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B1G Loss: Indiana 49 North Texas 24

How good is our defense, exactly?  Is it good enough to compete in CUSA West? Is it good enough to stop the explosive offenses we see in CUSA? I don’t know. I used to think so. I thought that teams might score but it would be tough, because Lairamie Lee and company would hit hard and create turnovers and maybe even score a bit.

This loss certainly makes reconsider that. As Greg said, this defense looked more average than dominant. Tevin Coleman ran wild. He wasn’t alone. The Hoosiers put up  363 yards on 44 carries to go with four scores.

In the Breakdown I mentioned stopping play-action passes being a key to the game. Indiana used myriad play fakes to get guys open for big gains, particularly Shane Wynn.  Twice he benefited from run-fakes to beat our secondary deep. His first was against Kenny Buyers, in which the safeties stepped up to stop a potential Coleman sweep. He won inside leverage and used his speed to get across the middle on  a post. His second was against James Jones and looked much like the first. A guy that explosive is going to make plays but when a team’s attention is drawn to another player that can go 70-yards, it makes it even more difficult.

The North Texas offense wasn’t without its flaws. Dajon had two really awful interceptions and Kidsy and Terrell dropped two passes that could have sustained an early scoring drive. Still, Saturday was about the defense getting shredded and the offense being okay. The offense looks miles better than it did under Greer, however and that is reason for hope.

Without further ado let us commence with grading.

PS: Greg wanted me to comment on the uniforms, which I liked. He thinks they are god-awful. Meh.

Offense: B –

Considering the awfulness that the offense was putting  out against Louisiana Tech, this game should be cause for celebration. It almost is. Dajon Williams, Freshman Sensation,  looked like a player that can win some games for this team. He has a live arm, confidence, the ability to quickly read a defense and be decisive with his throws. It’s great. He also looked like a RS Freshman. He threw two really poor interceptions that cost us a good start and later, a shot at some kind of come back. You can see the talent in his ability to make poor plays into good ones and in his ability to make great throws to his playmakers. You can also see his inexperience. Those high throws when he’s not rolling out are bad. Those include the high bubble screens and the missed deep center throws. Those are improvement areas.

Antoinne Jimmerson looked great. Great. He was the guy we all thought he was going to be before the season. Greg says he needs touches. Maybe. He looked more comfortable running from the gun with a lead blocker and some counter trey action up front. He was way more decisive than he has been previously and he held on to the ball. He is the two punch in our one-two combination with Pegram. Some of his success has to do with Indiana’s relatively poor defense and of course, Dajon Williams.

The best thing about Dajon is that he gets the ball to his pay makers. It was great to see our criminally under-served Carlos Harris catch 11 passes. He was productive with it. He scored once and racked up 120 yards. If Dajon can hit him in stride on bubble screens he could be even more dangerous.

Defense: D

They came out and got punched in the mouth. They were run on, they were passed on, they missed tackles, and they looked beat. That was the worst part. The times Indiana gave up possession — the fumble and the punts — were functions of their own mistakes rather than anything UNT’s defense did. That is a problem. Are they average? Or are the Hoosiers that good? I don’t know. They have looked really poor against the two competent offenses on the schedule thus far (LaTech being the other one).

UAB is next up and they can score points. We think Dajon Williams was the key to unlocking our playmakers on offense, but is relying on a RS Freshman to score 31 or more a recipe for wins? Nope. The defense needs to get more stops against explosive teams. That means turnovers. That means getting more negative plays like Daryl Mason did early.

Special Teams: C-

Trevor Moore connected on his only FG try. The onside kick was bold but a trick play that surprised everyone. They’ll likely work on that all this week. It was bad but I am more lenient on trick plays than on things they plan for.

Coaching: D-

Mike Canales was awesome. He obviously tailored the game plan to Williams’ strength and it showed. The offense was clever, productive, and at times explosive. 24 points isn’t going to win awards but in most cases it should be enough to win games. Sure, there were turnovers but those came at the hands of the RS Freshman QB trying to make plays and not extremely dumb mistakes. There is a subtle difference between the two things but it is there.

Skladany was less than awesome. His defenses are no-nonsense and they get all the fogies back-slapping about hard hits and old school stuff when it is working (2013) but it looks soft and vanilla when it isn’t (Indiana, 2012). If this defense had a more talented secondary it would be more solid. Those guys are hard to find so we can’t really expect much. The simplicity of Skladany’s defense allows his team to read and react with confidence, making everyone faster and meaner. When those keys are muddled with good play-fakes and misdirection, the defense looks slow and passive. That’s my take here. Since we do not bring a ton of extra pressure, the onus is on the D-Line to basically win every play. That didn’t happen. They were pushed off the ball often (with exceptions) and that caused all kinds of problems in the secondary.

Dan McCarney is taking criticism for his conservatism again. That usually happens when our team loses. He is usually praised for his old-school run-first-second-and-third-if-you-can approach when we are racking up wins. Here’s the thing: he likes to chalk up the road losses to playing better competition. I pointed out that some bad road losses come against beatable competition. Maybe this wasn’t a game we could ever win. I sure think the team could have played better. Every team plays a little bit better at home. Sure. But North Texas seems to play a lot worse on the road.

