QB Responsibility In The Littrell Offense

The best thing about the new offense is the underlying philosophy of spreading the wealth. While most people tend to think of that as designed plays for “other” guys, what it really means is that everyone is expected to be open and to contribute by executing the offense. There is an underlying element of trust imparted on each player. That trust comes from the coaches, who put a lot of responsibility on the quarterback.

See this article discussing Mike Leach’s trust in his QBs to make big decisions.

There are some quotes from Graham Harrell in there. Including this:

“Somehow he puts a ton of responsibility on the quarterback without the quarterback feeling any pressure,” Harrell said.

Now lets read what Harrell, the new OC here at North Texas, has to say about our presumptive starter Alec Morris in this piece:

“In this offense, the quarterback has a lot of responsibility and he’s the one that makes the offense go, but it’s a great offense to play in. It’s fun, and you’ve got a chance to put up big numbers. We’re excited about Alec. We’re going to play an exciting brand of football and hopefully put up some great numbers and win a lot of games.”

Responsibility. That’s big. It is important to know this as the North Texas offense steers away from the command-and-control Danny Mac days to more of a regulated-but-free offense of Seth Littrell. Since we aren’t in the meeting rooms, we don’t know exactly how much control this Littrell/Harrell version will give to the Quarterbacks but it is likely to be the most we’ll see for a few years, barring a big time Juco QB transfer or another prodigy like Harrell was.

MGN Podcast

57: Deuces

In this extra long edition of the podcast, Adam and Greg discuss the end to the 2015 Football season. They give thanks the seniors, discuss the UTEP game, and then the season in detail. Also a long discussion of Carlos Harris and ‘leadership’.

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MGN Podcast

51: Goodbye Danny Mac

Dan McCarney is fired after an embarrassing 66-7 loss to FCS Portland State

MGN Podcast is the Official Podcast of the Unofficial UNT sports blog Mean Green Nation!

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Goodbye Dan McCarney

Well it happened.

We fired the head coach of the program. I was very much upset with that awful, terrible, absolutely, no good performance. I filled up your TL with lots of thoughts about the game. You may have some thoughts about the game yourself.

There may be some point to going through the Portland State game in detail, but I don’t know what that point would be. It looked like a team going through the motions against a well-coached, motivated one. The Dan McCarney-coached teams of any of the last four years would have destroyed this Dan McCarney-coached team today.

I’m going to try my best to encapsulate Dan McCarney’s entire tenure, from memory, in less than 1,000 words. That’s your caveat.

Before we begin here are some links I tweeted out links to the various things I’ve written praising his performance here in Denton.

It’s important to mention that to balance the criticism that he will get the rest of the way. It’s also important to remember that the Athletic Director Rick Villarreal hired both McCarney and his predecessor, two stewards of some of the most embarrassing times in North Texas history. Villarreal also put together this schedule of five home games with no bye weeks. He is not free of blame.

McCarney began his tenure at North Texas as a surprise hire. Mike Canales won over the fan base with his interim coaching performance after the Todd Dodge era. It should be noted that Dodge began his tenure with embarrassing blow-outs but ended with a solid team that lost close games. Were it not for one or two close plays in 2010, Dodge could very well have saved his job. Canales managed a team devastated at QB and turned in some solid performances to end the year. He won games, he gave KState a game with Chase Baine — a 6th string wide out as QB. Canales was the fan favorite to earn the gig. And yet Rick Villareal hired Dan.

Dan McCarney shrewdly kept Mike Canales on as coordinator, and immediately won over the fans, students, and college football writers with his charm, enthusiasm, old school approach that was sorely needed during at this program that had become a joke around town, in the state, and nationally. Dan McCarney was breath of fresh air, and made the promises we all wanted to hear.

