNT. They do a good job of mauling the DL and creating those open running lanes for the RB’s.
Josh Greer improved last week, but it still was nothing worth feeling good about. This week he faces another animal and maybe the best secondary he has faced all year. He will need to continue his growth, making quicker decisions. One uncertainty is where exactly the Tech DB’s will line up. Will they press UNT WR’s or will they play their traditional 5 yards off the ball. Playing off the ball will give UNT’s WRs the ability to get open for those quick stop routes. If Tech does press coverage it will be interesting to see if UNT attacks down the field. UNT has struggled to thrown the ball further than 10 yards down the field. You would think that with such a strong running game UNT should be able to hit one or two down the field passes, but that hasn’t been the case.
The UNT offense will be under a lot of pressure to execute at a high level in this game. Even with a great defense the Louisiana Tech offense is capable of putting up points. The Mean Green offense will need to be efficient and stay ahead of the chains. Getting stuck in 3rd and 5+ situations is unacceptable in this game. The longer this offense stays on the field the greater the chance of an explosive play happening. Tech’s DL is not deep enough to survive a consistent pounding from the UNT run game.
Louisiana Tech’s defense is much improved from last year. They made a change at Defensive Coordinator, bringing in ex UT DC Manny Diaz. Diaz has this group playing very well. Last week against ULL they had moments where they were gashed, but in the second half they forced ULL to play from behind. This allowed their pass rushers and secondary to really tee off on the Cajuns. The Tech defense is very similar to UNT’s in their alignment. They like to stay in a base 4-3 defense. It’s a defense that focuses on keeping everything in front of them. They did a good job of that last week. They got ULL in a lot of 3rd and long situations where a pass was expected. The Bulldogs are good at flying to the ball and team tackling. Not a big hitting team as UNT, but good enough. Manny Diaz is known for his aggressive defenses and blitzes. He blitzes less than you think he does. When Diaz does dial up the blitz, you can expect to see one of his “Fire Zone” blitzes. Basically the DL is slanting to one direction and the LB’s are rolling over the top to the different direction. Expect to see Tech dial up all kind of pressures to confuse the young QB Greer.
LB Tony Johnson really played well last week. He did a tremendous job at filling holes and making tackles. Johnson is one player to keep your eye on. DE Houston Bates who transferred from Illinois is a really nice playmaker on the DL. DT Devon McKinney looks like a fireplug out there and does a good job of penetrating and disrupting the offense. He leads the team with 2 TFL and the only sack.
The strength of this Bulldog defense is in its secondary. They have 3 really good defensive backs Xavier Woods, Le’vander Liggins, and Adairius Barnes. All 3 of those guys are good enough to end up as All Conference players. UNT can’t afford to get to far behind allowing this secondary to control the game. Look for the Tech secondary to play a lot of cover 3.
I feel UNT can attack this Tech defense right up the middle. They are not a big physical defense. They are quick, and if UNT’s OL is able to get engaged then UNT should be able to find lot’s of success in the run game. You could see multiple runs where the UNT RB’s get to the second level. Again they don’t have the DL depth to survive constant pounding from the UNT OL and run game.
Key Player Match-ups
RB Reggie Pegram vs. LB Tony Johnson
QB Josh Greer vs. S Xavier Woods
OT Antonio Johnson vs. DE Houston Bates
Stats to Consider
UNT 3.3 Yards per Rush
LT D 4.9 Yards per Rush
UNT 3.6 Yards per Pass Attempt
LT D 1 Sack
Louisiana Tech has the Ball
Tech’s offense came alive last week gashing the ULL Cajun defense for over 500 yards. Big explosive plays highlighted the victory. This offense is not even close to the mess that took the field against UNT last year. This offense is more balanced and led by All Conference RB Kenneth Dixon. Last year UNT bottled up Dixon. This year Dixon has a legit QB to help take the pressure off of him. Cody Sokol a transfer has really been the spark in the Tech offense. He is a pretty good QB who can make most throws and is agile enough to take off running if needed. Sokol will be throwing to a talented group of WR’s. The Tech WR’s are not a big group, but they are small and shifty. This WR group is highlighted by Sterling Griffin and LSU transfer Paul Turner. Both of these guys have big play ability. Turner reeled in a reception last week in tight coverage and took it 55 yards last week. Griffin opened up the Bulldogs second half against the Cajuns with a 78 yards TD off a play action play. Limiting Dixon will play a big role in their ability to use play action successfully. The OL did a really good job in pass protection against ULL. They are not an experienced group and have been playing average this season.