Next Week: At UAB.

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Football

9.29.14 – Danny Mac Press Conference

A real journalist would make his way to the press conference and listen and ask questions. At the very least he would watch the press conference video. Unfortunately for you, dear reader, I am not a real journalist. I did read one one the internet. He posted the following notes. I’ve attached my comments.

See more of Bret Vito’s notes on Danny Mac’s press conference here. He has a video with Kenny Buyers, also.

The good news for UNT is that it could have two veteran defensive linemen back this week. Senior defensive end Daryl Mason has yet to play this year due to an undisclosed injury. Dutton Watson, a key defensive tackle who intercepted a tipped pass in a win over SMU, is also expected to return.

Dutton is a baller. The pass rush was less-than-stellar against La Tech when we needed it to be superb. That said, I’m sure it would have been a different game if there was a North Texas offense that was putting pressure on the Bulldogs.

– McCarney acknowledged that the fate of UNT’s season will hinge on its performance away from Apogee Stadium. UNT is 14-6 at Apogee Stadium under McCarney, but is just 6-15 on the road. McCarney attributed that discrepancy largely to the number of major conference opponents and ranked teams UNT has played on the road during his tenure, including Alabama, LSU, Kansas State and Georgia.

This, and attendance are big issues for Danny Mac. He brings them up often. While it is true that we have played Big Schools that are tough to beat, we’ve also lost to Ohio, Tulane, and MTSU and so on. There have been some decidedly un-Major Conference schools in there, too.

– Both McCarney and new starting quarterback Dajon Williams said he grew and gained experience during an open week after his first start against Nicholls. Williams accounted for five touchdowns against the Colonels.

I think the Open Week was likely more informative and educational than the Nicholls game. The QB switch came at the perfect time. Indiana is good, but definitely beatable. It doesn’t have the pressure of a conference game either. Just the perfect situation to have a QB change.

“I feel a lot better than I did last week, but every week you have to prepare for a different team. I got a lot out of the open week, especially going against the ones. It helped motivate us. We pushed harder and moved the ball. If feel if I can move the ball against them, I can move it against anybody because we have one of the best defenses around.”

– Dajon Williams, UNT quarterback

Way to talk up your defense, while also showing you balled out in practice. I like it.

Hattip to Bret Vito.

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Football

BILLY & GREG’S DOUBLE-EAGLE BRACKET COVERAGE: 3

It was another bad week for the QB and the coaching staff has decided to give UNT fans what they all wanted. Moving the much hyped RS FR Dajon Williams to starting QB. What does the move to Dajon do for the offense?

 BillySee58:

The sample size is very small, but it looks like he’s going to do a lot. His running ability gets the most attention from us fans, and the zone-read did help create bigger running lanes than running power and counter from under center against 8-9 man fronts. Even if it wasn’t against the first team defense.

In the passing game Dajon looked much better than Greer has in the pocket. He does a great job of keeping his eyes down field while still being able to feel out the pass rush. We also saw multiple times where we’d have a receiver open down field but Greer would either miss or throw a duck where the receiver would have to come back and dive to get. Dajon did a much better job hitting the receivers in stride.

In the SMU game Darvin Kidsy ran an out route where he got open but had to dive and make a one-handed catch. In somewhat similar plays late against La Tech, Dajon rolled out and hit Kidsy on two hitch routes, square in his chest where he could make a move with the ball and rack up some yards after catch. The same happened down field, as Dajon bought time by sitting in the pocket twice, using his scrambling ability once, as he hit Turner Smiley down field for two big catches. The passes were bullets and Smiley was able to catch the ball and make a move.

Finally, Dajon stood down the blitz and threw a dime to Skip Caldwell down the sideline. Greer’s struggles against the blitz were well noted, as evidenced by how many we saw opposing DCs run. We don’t know if this will revive our offense, and we won’t see this week, but it was the necessary move.

 

Greg:

First off it makes the opposing defensive coordinators have to prepare for a mobile QB. No offense to Josh Greer, but he was pretty much a statue in the pocket. Secondly it gives the offense a spark of explosiveness. I mentioned it after the SMU game that I was in favor of a Dajon package because I thought it could spark the O when things got really stale. Like you mention it opened up running lanes because defenses have to account for him now.

After the La. Tech debacle it was Mac’s only choice to give him a shot. Dajon is the best down the field thrower which this offense needs to be successful. This offense really needs to challenge defenses vertically in order to get those 8-9 front that you talked about to turn into 6 or 7.

As a fan don’t expect to much different plays then you’ve already seen with Dajon. He is not well versed in the playbook. The coaches know this and to their credit they designed a package of plays that they KNEW he could run well. How did they know? Well go look at his high school highlights. Everything he did well in HS are things he is running here. It will be interesting to see how he reacts to being the starter. He has such a calm demeanor on the field, so I don’t expect him to be overwhelmed with the situation. I expect him to put in a workmen like effort on Saturday, nothing crazy. I do think he throws our first TD pass of the season.

Lastly it re-energizes the fan base. After such an ugly loss how many times are there talks of excitement? This may be the most anticipated starting debut by a Mean Green debut. Its also probably the most anticipated starting debut for the entire athletic program since Tony Mitchell.