In his first couple of seasons, he battled the transitionary problems that any new coach faces. There was no immediate turn around even though we desperately wanted one. In hindsight it was worrying but at the time it could be easily explained away by scapegoating the previous regime. Dan McCarney let it be known through non-public means that NT had the smallest, least-ready FBS roster he’d seen in his coaching time. Again, this would be used against him later, (like after getting destroyed by FCS Portland State in his final turn as coach) but his complaints were received with nods and understanding.

By 2013, he had his detractors in and outside of the program. The criticism can be summed as “too conservative, too old fashioned”. The lackluster recruiting classes, and questionable QB selections especially, were obvious weaknesses in the McCarney regime. Rumors of his personal failings and vices were whispered in DMs, and emails. His seat was by no means warm, but he coudn’t point at Dodge’s failure any longer.

He was saved in 2013 when everything fell into place. Whereas the defenses up to that point were prone to giving up big plays, and the offenses were impotent, predictable, and turnover prone; the 2013 defense was a force and the offense was more consistent. The Special teams were similarly spectacular. North Texas only lost once at home, destroyed the lesser teams in conference play, and won a bowl game in front of 39,000 fans in the historic Cotton Bowl stadium.

Why Not North Texas indeed.

The brilliance of his massive success hid the flaws that year, however. The offense was good but still conservative, over reliant on the defense and special teams. The team was poor on the road, losing an awful game to a very beatable Tulane. Most heartbreakingly, NT lost at home to UTSA in the final home game of the season, ruining a chance at a conference title game bid, a perfect home record, and the possibility of 10 wins. That NT looked unprepared, and was out coached in that game is unsurprising taken in context of his entire era here, and his overall coaching record.

These last two seasons have been marred by a quarterback controversy four years in the making. McCarney might have bought himself more time if he could have found a Derek Thompson replacement sooner. Instead he could only manage a series of mysterious JUCO transfers that never saw significant playing time. That mess of situation combined with the precipitous decline of the defense used up the goodwill from 2013 quickly. Though a rebuilding year was expected, the inept offense and stubborn coaching decisions frustrated everyone who followed closely. His public complaints and rants at press conferences were oddly defensive, the kind of thing a man without any answers would resort to. They certainly weren’t befitting the guy who proclaimed that he would turn this ship around back at his introduction.

This newest season brought hope, as any does, but the reservoir of goodwill was still dangerously low. When Andrew McNulty handed the ball off on a midline dive a loud groan came from the 9,000 UNT fans at Gerry Ford. A muffed punt had presented Dan’s charges with a choice opportunity and it was squandered. North Texas fans had seen this too often and the excuses were growing stale.

As Greg explained this week, the QB play was awful and yet Dan McCarney maintained that it was “solid.” While public defense of the players is expected, this was almost willfull blindess to the facts. When combined with the public criticism of the backup DaMarcus Smith the stubborness is baffling.

Dan McCarney could have probably survived a loss to Portland State. The Vikings are a good team, and have already beaten Washington State. The bookmakers favored them by a point 1, and a tough loss at homecoming wouldn’t have been unforgiveable. He couldn’t survive a complete embarrassment, however.

Not only was it the second straight week that his team found itself down 35-0, but it was at home, on homecoming, against a lower division team. His team looked a shell of any other squad he’d put out on the field. He’d long pointed to his sterling home record 2 as a point of pride, but Apogee wasn’t a comfort this season, as he dropped both home games.

In the end Dan McCarney had a 22-32 record at North Texas, his winning percentage about a percentage point higher than at Iowa State, where he was — and still is — held in high esteem. He will be held in similar regard here, where he presided over some of the greatest moments in NT history, and some of the worst. That is his legacy at North Texas.

  1. Which speaks volumes about the state of our program in itself. 
  2. He also frequently complained about the scheduling, which I agreed with. However, he lost on the road against beatable teams frequently. Tulane, UTSA, SMU are some of the more obvious losses. There were others. His teams also were awful away, not just losing but doing so badly. 
Football Football Recaps

Whither Goes The Program?

I wrote a good portion of this about a week ago. It seems I’ve found the perfect ending with news coming out that Dan McCarney was fired. So here it is. Just insert the past tense where you see future tense in regards to his job.

