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Football

Senior Day 2014: UNT v FIU

This senior day is no where near as festive as it was in 2013. That is something we’ve been saying all year. This team has had to live in the looming shadow of the greatest North Texas team in a decade and it hasn’t quite done a great job of doing so. The more reasonable among us knew that 2014 was kind of a singular year that would be difficult to reproduce, not in number of wins necessarily, but in method. The defense and special teams were all-time great. Not only did they prevent scoring at a ridiculous rate, they scored as well. The special teams blocked kicks, and returned them while covering kicks well. The defense stopped teams and scored points. The offense was really just a place holder compared to the other units.

Being human and all, it was hard not to look at last year and think “What if we had an offense that was just as good?.”

Well I think we’d get something akin to what Marshall is doing in CUSA this year.

This season hasn’t been as good. The defense isn’t as dominant and the place-holder offense would be an improvement. The special teams hasn’t had nearly the stage to shine, but they’ve been good.

And it is in that light that we say goodbye to the latest crop of seniors, some of whom were major contributors to both the greatest season in the last decade and this more disappointing one.

It is always easy to get caught up in the present struggles and forget to be appreciative for the contributions they’ve made.

Derek Akunne

North Texas has produced a good-to-great linebacker regularly. Derek Akunne follows Zach Orr, who followed Tobe Nwigwe and Craig Robertson. The list goes on.1 He has had three straight years of 90+ tackles. He leads the conference (and team, duh) with 92 so far. He’ll finish with 300+ for his career. He’s started 34 straight games

Cyril Lemon & Mason Y’Barbo & Antonio Johnson & Shawn McKinney

For all the hype the line has gotten, they still are underrated. We can only numerically define their contributions indirectly with the sacks they didn’t give up or the yardage that other guys got. Such is the life of a lineman. In their four years at North Texas they helped spring some of the more memorable rushing performances, protected Derek Thompson in a way that no other FBS QB was protected, and led the offense in the locker room. They will be missed.

James Jones

Much like MGN favorite Kenny Buyers, he stepped in to a secondary that was struggling and did an unheralded job of making the 2013 defense fearsome. He can tackle, cover, and hit. Those were the the missing pieces in the secondary that turned a bend-but-don’t-break defense into one that broke offenses and scored points. He has scored a couple of touchdowns this year and were it not for the overall poor performance of the collective, we’ be raving about his individual performance this year.

Lairamie Lee

What is there to say about HitStick Lee that hasn’t already been shouted? Another victim of a collective down year, he excelled in last year’s scheme that allowed him to play downhill. He is a turnover machines, forcing fumbles, interceptions and making the runners pay for entering his area.

Highlights:

Reggie Pegram

He nearly stole the show from UNT legend Brandin Byrd last season. Were it not for that injury, he might have had those 80-yard runs that Byrd did. This seasons he’s been slightly limited in his explosiveness. That mostly has to do with the injury. he’s still been good, a smart runner who knows when to put his head down but can still bounce it outside for big yards.

Others

WR Carl Caldwell, WR John Chelf, DS Blake Dunham, DT Alex Lincoln, DE Daryl Mason, TE Tanner Smith, WR Derrick Teegarden, WR Darius Terrell, DB Sheldon Wade

Be sure to get out to the game and if you can’t for some reason, to at least watch their last home game. Next week is when I’ll be saying goodbye in San Antonio


  1. Also Cody Spencer is there, too. 
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Football Football Recaps

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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Football

2014 Season Preview: Defensive Outlook

Editor’s note: The following is part 2 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

Another big story line is replacing all the senior leadership and production on the defensive side of the ball. Gone are Zach Orr, Marcus Trice, Aarron Bellazin, Richard Abbe, Ryan Boutwell, Brandon McCoy, and Will Wright. The Mean Green must replace 421 tackles, 47.5 tackles for loss, 24 sacks, 17 QB hurries, 18 pass break ups, 7 interceptions, 5 fumble recoveries, 7 forced fumbles, and 4 blocked kicks.

That’s a ton of production to replace and it won’t be easy.