My Dajon Season Projections: 146-225; 1800 Yards; 13 TDs; 9 INTs; 350 Yards Rushing 3 TDs


 

If Coach Mac gave you to the keys the offense what would you like to see done?

BillySee58:

I’d let him know that starting Dajon is necessary and is not leaving a bad message. He was punished effectively and had to work his way up and have the players in front of him not perform in order to be given an opportunity. It also lets players know that you have to perform on gameday, not just in practice, the film room, weight room, etc.

I’d also let him know that we can mix up the run:pass ratio more, throw more, and run more shotgun without losing our identity as a running team that will wear down a defense. I wouldn’t run Dajon a whole lot. Just enough to keep the opposing DC very conscious of his ability. I also think we can run under center in between the tackles and run with more open space on stretch plays, zone blocking schemes, and jet sweeps for our speedier backs. Our offense can handle different formations, and we have the skill players to make it work. With a dual threat like Dajon, there should be more room to see guys like Harris, Kidsy, Wilson, Ivery, and Evans show off their ability to make plays in the open field.

Greg:

Multiple, multiple, multiple. That is the key to ultimate success. Can you be a team that can spread the field and still run the ball? Can you be a team that goes into a power formation and still be able to pass the ball? If you can do those two things your offense will be pretty damn hard to stop. I believe that is the way I would try to build an offense. To be honest with you I think we have the players with the skill set to accomplish that. The biggest missing piece is the QB position. Dajon is a kid who could grow into a dangerous QB, because he posses the skill set to be a mobile QB and a passer. When you combine those two things together your offense will be dangerous no matter what you run.

I love what a spread offense gives you because it allows me to get athletes in space. You can do it two ways. You can use a spread like Oregon where it’s all about getting the ball out quickly and using yards after catch to destroy a defense, but if you run up against a good tackling team then you’re going to have trouble. You could go the Baylor route and press the ball down the field, but if your OL isn’t dominate a team with a good DL could give you lots of trouble. The one common denominator in each of those offenses is the running game. Each one needs a good running game to allow for maximum explosiveness.

Teams are so enamored with the spread and athletes in space that’s its caused defensive coordinators to change their game. A lot of them are trying to get more speed on the field. You see safeties playing LB and LB’s playing DL. They are sacrificing strength for speed. Wouldn’t it be great if your offense was built to defeat both defenses built on speed and strength. If your defense is slow I can spread you out. If your defense is fast I can over it power.

If I was the OC at UNT I would build and offense that is multiple. One that forces you to defend the whole field, vertically and horizontally. I would keep the power run concepts that already instilled into this team. That is the identity of this team and I love it.  I would utilize more passing out of the power formations and stick to what we already do out of the gun formations. The zone read would become more excusive forcing the defense to be concerned with our mobile QB. I would recruit more mobile QB’s. No more WR’s under 6’0 on the outside. They belong in the slot. I need guys who can win battles in the air down the field on the outside. I need my slot guys to win the matchups underneath. The TE becomes a huge need. I need a guy is athletic enough to beat LB’s and S’s, but tough enough to block. In spread formations a versatile TE can be a total mismatch.  The tempo of my offense would vary. I love speed because the faster we play the less a defense can adjust, but I don’t want to go fast all the time. If we have a lead late in the 3rd or 4th quarter I would let things slow down and let the power run offense do its thing.

I would simply the concepts and reads. Focus on plays that don’t require a rocket scientist to figure out where to go with the ball. The less reads a QB has to make the more efficient he can be. I want the ball out of the QB’s hands as soon as possible. I’m not going to run many pass plays in the middle of the field unless I’m certain he has the mental make up to handle it. I want my offense running at a high efficiency. Always focus on positive yard plays. I have to keep my offense in manageable situations which in turn translates to more scoring opportunities. Any play that is inconsistent or results in negative yardage I’m taking it out.


 

 

 Other than the QB play what other position or unit has you most concerned?

BillySee58:

I am of the opinion that our defense will look a lot better when the offense doesn’t start the game with six straight three-and-outs. But our defense can’t make excuses.

Last year our rush defense was around top 25 in the FBS and our pass defense was more middle of the pack (60s). Not bad, but it can be exploitable and Cody Sokol exploited it. Sokol stood down the blitz all game and kept making the throw and getting back up.

That opened things up for the run game. We defended the run game well early on, but we were missing tackles. We were able to compensate because we were getting off blocks and swarming to the ball. As the game went along we weren’t getting off blocks nearly as well and the missed tackles were more meaningful. You have to give them credit as well. Their receivers, backs, tight ends, and line put on a blocking clinic. A lot to work on for our defense, but they’re capable. Plenty of time to iron things out and get back to the old North Texas D we know.

Greg:

I’m with you on this one. I’m concerned about the secondary. I considered it a strengthen because of the talent and returning starters back there. Against good passing teams we are going to struggle. Much of the problem against La Tech was match-ups. I just think what they did well was something that we chose to give up. They hit us with quick passes and where UNT normally excels in tacking it didn’t this game.