To say Head Coach Dan McCarney is on the hot seat — at least with fans — is an understatement. Twitter is ablaze with HSOs on the poor performance. Were little old NT a more prestigious program like Austin’s burnt orange troop, we would be seeing more media coverage of this dumpster fire.

As it is, Mac’s supporters are referencing the Bowl Game win 1 as a shield against the mounting evidence that he is maybe not the guy to lead this program into the future. He has overseen some of the most disappointing performances in school history in the two seasons since then. He certainly has time to turn this around. Nope!

Replacement Options

A number of fans have already begun succession planning. Of course any option would have to include a change at the AD level. If we get a replacement coach . . .

I don’t think you need Texas ties. Todd Dodge didn’t do amazing recruiting with his superb Texas ties.2

If you can sell your vision — with both the product (on field success) and the promise (persuasion) — then we should be able to get some guys in here. U of NT is in the Metroplex, and Denton is basically Austin circa 1977 3 it has big city and small town vibes, lots of opportunity, a big network of alumni, and is in a transportation hub. As long as we have half-way decent support for the coach, said coach should be able to compete for conference titles every four years at the very minimum.

Baylor was an awful sell until Briles brought some winning ways to effing Waco.

As long as we are derpy-derping in our athletic department, we won’t be able to get the coaches that can do the above and we’ll be stuck complaining about which coach can get them in here.

It is not like we can’t get talent to this team. I mean, we have had a handful of NFL caliber players pass through here and there have been a good number of all-conference players.

We just have not enough good players in the right positions (ahem QB) and not enough playing together (now, last year, 2012, 2011).

Getting Abbe, Byrd, Chance et al was great, but they weren’t first-year game-changing players. They progressed into fourth-and-fifth year all-conference playmakers. When I said with decent support we should expect a conference title run every four years this is what I meant.

If Danny Mac were on schedule this would be something like a 2012, where we lose to the good teams but beat the teams in our wheelhouse. That means SMU, give Rice a better game, and definitely do not go down 35-0 at Southern Miss. [Edit: add the awful, completely embarrassing 66-7 loss to FCS Portland State to this list]

He obviously whiffed awfully on succeeding Derek Thompson and has been scrambling since. That said, he has still brought in Willy Ivery, Jeffery Wilson, Ced Ferndandes ( he looked really good in the games he played), Brandon Garner, etc. These guys have talent, and they can be part of winning teams.

We can, and have, gotten talent here. We don’t absolutely need a guy with Texas ties as long as he can do some half-way decent recruiting. What we need — absolutely —  is a guy that can develop talent. Or else it won’t matter how many stars were by their name when they signed in February. Like this year.

  1. His supporters include himself. The Heart of Dallas Bowl was great. But it is nearing on two years ago. By the way this season is going, he will have surrounded the Bowl win with two years of losing on either side. 
  2. He did good recruiting but nothing amazing — like no Hugh Freeze type stuff where we get guys we weren’t supposed to get. 
  3. When the Austin everyone wishes they were moving to actually existed. 
MGN Podcast

49: Iowa Reaction Show

North Texas was shellacked 62-16 in Kinnick Stadium you guys. Let’s grab a cup a coffee and discuss things.

MGN Podcast is the Official Podcast of the Unofficial UNT sports blog Mean Green Nation!

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Football Football Recaps

Iowa Reaction

We lost by 46 points while allowing 62. We lost our third straight this season and eighth straight road loss. This is Danny Mac’s second 0-3 start in his NT tenure. We have lost 13-straight non-conference road games, including both this season.

This 46-point loss was worse than the 41-0 destruction at Alabama in 2011, when Danny Mac was playing with Dodge’s recruits and beginning his era in Denton. This one came with his players, his coaches, his staff, his philosophy.