The hardest hit area by departures is defensive line. McCarney is trying to replace four starters. Replacing production isn’t enough. They will need to replace the size also. Richard Abbe took up quite a bit of space and now there is a huge void left in the middle of the defense. Legendary Coach Paul Brown always believed in building down the middle first. UNT lost its big guy in the middle of the defensive line, the middle line backer, and the center-field safety. It is tough to rebuild from those kind of losses. Nevertheless, the Mean Green will try to reload with young up and coming talent. Austin Orr and Alexander Lincoln two undersized-but-quick interior defensive linemen will do their best to fill the voids left behind. On the outside of the DL McCarney will look to SR Daryl Mason, Chad Polk, Jarrian Roberts, and Malik Dilonga to get pressure on the QB. Polk and Roberts had strong springs and are good pass rushers. Dilonga also had a great spring which earned him a starting spot heading into fall camp. Mason, who started a few games last year, will try to anchor this group. He has the most experience out of the group and could be in for a breakout year.

Replacing the linebackers you can expect to hear the names Fred Scott, Sed Ellis, Jamal Marshall, and Calvin Minor. It’s a young group, but talented. They fly around and hit with a purpose. Scott will most likely be the day-one starter at MLB. Minor, Marshall, and Ellis will be battling it out for the other OLB spot. All of those guys are a bit slim, but they can cover a lot of ground and are really athletic. The final OLB spot will be held down by returning veteran Derek Akunne. Akunne is the leader of the entire defense. He has a chance to be an all-conference player this year.

The secondary will be the strength of the 2014 Mean Green defense. Led by returning starters Lairamie Lee, James Jones, and Kenny Buyers the secondary should be nasty good. Lee is a punishing hitter, Jones is a good solid starter and vocal leader, and Buyers who may be one of the best tacklers on the team. Zac Whitfield, a guy with good coverage ability, also returns this year. The only issue the secondary faces is trying to replace Marcus Trice. Coming out of spring it was a two man battle between Freddie Warner and Sheldon Wade.

Any time you’re trying to replace the kind of production that North Texas had is it’s going to be hard. The good news is the guys replacing starters have spent a year or two under the same system. The new guys understand what’s expected of them and most importantly they’ve got a good view of what it takes to be successful from last year’s seniors. Can you ask for better mentors than guys like Zach Orr, Marcus Trice, and Brandon McCoy? Spending 1 or 2 years learning the John Skladany system will only help the young guys in the decision making process on the field. Those few extra seconds of knowing what to do in a certain situation could be the difference in giving up a TD and getting a 3-and-out. This year’s group is not going to step onto the field and dominate like last year’s unit. They are going to make mistakes and miss assignments, but that’s just part of learning. By the end of the season the UNT defense could be one of the best in the conference. They have the athletic ability and talent to be really good. They just need the live action to get their feet under them. This should be a really fun group to watch.

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Film Room: Stopping The Run

Much was made of the Rice team’s ability to run the ball. North Texas’ defense did a hell of a job corralling that phase of the game, and despite allowing Charles Ross 101 yards, Rice’s run game wasn’t much of a factor. They couldn’t run when they needed to (ahem, goal line?) and most of their yardage came between the 30 yard lines, where it looks good on paper, but didn’t have much effect on the game.

Here is an example of Rice trying to get a little counter going and run to the edge with Ross. The biggest asset to NT’s defense has been the tremendous play by the defensive line. Here, Sarge and Richard Abbe get into the backfield, forcing Chuck Ross outside. Will Wright has been tremendous this year in shedding blocks or avoiding them altogether. Here the H-back is supposed to stick Wright and spring Ross outside the hash marks. Will Wright instead avoids the block, gets contain (that’s what they teach you!) to force Ross to cut back. That normally would be fine with Rice except the defensive line got so far upfield that Ross already had to take the long way. His cut back is right into the the waiting arms of Aaron Bellazin who does a great job flowing down the line to the ball.

contain_rice

Here is an example of Rice trying to get something going inside after failing to go East-West. Fortunately, James Jones was running a corner blitz that forced Ross inside into the waiting arms of Derek Akkune. Notice Will Wright and Bellazin have McHargue accounted for (which is why he optioned to Ross). Rice did have some success on these plays, which is why Ross got up to 101, but not much. Even when NT didn’t have a CB Blitz on, Ross was wrangled by Jones and Buyers. Marcus Trice and Lairamie Lee also did a good job flying up to make tackles on the edge. The fumble that Zach Orr ran in for a TD is an excellent example of that.