Every time LT got Fred Scott in man coverage they attacked him. Scott can defend the run, but will struggle against teams that leak their backs out. It almost seemed like the refs where so aggressive in their flag throwing that it took away some of our DB’s aggressiveness. I was concerned that we got beat over the top. That is something that is unacceptable in this defense and it happened multiple times. Also I was concerned with the fact that our safeties were biting on play action at a time when LT wasn’t effective in running the ball. They had their eyes in the backfield instead of reading their keys.


 

 

With the loss of two key playmakers from last years recruiting class in Jalen Adams and Fonzale Davis does UNT need to look for more this year?

BillySee58:

With so many young playmakers it’s not a dire need. With Wilson and Evans being good freshman backs I could see Ivery moving to slot with Davis and Adams guys gone from there. Could also re-open the door for Fonzale to be a part of our 2016 recruiting class after he finishes his two years at his JUCO (Kilgore).

It also may open a door for Trinity Valley CC WR Jarvis Baxter. Baxter is having his second straight solid season for TVCC and he has visited UNT multiple times. He’s waiting things out, but I think he’s ours if we take him. A high school guy is Dallas Skyline receiver Savon Rollinson. Not super fast or big, but his quickness could make him a tailor made slot. Had over 200 yards receiving a couple weeks ago and we are his closest offer, and we are coming off the best season out of schools who have offered him. The question with these two is do we take a slot receiver with limited spots in this class remaining.

A couple other receivers to watch are Greenville’s D’erren Wilson and South Garland’s Jermininc Smith. Both are more outside receivers, but we would take one if one wanted to commit. Wilson has been here as recently as the SMU game and has 9 offers, but we are his only in-state FBS offer. Smith is the younger brother of Darnell Smith. Smith has plenty of other offers, but being Darnell’s little brother gives us some help there. Both are having big senior years as well.


 

 

Would you take another QB in this class or hope that Dajon and Connor Means can shoulder the load for the future?

BillySee58:

That’s a really tough one. I really like Chandler Eiland out of Canton (teammate of 2015 DE commit Sam Miller). Having a redshirt freshman qb can have its drawbacks, depth wise. If Chumley moves to tight end, Means decides to not sit behind Dajon for four years and transfer, and Mcnulty and Greer graduate, we may have a little trouble backing up Dajon and finding a ready successor.

It’s hard to tell your current guys “we’re bringing him in for when we move you to tight end” or “for if you decide to transfer.” It’s also hard to have 6 scholarship qbs on your roster. That being said, I would take one if it’s a guy I feel really confident in. I’d understand if we choose not to, but if so we better make sure we get a solid one next class (2016).

 


I want to thank BillySee58 for his great insight. If you guys have  topics or questions that you would like us to cover please let me know and we will work those into these pieces every week. You can send us your questions through the messenger function on GMG.com or by these applications

Twitter: @MGN_BREAKDOWN

Twitter: Use #MGNCover2

Email: g.goedecker@gmail.com

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SMWHO? North Texas 43 SMU 6

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

Offense: B

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.

Defense: A+

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.

Coaching: B

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.


  1. A healthy choice! Good for you! 
  2. Freshman Sensation! 
  3. @BleedTechBlue gave me more fan-opposition on Sunday than any SMU fan did all week. Even more reason to put “rival” in quotes. 
  4. 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. 
  5. Or at least being competitive for goodness sake. 
  6. I refuse to spell this “correctly” because it brings me such joy. Inside jokes are the best jokes. 
  7. 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. 
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MGN Film Room: Texas

Welcome to the first MGN Film Room session of 2014. Unfortunately we do not have many fun plays at which to look. The best thing to do is look at our worst passing plays of the first half. Why the first and not the second? Well, we combined for three interceptions and a couple of back-breaking sacks in the only half where we had a chance. Let’s take a look at them in order.

First up: Josh Greer early in the first half. North Texas was on its second possession and the defense was playing well. A decent drive would — at the very least — give the defense some good field position to challenge Texas’ offense with.

Here is how it ended:

Greer's First INT
Greer’s First INT

Let’s go through the above. The play call is a version of Levels , a play that does a great job of beating Cover 2. That is exactly what Texas was in so this should have been a successful pass play.

Texas had three down lineman and the linebackers showed blitz. Instead of bringing everyone, they brought only five, and dropped a linebacker into the middle. Greer and Marcus Smith both see the LB. Smith adjusts his route enough to get open in space. Greer simply misses him badly. If he puts the ball about knee-height we’d likely have seen Smith make the catch and avoid the big hit.

Conclusion: This was the right read, the line had good protection, the receiver ran a decent route.1 This should have been a completion.

Next Interception: Josh Greer’s second interception of the day was his worst.

greer INT
Josh Greer’s second interception

The play call is all hitch routes. The idea here is to have an easy read and throw for the QB, and get most, if not all, of the yardage necessary for a first down. It is a fairly conservative play call. The problem was that Texas had this completely blanketed. Because Greer never looks left, he misses the “hot” read in the left slot. This wasn’t going to be open to him unless he saw it immediately. Greg and I discussed the reads Greer has on the podcast. It very well may be that Canales has him only reading half the field here. As both receivers are blanketed by one Texas defender, a normal read would be to the left. This play was designed to get the ball out quickly, and Josh was likely going to get sacked if he did anything else but throw it away. Instead, he tries to force the throw to Darius Terrell, who is doing a good job of adjusting his route. It looks to me like he was going to head for the space int he middle of the field behind Hicks. He wasn’t going to be open, but at least he was trying.