North Texas was expected to lose big in this one but doubling up the spread isn’t what we wanted to see. We all like to pretend to dislike moral victories but there are a lot of North Texas fans who feel good about our little trip to Athens, Georgia in 2013. I count myself among those who feel good about that 42-21 loss. I would have felt much better after this game if we had performed like Southern Miss did at Nebraska. They managed an 8-point loss on Saturday.

Now I feel like our quarterback situations is godawful. I try my best to get behind the QB choice during the game. I try to notice each solid play. Each time QB #5 steps in in the pocket and avoids a pass rush, or fires a strike, or reads the defense and gets the ball out.

Then I look at the numbers and then I get angry at myself.

North Texas QBs

QB PC PA Yards TDs Int
McNulty 14 36 137 0 1
Greer 2 6 30 0 1

I’d normally look to give credit to the defense for holding our starting quarterback to under 50% passing but that’s kind of the norm for our man McNulty. Look for yourself. We hover right around 50% passing with him at the helm, so a few more incompletions against a good team (likely) drop his pass completion percentage a touch below the midway line.

That’s not good.

Really, it isn’t fair to complain about the quarterback position or the offense because they didn’t lose the game. Sure, the two pick-sixes led to 14 points, but the game was far more out of hand before that.

I mean, did anyone else see the Iowa offensive line blow holes as wide as University drive? The broadcast ran a stat that showed Iowa had ran 12 running plays up the middle for 80 yards and three touchdowns.

Beathard completed his first 15 passes. He tossed TD passes to wide-open receivers. Their offense looked like they were going against a practice squad.

I was demoralized at the end of the first quarter.

I’d like something to be done. But it can’t be the quarterback. It can’t be the coach. No it has to be higher up. Rick Villarreal has enjoyed a comfortable seat, presiding over the some great times in school history and some of the absolute worst. His profile boasts of his accomplishments but we know what has happened with the basketball and football programs. He presided over two of the better times in both program histories (Johnny Jones and Dan McCarney’s 2013) and some of the worst (the current basketball program and the Todd Dodge era).

While the non-revenue programs are doing well, the prestige programs are a consistent laughing stock. Any progress for football in the early 2000s was squandered by the Dodge hire. The 2014 bowl win looks increasingly distant.

Looking at those bowl pictures doesn’t bring the same joy as it did when you just lost to a rival, a conference foe, and a Big Ten school in increasingly awful fashion.

Football Football Recruiting

Recruiting Update

MGN has never been a recruiting-coverage kind of site. I have hopes of getting one or two people in here to really dig into that. As it is, the thread on really serves up all there is to know. NT has no active rivals site. The one that existed from Troy Phillips has been dormant for four years. Apparently the fans care as little about the recruits we are getting as do the coaches.

I say that because presently NT has the 145th ranked class for 2016. Now I know it is way early to make snap judgements, and recruiting rankings aren’t a true measure of anything but hope. All that in mind, I don’t like being ranked as the lowest CUSA FBS school in recruiting. UAB is lower than us on this list but they don’t even have a program right now. We are barely beating nonexistent at this recruiting game, you guys.

We’ve heard Danny Mac complain about the difficulty in recruiting kids here, but surely that’s not a reason to give up.

In case you are wondering, we finished 93rd in 247’s 2015 rankings.

Hat tip /

Football Football Recaps

Still No Offense: SMU 31 NT 13

I really could just get last season’s recap of the Texas game and swap out the ‘Texas’ words for ‘SMU’ words.

Let’s try the first couple of grafs.

North Texas and the fans and students thereof came to Austin Dallas expecting to give Texas SMU a run for their money in DKR-Texas Memorial Gerry Ford Stadium. The defense did just that. The special teams was equal to their Longhorn Pony counterpart. The offense completely disappointed.

These are facts. They are not in dispute.