zoneread

Finally, take a look at the sheer bravado of Skladany and company for having the defense line up in basically a 4-4 look. This play had no chance from a numbers perspective. Offenses try to discourage this by taking advantage of the soft coverage behind such a run-defensive look. The problem? Well the great tackling by the corners. All that soft coverage looks tempting for a quick throw, but when the corners come up, stick the WRs and hold them to a three yard gain? Well there is no incentive for the defensive to get less aggressive. Rice did find some success play-actioning off of this action. Zach Orr did mess up one where he was clearly beat — he recovered and tipped the ball that led to that interception. That is Brian Urlacher-type stuff there. Last year Arkansas State ate the defense up with that play-action type stuff. Also, the tackling on the edges wasn’t nearly as good and so the interior wasn’t able to do the aggressive things they are doing now.

zoneread

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North Texas 28 Rice 16 — BOWL ELIGIBILITY!

pic via @Christin_Nicole

My favorite statistic is this one: North Texas has only allowed one touchdown in the second half in the last five games. That includes tonight’s game. Rice scored their last touchdown (and point) with nine minutes remaining in the second quarter to take a 16-7 lead.

Tonight was epic. It was amazing. It was the greatest game I’ve watched North Texas football play since last year, where Antoinne Jimmerson danced into the end zone after catching a screen. It made lots of people proud to be associated with the university. Sports is silly like that.

Also silly? The crowd. More specifically the student crowd. It was the most packed the student section has been ever. They were loud and boisterous and someone even said they got David Bailiff to turn and curse at them.

Awesome.

As someone said on twitter, this is what a home field advantage should be.

After 8 years, North Texas is bowl eligible and has a realistic chance of going 9-3 and having a shot at a CUSA championship in year one. For long suffering fans, this was a dream come true. For new fans, this was hopefully a sign of things to come. For both, it is a demonstration of the full power of a Dan McCarney coached team. That guy. He’s good.

It was also a game where the offense got out gained by 100 yards, the run game failed to get 150 yards, the pass game got only 100+ yards and threw a pick. The defense and special teams (read: Brelan Chancellor) were the stars of the game and that’s okay. That’s what teams are. Petros Papadakis said it best: this team is built around the defense and plays to their strengths. They run to eat up clock. They score when they get set up by the defense. They punt when they can’t get a first down. Tonight, that’s all they needed to do.

Things To Be Excited About

The defense. I can’t remember a goal line stand in North Texas history that is better. Maybe the Tobe Nwigwe 97-yard interception return to win the game against WKU a few years back is the nearest one to this. But tonight’s epic, 8-down display was likely the best I’ll ever see. After Rice’s McHargue scampered his way down to the NT 3-yard line it looked like the good guys would be giving up just their second TD in a second half in five game. Instead Marcus Trice #hitstick’d Chuck Ross on a speed option. Then Sarge McCoy and Zach Orr shut down the next two runs. On 4th down Zac Whitfied was called for holding and Rice had second life. They proceeded to more runs and one more pass that had a net gain of all of one yard. After that, in a fourth down play that seemed to last 100 seconds, McHargue escaped two D-lineman ran back to the 30, scrambled up, pump faked, and finally was nailed by Lairamie Lee with a perfect form tackle. Taylor McHargue lay prone on the field from exhaustion for a few moments after that.

Here is the play-by-play. Print it out and look at it from time to time. I might.

Rice at 15:00

1st and 10 at RICE 49
NORTH TEXAS penalty 15 yard personal foul on LaChris Anyiam accepted.
1st and 10 at UNT 36
Taylor McHargue pass complete to Jordan Taylor for 1 yard to the NoTex 35, tackled by Kenny Buyers.
2nd and 9 at UNT 35
Darik Dillard rush for 1 yard to the NoTex 34, tackled by Will Wright.
 3rd and 8 at UNT 34
Taylor McHargue pass complete to Jordan Taylor for 5 yards to the NoTex 29.
 4th and 3 at UNT 29
NORTH TEXAS penalty 5 yard offside on Brandon McCoy accepted.
 1st and 10 at UNT 24
Taylor McHargue rush for 23 yards to the NoTex 1, tackled by Marcus Trice for a 1ST down.
 1st and Goal at UNT 1
Darik Dillard rush for a loss of 2 yards to the NoTex 3, tackled by Marcus Trice.
 2nd and Goal at UNT 3
Taylor McHargue rush for 2 yards to the NoTex 1, tackled by Brandon McCoy.
 3rd and Goal at UNT 1
Jeremy Eddington rush for a loss of 5 yards to the NoTex 6, tackled by Zach Orr.
 4th and Goal at UNT 6
NORTH TEXAS penalty 3 yard holding on N/A accepted.
 1st and Goal at UNT 3
Darik Dillard rush for 1 yard to the NoTex 2, tackled by Will Wright.
2nd and Goal at UNT 2
Taylor McHargue pass incomplete to Jordan Taylor.
 3rd and Goal at UNT 2
Darik Dillard rush for no gain to the NoTex 2, tackled by James Jones.
 4th and Goal at UNT 2
Timeout RICE, clock 08:26.
4th and Goal at UNT 2
Taylor McHargue sacked by Lairamie Lee for a loss of 11 yards to the NoTex 13.
 