Conclusion:This was likely the only read Josh had so we’ll say it was wrong. I’m not sure, but I’d bet the QB is reading the flats defender. If he takes the outside away, the throw is to the slot (Terrell). He never saw Hicks and that is why he threw it right to him. He didn’t see him because he was staring down his target. There was nothing fancy by Texas defensively, nor was there any great pressure. This should have been a pass into the second row above Carlos Harris’ head.

Greer was benched right after this.

Andrew McNulty benefited from some nice runs from his backs before had a pass play called for him.

It wasn’t pretty.

Minimac sacked
Andrew McNulty sacked

At first glance this looks like RB Reggie Pegram’s fault. I certainly blamed him from my vantage point in Section 31. Texas brings seven men, and UNT blocks with five. If Reggie had stayed in and blocked the free man down the middle Andrew would have had his pick of open guys before the free blitzer got close. Look again how open his outside receiver is when he reaches the end of his drop.

When we look at it from a different angle we can see why Coach McCarney and company were so angry with the offensive line.

Sacked again
Endzone view of sack-eration

Texas had their defensive end lined up wide and the Mean Green offensive line slide over to compensate. I’m not familiar enough with the NT protection scheme to tell you exactly what should have happened, but you can see the miscommunication. It seems to me that Kaydon Kirby should have picked up Texas’ 99 and Y’Barbo should have picked up Texas’ 7. The rules might be that the entire line was supposed to slide, in which case it is Antonio Johnson we should be upset with. We do know that there was miscommunication.

Conclusion: Here is the poor line play that we heard about all week from the coaches, and Y’Barbo himself. This could have been a big gain if Mini-Mac had some time to throw. Instead, NT was forced to punt, and Texas scored on the ensuing drive.

Down 21-0 with no offense to speak of and the defense tiring quickly without any rest, any hopes of keeping it a game vanished after Andy threw his first interception, North Texas’ third.

Operating from midfield with just under a minute remaining, there was plenty of time to get in scoring position. Facing 2nd and 5 against a soft Texas prevent defense, Mike Canales called Four Verticals, the best passing play in football.

Mac's 2nd INT
Andrew McNulty’s first interception

If you’ve watched Mike Leach’s Texas Tech (or any Air Raid team for that matter) you’ve likely seen this play. If you’ve played any NCAA Football you’ve likely called this play. Andrew McNulty’s man was running right down the middle and was overthrown at fifteen yards. This particular play has a play-fake built in. The blitzing DB didn’t bite on the fake and McNulty did not step into his throw. You can judge for yourself if he is avoiding contact or just doesn’t step into his throw for some other reason.

Conclusion: This should have been an 18-yard completion that would have put North Texas in a good spot with plenty of time left and three time-outs.

If North Texas was ever going to produce an upset they needed each of the above plays to have been successful, or at least not as bad as they were. It is simplistic and pretty obvious but football isn’t an overly complicated game. Squandering opportunities so easily was frustrating and you can see why the quarterback competition is going to be re-opened.2 The other passes called ended with a kneel down, poorly thrown balls, and a few more sacks. Take the poor throws you see above and imagine them hitting the ground instead of the other team. That was all the variety we saw.


  1. He should have taken his route to the first down marker or right underneath to put vertical pressure on the secondary. That would create the space he would need in the middle. As it was, the DBs were waiting on this route combination. 
  2. I don’t know how much of this is just motivation. We shall see. 
Categories
Football

Tuesday Morning Thoughts – Lets Analyze

It’s a new week and that means there should be new hope around the UNT football team.  I know some fans are pushing the panic button, but I believe we have to wait till we play SMU before we push it.

1QB competition has been reopen. Not sure I totally agree with this idea. I also believe that the QB competition hindered the offense on Saturday night. I’m a full believer that if your preparing a new QB that he needs as many reps as he can get with the first team in order to establish a rhythm. You saw the effects on Saturday night. The offense was in no rhythm and it looked atrocious. Pick your guy and stick with him. Give him all the coaching and reps in order to get him prepared. Josh Greer was not prepared for what unfolded Saturday night. Now by opening up the competition your opening up yourself to the same thing that happened on Saturday. How will reps be split? Is this still a 2 man competition? Or will all 4 be given a fair shot? Just saying I hope this ends well, but I have my concerns. For all the Derek Thompson haters – ” Do you miss me now”


2. Could we just stop the Dajon can be our hero song? In case you missed it Coach Mac said on his radio show that he didn’t even think about putting in the RS FR against Texas. His reasoning is that Dajon is not ready and has missed practices. The coaches like his talent otherwise they would have dismissed the young man already. UNT coaches and fans are hoping the light clicks on for Dajon. I’m saying dont count on it.


3. My CUSA Power Poll. 

1. Marshall

2. UTSA
3. Western Kentucky
4. MTSU
5. Rice
6. LA Tech
7. UNT
8. UTEP
9. ODU
10. UAB
11. FAU
12. Southern Miss
13. FIU
Here is the Underdog Dynasty – Power Rankings

4. If you thought UNT’s offense was bad, well our next week opponent SMU’s wasnt much better. The Mustangs only managed to gain 67 total yards.