Both of the quarterbacks The same guy seeking to replace outgoing Derek Thompson underwhelmed. They combined for fifteen yards He managed 128 passing. Combined. For fifteen One-hundred-twenty-eight. Yards. 15 128

This is in an era where passing yards come in bulk. A weekend where three different quarterbacks put up 500+ yards passing. This is the only thing that’s different. Although WKU’s Doughty had 441

Our guys? 15. 128

It isn’t very much different. The offense scored points this time, which was nice. In the previews (and long before) I have been reminding anyone who would listen that the historic, great, amazing 2013 season was filled with Special Teams and Defensive touchdowns. While this one didn’t have those, the other two groups not called offense were huge in this game. Sure, Trevor Moore shanked a field goal, but overall that didn’t lose the game.

Before we continue let’s look at something else I didn’t like.

Awful Analysis of The Week

From our Vito:

Even when one takes that all into account, UNT was just not very effective. UNT had 240 yards all night after putting up 43 points against SMU last season.

Sorry. I’ll accept UNT had 13 points after 43 last year. Or UNT had only 240 yards after 353 last year. Or UNT only converted 6-16 3rd downs after converting 6-16 last — wait what?

That’s right.

Let’s compare offenses from the last two SMU games:

This Last
Passing 128 108
Pass Att 34 17
Rushing 112 245
1st Downs 17 17
3rd eff 6-16 6-16
4th eff 0-0 1-1
YPRush 3.4 4.5
YPPass 3.6 6
Penalties 15-139 15-139

Another dirty little secret that was hidden under the rug of a complete blowout was the fact that the offense was boring. Now, the more discerning among you remember that Josh Greer could have made more of his attempts early and the run game and defense largely carried the day against a toothless SMU squad.


Let’s begin where we are most concerned. The QB play was terrible. Andrew McNulty put up 47% passing 128 yards and 2INTs. That’s the worst we’ve had since … November of last season.

Wait, what?

Worst passing games in UNT recent history

Date Opponent Att Comp Pct Yds Y/Att
9/22/15 @ SMU 34 16 47.1 128 3.6
11/22/14 FIU 20 9 45.0 105 5.3
10/25/14 @Rice 34 16 47.1 190 5.9
8/30/14 @Texas 17 3 17.6 15 0.9

Yes. We have four (!!!) games with sub-50% passing in the last year. We know what happened against Texas, and the FIU game was followed up with a solid outing against a good UTSA defense. With an entire offseason, a QB competition, and a QB friendly offense, we had reason to expect a more efficient pass game to take pressure off a talented running back stable.

Instead we got more of the same. The outrage is palpable. The groans after Canales called three straight runs after the initial turnover deep in SMU territory were loud.

On the Game Day podcast I mentioned needing special teams to make plays to overcome the Chad Morris / SMU offensive talent disparity. The opening fumbled snap by SMU’s punter Josh Williams was a gift that we squandered. Sure, Trevor Moore is automatic1, but we don’t play offense to score field goals do we?

Do we?

I don’t know.

The play-calling and the decision making from the coaching staff suggests that we are actually playing to score field goals. Carlos Harris and Antoinne Jimmerson are playmakers but surely someone can catch a 15-yard pass in the end zone? Last season against SMU, I complained that we didn’t try to exploit Darius Terrell’s size in the end zone. This year that size advantage is Marcus Smith against anyone. He was missing from the first series but that’s no excuse to not even attempt something going toward six points.

Even more puzzling was that later Canales and company called three straight deep passes from the SMU 40 when down a point.

This sprout of aggressiveness was surrounded by an infuriatingly predictable series of run-run-pass sequences. Keeping the defense honest would go a long way toward maximizing the QB’s abilities and certainly put the players in a better position to succeed.

Really, isn’t that the entire purpose of the coaching staff? The players win and lose the games, but their coaches are supposed to put them in the best position to do the former and avoid the latter.

What Now?

Carlos Harris defended his quarterback — as well he should. Sed Ellis trashed everyone who was calling UNT trash after the game. These are reasonable reactions to feeling like your fans are not supporting you when you are feeling bad. The fans aren’t turning on the team. Just the coaching staff. And with good reason.