 
DRIVE TOTALS: RICE drive: 11 plays 38 yards, 05:55 RICE DOWNS

What is amazing is that the defense isn’t overly aggressive in bringing numbers in the backfield. A good percentage of the pressure is from the defensive line. That tremendous play has allowed Zach Orr and Will Wright to wreak havoc. They have been quick to eat up inside runs and attack short passes. The corners have been great in shedding wide-receiver blocks and containing edge runs. That goal line stand had about four or five attempts to the edge that were swallowed up by great run defense from the d-backs. In the pass game, Kenny Buyers has been excellent in stepping into short passes and making tackles. Defensive Coordinator John Skledany has the corners play with some cushion, in classic bend-but-don’t break philosophy. They have barely bent in the last five games. A big reason has been the tackling ability of the corner backs. With Bellazin, Sarge, Lincoln, and Abbe getting such good pressure, Zach Orr, Will Wright, and Derek Akunne making plays, and the corners making tackles and taking away deep passes you leave Lairamie Lee and Marcus Trice to fly around the field, make big hits, and get interceptions. Marcus Trice ended the night with two picks, and probably should have had a third. It has gotten to a point where I know that the defense will make a big play. I mean, after all they have had nine straight with a fumble recovery.

They have been amazing to watch this year. So fun.

Also, BRELAN!!!!!

Yeah he took one to the house again, showing the speed that might get him a chance to play on Sundays. That guy. He’s good.

Things to Be Concerned About

Turnovers. We ended yet another game with yet another turnover. If the guys can clean that up, we’d might see even bigger margins of victory. Scary.

That said, although the offense was pretty anemic out there, it doesn’t need to do much more than what it did — control the ball and score once or twice. With the way the other two phases of the game are playing right now, and the upcoming schedule, we don’t need much more from this group beside that. As it is, there are nine days or so until the next game against a struggling UTEP, which should give Mike Canales and company some time to tweak things a bit. I don’t expect to see Baylor type stuff out there, but it would be nice to get a few more drives longer than 3 to 7 plays.

Other Thoughts

Once again, it is worth mentioning how awesome tonight’s game was. Getting to six wins, getting such a great student turnout the week before Homecoming, beating the division leaders and doing it all on national television was like hitting all green lights on the way home. I hope this feeling never goes away.

For more on the game be sure to check on the live-blog archive.

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Ball State Film Room

The defense had a solid game, but it was far from perfect. There were some things that Ball State did that played right into our hands, and helped us along. I say that not entirely sure if it was just great scouting by Skladany and company knowing Ball State’s tendencies, or if Ball State underestimated our defense’s aggressiveness.

Let’s look at three plays where there was some read-option looks. Ball State may have a called hand-off here with an option look, or Wenning just read it poorly. Judging by how few times Wenning runs in general these have to be the former. Wenning does such a great job deciding when to throw the ball away when there isn’t a pass that I can’t believe he is that poor at reading these scenarios. Conversely, the success of the North Texas reads are a testament to Derek Thompson’s decision-making.

First play:

bsu_1

Here, Ball State gives a packaged play look. WR #8 looks to be setting up for a quick screen. This was one of a few situations like this throughout the game. On a true read, Wenning would likely have seen the advantage outside and hit the WR. The second read is the North Texas DE crashing. Wenning could have kept it and got a good five or six yards.

Let’s watch Derek Thompson run the same thing:

derek_

DT is reading the DE #11 and keeps when he sees him clearly unconcerned with the QB keeper. The Mean Green have been very run-heavy, and Reggie Pegram and Brandin Byrd had already got some good gains. This is just great play-calling by Mike Canales, and even better execution by the entire offense.

Here is another Ball State read look situation:

bsu_2

If this is a straight handoff call, then the TE completely misses his block. He should be hitting Chad Polk crashing down. Instead he floats off into space. Wenning had a nice seam there that likely would have gained more than the handoff did. Also of note: the WR #2 has tons of space to catch and run. Watch for CUSA teams to look to exploit that.