5. UNT’s avg distance to go on 3rd down was 7.4 yards. That needs to be more like 4 with a young QB. It reflected as UNT was only able to convert 3 of 15. The 3 times they did convert the yards to go were 1,1, and 2. Let that sink in.

6. Lets go back and look at what I thought were our keys for achieving victory vs. UT last Saturday.

Game Plan for Victory

OFFENSE (1 out of 10)

Limit mistakes and missed assignments                                                                                                                                   No not even close there were blown assignments all over the place. Plus tons of miss reads by the QBs, drop passes,     missed running lanes. It was just U-G-L-Y

Have a run to pass ratio of  at least 60% to 40%                                                                                                                     Hit this one, although it was a leaning a little too much towards the run. UNT’s run pass ratio was 72% run 28% pass.

Hit at least 46 rushing attempt                                                                                                                                                Nope only got 43.

Average 5 yards per 1st down play                                                                                                                                             Not even close 2.86

Average 6 yards per play through the game                                                                                                                            Not even close 1.5 YPP.

Get close to 180 yards passing and rushing                                                                                                                             15 Yards passing, 79 yards rushing. Just stinky

Convert over 40% of 3rd downs                                                                                                                                                     No 20%

Ease Josh Greer into the game with easy throws                                                                                                              Nope. Coach Canales needs to do a much better job with this aspect this week.

Make Texas read and react rather than let them play downhill and fast                                                               Texas was very aggressive all game long and UNT never really challenged them. UNT was never able to slow them down or put UT on its heels.

Score over 24 points                                                                                                                                                                    No

DEFENSE (5 out of 10)

Force Texas to have a run to pass ratio of 42% to 58%                                                                                                   Run 46% Pass 54%

Force Texas into a passing down at least 65% of the time on 3rd downs                                                               Yes! The UNT D was able to force Texas to be in a 3&5 or longer 87% of the time. That’s a pretty remarkable stat.

Limit Texas to under 150 yards rushing                                                                                                                             Close, but not quite. UT had 164 yards on the ground.

Limit Texas to under 250 yards passing                                                                                                                             Yes.  190 yards passing

Limit Texas to under 5 yards per play                                                                                                                                  Yes. Texas had 4.74 YPP

Limit Texas to under 40% 3rd down conversation rate                                                                                                 Yes. 27%

Force 2 Texas turnovers                                                                                                                                                              Yes. 2 TO’s

Force David Ash to beat you over the top                                                                                                                            Ash never really had to or tried to throw it deep.

Don’t let the OL get engaged with their blocks, beat them off the snap and penetrate                                      For the most part the DL did a pretty good job. On those long runs you could see where the UNT DL got walled off which lead to a nice hole for the UT back to run through.

Limit Texas to under 21 points                                                                                                                                               No. I’ll say that they gave up 24 points when Texas actually had to drive the ball more than 50 yards against them.


 

 7. My MVP’s for the UT game were:

Offense – Reggie Pegram

Defense – Kenny Buyers

Special Teams – Blake Macek


 

8. Vegas has the early line at -3.5 in UNT’s favor over SMU. That basically is just accounting for home field advantage. It will be interesting to see what the over/under ends up being.


9.  Dan McCarney after a loss is 11-6 and 12-5 at home. Those are reasons to hope right there folks. If there is one thing I’ve learned about Coach McCarney is that his teams are generally really well prepared. When they play games that were just bad their next week they came out and really played well.


 

10. Bold Prediction of the Week – Josh Greer will be the most improved QB in the country. His QB efficiency will go from a -12.5 to 84.4.

 

 

Categories
MGN Podcast

30: Awful With A Chance of Sunshine

Hello ladies and gents, listen as Greg and Adam breakdown the two-deep roster and talk Texas game, the biggest game in the history of North Texas Football?

Official Podcast of the Unofficial UNT sports blog Mean Green Nation! had Greg Goedecker and on to talk about the Mean Green.

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.

We are also in the iTunes store.

You can contact the podcast at podcast@meangreennation.com.

Important Links:

MGN30 download link

Categories
Football

Underdog Dynasty: Can Danny Mac Keep It Going?

Your favorite blogger has contributed a bit to Underdog Dynasty. Go read it so he can boast to his mom about the fantastic page views.

Categories
Football

2014 Preview: Offensive Outlook & Coaching Staff

Editor’s note: The following is part 3 of the comprehensive Season Preview Breakdown that can be found here, in pdf form. Follow @MGN_Breakdown for more stuff from Greg and @meangreennation for more MGN.

See Part 1 here
See Part 2 here
*

On the offensive side of the ball UNT will be trying to replace some of the most productive players and explosive players the program has ever had.

A quick look at what McCarney will be replacing: 7248 total yards, 44 touchdowns, 13 offensive line starts, and 60% of all the passing targets from last year. Gaudy numbers indeed. Replacing guys like Brelan Chancellor and Darnell Smith will not be easy. Offensive Coordinator Mike Canales will lean on Carlos Harris, Darvin Kidsy, and Darius Terrell. They should provide a solid group of targets for whomever wins the starting QB job.