This mess of an offense is squarely on Dan McCarney and Mike Canales. North Texas has weapons to score points. Did you see Antoinne Jimmerson rushing for yet another 25+ yard touchdown? Yes. Imagine if the defense wasn’t stacking the box and sitting on short throws.

This is one calendar year of disappointing offense that is handcuffing a pretty solid defense.

Harris also (rightly) complained about some questionable no-calls by the ref on some deep passes in the second quarter. However, if we are relying on these kinds of things for offense, we are in trouble.

Turner Smiley was second in receiving. He looked good. The reciving corps as a whole were solid but dropped a couple of passes.

Here is the drive chart. NT averaged a starting position on their own 41 for the first half and came away with two FG, 1 Missed FG, and 1 fumble. That’s not winning football on the road.

Start Plays Yards Result
SMU 16 4 8 FG
UNT 15 6 25 PUNT
UNT 46 6 14 PUNT
UNT 20 5 26 PUNT
SMU 30 7 22 FG
UNT 42 1 -11 FUMBLE
UNT 13 11 56 Missed FG
UNT 25 2 0 INT
UNT 1 3 0 PUNT
UNT 25 9 75 TD
UNT 25 10 41 FUMBLE
UNT 22 3 5 PUNT
UNT 25 3 4 INT


The heroes of the game. Ladies and gentleman, the defense deserved better than what their offensive teammates gave them. Two goal line stands, a couple of forced turnovers, short fields and solid tackling against good playmakers early.

Yes. Matt Davis and that Malone kid had themselves a helluva time running through the teeth of the defense in the fourth quarter.

Still, SMU had the defense on the field for 35:50.

SMU’s drive results for the 9 possessions prior to scoring 24 on their final four (meaningful) drives: Downs, TD, Punt, Fumble, Fumble, Punt, Fumble, Half, Downs.

Remember SMU scared half the fanbase with their first quarter performance against Baylor last week. Everyone, including this blog thought we were going to struggle with Courtland Sutton and Matt Davis. In the end Davis was the player of the game but only after being corralled successfully for the best part of 45 minutes.

The defensive line did a great job stepping up to the challenge of shutting down the inside run game on which the entire Morris offense is based. They did a slightly poorer job tackling him, Malone, or anyone in the open field with consistency. He is shifty, so it’s hard to blame them.

Blake Bean led the team with 10 tackles and forced a fumble. Kishawn McClain was second in tackles and also forced a fumble. James Gray, Cedric Fernades, Zac Whitfield (welcome back!) were all very solid in pass coverage. Whitfield has always had a problem with double-moves and got burned on one but overall he was very solid.

Of course, the defense was without Kenny Buyers, who will miss significant time with a bad back. Chad Davis and company performed admirably in his stead.

Sack Watch



  1. Rod Young, Chad Davis, 1.0
  2. Andy Flusche, Sir Calvin Wallace 0.5

Very Early Look Ahead

Rice can run and they are very good. The mood of the fans after what was essentially a home game will be interesting to watch. Lots of message boarders and online people were suggesting they weren’t going got show up. That likely is a lot of immediate frustration talking.

Still, Greg mentioned that the students were complaining about having had taken the bus and having to watch a disappointing ending.

Three weeks into the college football season is a difficult time to play your first true home game. I’ll be there. This game with Rice was always going to be more important that the one with SMU, rivalry aside. Rice is a private school that looks down their noses, also, and they are in the conference. A win at home against a solid Rice team will go a long way to soothing the hurt everyone feels.


This guy was very annoying.


  1. Yep. He did miss one. 
MGN Podcast

47: Post Mortem SMU

In what I hope is a regular thing, we recap the game before in a quick podcast with some of the voicemail messages you left.

MGN Podcast is the Official Podcast of the Unofficial UNT sports blog Mean Green Nation!

Click here for the podcast feed. That should get you everything you need. You can play the episode from there or subscribe via your favorite podcast catcher.

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