Tech’s offense needs to execute at a high level and keep their defense off the field. They just don’t have the depth to let UNT’s offense pound away at the defense for 4 quarters. This Tech offense has enough playmakers and explosiveness to make plays against a talented UNT defense. Their WR’s are good enough to win battles against the UNT secondary, and Dixon is good enough to break off big runs.
Mean Green Defense
UNT’s defense has been a surprise and a blessing this year. Most prognosticators believed there would be a decline in performance from this group with so much production lost. That has not been the case. They have played faster and have more depth than last year. The key to this defense is the fundamentals and team tackling. Much like Tech this D likes to keep everything in front of them. DC John Skladany has been dialing up a lot of the right calls this year again. He doesn’t try to blitz you a lot. He likes to play coverage and rely on the front four to do their work. That front four is led by undersized, but hard working Chad Polk. Polk has more than held his own these past two weeks and gets be a playmaker in pass rushing situations. D. Wattson has emerged at DT as a guy who can provide size, production, and nice moves. In the LB core Akunne, Wallace, Scott, Marshall, and Ellis have all been steady. Marshall had a great game last week. SMU challenged his athleticism and he responded. The secondary is led by a trio of guys Lee, Buyers, and James. All those guys have played at a high level so far this year and will need to keep it up this week. Sheldon Wade who took over the S spot vacated by Marcus Trice has been really good. He fits right in with this secondary with his hitting abilities.
UNT’s defense will need to be the playmakers that we all have come to know in this game if UNT is to have a chance. They will need to provide good field position for an offense that lacks the explosiveness to turn the field over. The UNT defense will get a tough challenge from a team that is going to spread them out, but is a capable running team. UNT will need to limit the big plays and force the Bulldogs to drive the ball long distances.
UNT’s strength is in its pass defense. Yes they are content on giving you the short quick passes, but they will great you with a nice hello after making that catch. This secondary punishes receivers after catches. So much so that later in the game the WR’s hear the foot steps or just no longer want to get hit. Against Tech this week they will face a pretty good group of WR’s and QB. Like I mentioned earlier its a quick passing game. UNT will need to do a good job of limiting yards after catches and avoid the big play over the top.
The biggest weakness in the UNT defense is in the size of the DL. They are not even close to your avg size DL in the NCAA. Plus they are an inexperienced bunch. I will say that they have held their own in the past two games. They have used their quickness to offset their size. Also they rotate 8-10 guys, so their is no wearing this unit down. Even in the Texas game when the UT offense was consistently on the field the D still held their own.
Key Player Match-ups
LB Derek Akunne vs. RB Kenneth Dixon
CB James Jones vs. WR Sterling Griffin
DE Jarrian Roberts vs. OT Mitchell Bell
Stats to Consider
K. Dixon Yards per Carry 8.1
S. Griffin Yards per Catch 16.2
UNT D 6 Sacks
UNT D 3.2 Yards per Carry
Last week UNT dominated the five factors and its why they won the game so handily. Any time your +5 in TO’s and winning the field position by about 30 yards your going to blow out your opponent. This week LA Tech rolls into to town with a pretty solid team in these five factors. UNT needs to limit the yards per play or basically limit Tech’s explosiveness. UNT has to provide good field position for the offense. Finally the TO’s, both these teams are really good in this category. UNT cleaned up the TO’s from the UT game and started forcing TO’s like last years team. It’s a must for UNT to protect the ball and for the defense to come up with a couple of TO’s on the LA Tech side of the field. If these statistical categories stay status quo you most likely will see a double digit win for LA Tech. Lots of work for UNT to do.
Game Plan for Victory
- Throw the ball down the field
- Limit 3rd and long’s. Need 3 and 4 or shorter
- Limit TO’s and missed blitz assignments
- Hit at least 46 rushing attempts
- Average 4 yards per 1st down play
- Average 5 yards per play through the game
- Get close to 150 yards passing
- Get close to 200 yards rushing
- Convert over 40% of 3rd downs
- Score over 20 points
- Force LA. Tech into a 3&7 or longer 75% of the time
- Limit LA. Tech to under 100 yards rushing
- Limit LA. Tech to under 220 yards passing
- Limit LA. Tech to under 4 yards per play and under 3 yards per play on 1st down
- Limit LA. Tech to under 35% 3rd down conversation rate
- Force 3 LA. Tech turnovers
- Win up the battle in the trenches forcing the QB’s to make quick decisions
- Limit the run after catch yardage
- Dont let the QB scramble convert 3rd downs
- Limit LA. Tech to 14 points and under