Also look for production from Turner Smiley, John Chelf, and Carl Caldwell. It would also not be surprising to see one of the true freshmen make some kind of impact. The most dynamic of the freshmen group may be Tee Goree who destroyed his high school competition. The WR group looks to be a fun to watch once the fall rolls around. In discussing the receiving core one can’t forget the TE. Last year’s group was nothing flashy, but they were solid and did exactly what was needed. This year TE Marcus Smith returns and he looks to build upon what was a great ending to the year. If Smith can improve his catching he has the ability to be a difference maker for the Mean Green. At 6-4, 255 he is a match-up nightmare for opposing defenses.

At running back the program is loaded with good talent. Yes, Brandin Byrd was a great productive back, but together Antonnie Jimmerson and Reggie Pegram could match his production. That’s only two of the players who will get touches.  Guys like Erick Evans, Mark Lewis, Rex Rollins, and possibly FR Willey Ivery could all get looks. All of whom have shown ability to make big plays. It will be a crowded backfield, but that’s exactly how UNT likes it. Each one of the guys mentioned brings a little something different. Jimmerson is shifty, while Pegram is a bruiser. Evans is lightning quick while Lewis excels in short yardage situations.

Finally, and what may be the most vital group to the team’s success is the offensive line. This group will return 4 out of the 5 starters. Two of the guys in this group Cyril Lemon and Antonio Johnson could end up being the guys that break the draft-drought for North Texas. Cyril Lemon has started every game the past three years, which is quite the feat. Lemon who has played OG for most if not all his time at UNT will get a chance to spread his wings this year with a move to OT. Moving into Lemon’s guard spot will be Shawn McKinney. McKinney played in 12 games last year and started 2 at RG. Shawn is a mountain of a man standing at 6’4 365 lbs, he will be a key part is clearing paths for the UNT run game. Center Kaydon Kirby was a great success story last year, coming from nowhere to earn the starting job. He is only a RS-Sophmore and should benefit from starting 13 games last year. Starting at LG will be SR Mason Y’Barbo. Y’Barbo is the nasty man of the offensive line. He not only looks the part of a tough rugged man he plays the part too. Finally at LT will be Antonio Johnson who has been a starter since his FR year. He has been a rock at the LT position for UNT. This group have been outstanding during their years here. The past two they have given up the fewest sacks in the country while also helping the running game amass over 4400 yards.

This year’s offense attack will not differ from years past under Coach McCarney and Coach Canales. It will be focused on a punishing running game and ball protection. Canales will also not shy away from taking shots down the field when it has the opportunity.

What is different from years past is that there is new quality talent ready to step up and replace the stars of the past right away. In 2011 & 12 it was a huge question mark if there were any play makers on the team– outside of a few names. Now it is a question of which guy out of 5 or 6 will step up. Unlike years past the talent is there; now that talent just needs to be paired with opportunity. There will be plenty of opportunity for the new guys to put their stamp on this 2014 UNT football team. This year’s offense has explosive ability. Five or six WRs have the ability to turn 5 yard catches into 20+. The running backs are explosive and powerful, and at least 2 or 3 of them could have 100+ yard games. The quarterback position is a question, but the guys battling for the job provide a boost in athleticism. UNT could also see more production from the QB-run game. It all adds up to an offense that has the potential to take people by surprise. The question is, how long will it take for everything to come together?

COACHING STAFF

Coach McCarney lost two of his key assistants this offseason and both of them were on the defensive side of the ball. There are no worries because of his connections and respect in the college football landscape he was able to replace the departures with quality hires. The new DL coach is Kevin Patrick who spent time with Coach Mac in South Florida. In the secondary the new hires are Perry Carter (Safeties) and LaMarcus Hicks (Corners). Both of these guys spent time in the NFL as players. Coach Carter was recently coaching with the Houston Texans. Coach Hicks coached DB’s at Concordia University in 2013. Hicks is a previous player for Coach Mac at Iowa St.

The coaching staff at UNT is one of the best in CUSA and in the state of Texas. Most of the coaches have been with Danny Mac since he started at UNT. They’ve played a tremendous role in resurrecting UNT from the college football graveyard. While some fans criticize play calling, development, and other things I will chose to congratulate this staff on what they’ve accomplished. There are a lot of wise men on this staff and the fan base is lucky to have such a great collection of coaches for cheap.

Categories
Football Football Recaps

North Texas 36 – UNLV 14: Heart of Dallas Bowl Champs

I walked up the steps of the Cotton Bowl and before me was a sea of Green and White. It was damn near the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

Enthusiasm needs fuel. Wins are fuel. The aura from the glory years in the early 2000s was dimming as the years passed on. Apogee’s shine was not so bright anymore, either. The program needed a banner year to get the casuals excited and the fan base recharged.

They delivered.

Nine win seasons aren’t special to other programs — Powerhouse U puts up 9 wins before November, Roll Damn Aggie or whatever — but this isn’t about them. This is about NorthTexas. Specifically — why not North Texas? Why Not bowl games? Why not championships?

Part of having your own football team is enjoying all the cool stuff that comes with it. We’ve had plenty of the losing. We are ready for the winning and the spoils thereof. With winning comes bowl invites. There are many things wrong with the bowl system, the college football system, and college athletics in general, but part of the reason the system perpetuates is that there can be had a whole lot of fun. New Years Day was our time to have a little of that naughty, corrupt, hypocritical fun. It was great.

For a good number of people — myself included — that was our first winning season and our first bowl. This explains a lot of the running on the field in both action and execution. It was done (yay) and it was slow and cautious (huh?). No matter. It was a helluva great way to send off some of the most dynamic and charismatic leaders on the team. That is what a ‘crappy’ bowl feels like? Sign me up for more crap. I’m sure after a string of sustained success we’ll grumble at a Heart of Dallas Bowl invite. I’ll sneer at playing UNLV, and complain about conference championships. Such is life. The journey to being jaded is paved with wins. I look forward to becoming that guy.

Really, if you can’t enjoy competition for it’s own sake, you have some issues. There was a bowl game there for the winning, and dammit if that isn’t reason enough to give it their all, and for you as a fan to go out and cheer. After all, the biggest and most important games are the ones right in front of you.

There was so much to love and so much happening in and around the bowl game. I tried to participate in a little bit of everything as best I could. I didn’t make the big tailgate as I was in the parking lot drinking with twitter friends. I did take a walk around the stadium and mingle, watched the band walk in. The best part was listening to the fans talk about the season and the team. There is and was so much more enthusiasm than I have seen ever before. It’s tremendous.

The Buildup

We couldn’t have planned for a more perfect set up for the bowl game. It was located in Dallas, at the historic Cotton Bowl, and both TCU and SMU are not in the postseason. All eyes and ears were on The Mean Green. The little Ticket had a one hour special on the game on Monday night, the Omni was glowing green and white all NYE, and the trains from Denton were full of fans.

And the opponent was perfect. However much a game against a Big Ten team would help help raise even more awareness, UNLV didn’t steal any of our shine. And we already beat a middling Big Ten team here in DFW (Indiana at Apogee a couple seasons ago). They were good enough to take seriously, but not enough for anyone outside of DFW to get excited about.

Again, the shine was ours and ours alone.

Let it be known that UNLV fans were great in the small doses of them I got. The only ones I had any interaction with were the two outside our hotel that my buddy heckled. “F^&% UNLV!! UNT!! UNT!! EAGLES FLY HIGH!” I don’t know why he chose these to use but it was hilarious. Also, I think I saw them again behind me in the beer line at the Cotton Bowl. Hilarity

According to MeanGreenSports, we had the most DFW area viewers among the bowl games on at that time, too.

The Game

The stadium was rickety, and full of history. It was simultaneously great as it was and also in need of repair/renovation immediately. I had little doubt about the outcome other than the Mean Green have had terrible luck coming off of byes. After a back-and-forth first half that featured some offensive sputtering, the hard hitting by the defense that brought us here and the timely throws, and solid run game that has supported it, put it away. Lots of folks remarked at the hits. The defense’s reputation as the hardest hitting team anyone has faced remained intact.

The best part of the game wasn’t necessarily the team and the game they played. I’ve seen that all season. No, the 38,380 largely UNT crowd was the best part. It was the biggest UNT crowd I’ve seen in my life. Selling out Apogee starts somewhere and that was at the Cotton Bowl. We aren’t Texas, or A&M, or hell –even ECU and that is fine with me. Our bowl record is now at three wins in 100 years and I am neither ashamed nor proud of it. It simply is. The great thing is that we have a chance to improve all these things with this staff, that stadium, this conference, and hopefully, these fans that were at the Heart of Dallas Bowl on New Years Day.

Mean Green Fans at HOD Bowl
]2 Mean Green Fans at HOD Bowl

Zach Orr put on a show, Marcus Trice laid some hits, Brandin Byrd pulled off a nice run that was called back, and Derek Thompson threw a couple of TD strikes. In the end the team put on a show that looked a lot like the game against Tulsa. It is because they played so well and did it seemingly without tremendous effort that you can be forgiven for wondering What If We Beat UTSA? It doesn’t matter. This was the perfect way to end the season. Everyone needed this. The players, the coach, Rick Villareal, me. We all needed to go out on top, declare ourselves champions and put up some pictures in the hallways.

The Aftermath

It was the slowest rushing the field ever. That is fine. I heard a few rumors of a rush before the game among a few folks. When the game ended, a few kids jumped over the railings, evaded the slow cops and made their way into the fray. For me, the rest of the day was a euphoric blur. I’ve rooted for teams that have won championships before, and this didn’t feel like that. It felt a little like Dan McCarney said — a beginning — but it was also an end. It was a way to send out some guys that have been a part of making the program respectable. They deserved that. We’ve seen too many all-time North Texas greats go out with losses in front of sparse crowds.

One of the sneaky addicting part of bowl games is the chance to go out on top. We ended the year in disappointment — lost the chance to win the play for the conference championship by losing to a first year (very good) team at home, in front of a decent crowd. Sure, we beat Tulsa on the road. Sending everyone out at home, in front of the most UNT fans these guys have played for in their career? That is something. Who said bowls don’t mean anything?

GoMeanGreen