Let’s watch UNT run this thing better:

derek_2

Again, Ball State is over-pursuing the potential Brelan Chancellor jet sweep. (That may have been a good idea after all. It looks like Brelan had tons of space to run.) North Texas caught Ball State in man coverage. This very well may have been a called run the whole time. If it was they did a great job selling the fake by pulling the guard. I doubt it though. It was an inverted-veer look

Bonus:

In taking a look at some of the turnovers forced, I noticed that mostly they were just the result of solid hits by Lairamie Lee and Zach Orr. James Jones’ was really just fortune smiling on him. The other forced turnover was Hitstick Lee showing some ball skills. Watching live I thought it was just a great jump by Lee, saving Kenny Buyers from getting beat for a first down. Instead it looks like Skladany baited Keith Wenning into that throw.

lee_pick

Because Ball State needed a first down here, I bet the progression was the Dig, then the TE. Most coaches teach a deep-to-short read progression, however. Wenning made the right throw … if the safety was playing over the top. He wasn’t. I’m wondering if we knew that Ball State liked to throw short stuff and so hedged our bets, accordingly. They did hit some longer outside stuff against Hilbert Jackson, but it looks like they missed a few opportunities. I pointed out that Wenning should have gone to the top mostly because he was reading that side of the field but if he looked over at Zac Whitfield, he would have saw Marcus Trice peeking in, and Zac beat by about a yard or two.

Interesting stuff.

GoMeanGreen

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North Texas 34 Ball State 27 — 9.14.13

A few things stand out from that epic comeback against formerly 2-0 Ball State. Some of those things are Derek Thompson running for the go-ahead TD, Laramie Lee putting the hurt on everyone on the Cardinals WR corps, and the 92 freaking plays we ran.

The latter was indicative of our newly effective offense. UNT came out throwing early and often. It wasn’t immediately more successful than our previous run-first approach but it did show a complete commitment to being more diverse on offense. It paid dividends later in the game. We weren’t exactly running no-huddle out there, but we were converting 3rd downs, which does a whole hell of a lot for your total plays statistic.

UNT wasn’t just throwing more from those two TE sets either. At times the offense lined up in 5-wide, a ton in 4-wide. The great thing? It opened up huge lanes for Byrd and Pegram. Both of their longest came in single back sets out of shotgun. That 3.5 ypc coming into this game? Today that finished at 5.1.

That said, the offense still has much work to do. Despite running more plays and having more first downs, the offense only outscored BSU by a TD.

Derek Thompson

He was rightly named the player of the game. Often criticized for his inconsistency , Derek was money all day and showed off some ability to scramble for some crucial yardage, including the go-ahead score from 26-yards out. His best stuff came when he was avoiding the rush and finding his receivers. Football situations are never perfect and a guy that can make something of nothing, or something less bad than it could have been — is valuable. His toughness — recovering from a dislocated thumb, taking hits after runs, leading the team to the comeback — was incredible. What make the offense move, however, was his accuracy on those 5-yard stops. Whether you like that kind of offense or not, it can be effective if you can throw accurately. Getting the ball to Brelan Chancellor and Carlos Harris on short stuff and letting them work afterward is what the spread and all it’s myriad variations are based on. You want your play makers in space

Lairamie Lee & Marcus Trice

Lairamie Lee was a monster out there. Marcus Trice was all over the field. Brian Baldinger called the pair the hardest hitting secondary he’s seen all year. The two combined for 12 tackles, and of course Hitstick Lee forced a fumble, knocked the hell out of two guys, and got an interception. Marcus Trice had a couple big pass defenses, recovered a fumble. One of his pass defenses was guarding Connor Ryan, who was looking like Jason Witten out there.

The defense fas a unit forced four turnovers in the first half, which served to keep North Texas in the game by preventing Ball State from running away with it. Still, the lead was 18 points after North Texas allowed a defensive TD and a long TD for the second consecutive game. Banks’ 77-yard score was 54% of his total, however. The defense bottled him up for the duration. Ball State’s Keith Wenning threw for 333 yards and two scores but the Cardinals didn’t score in the second half, thanks to Sarge, Abbe, and the defensive backs getting pressure and staying with the receivers, respectively.

In short, everyone did what was needed to make the first 18-point comeback in UNT history since 1988.

It was great and scary and frustrating and amazing. Ball State is a good squad, but by no means a team that should jump up 20-3 on us, at Apogee. Looking back at some of their lowlights, Ball State will see that they played right into our hands offensively. A few times Wenning, despite putting up some good numbers, didn’t make the right read (or the offensive coordinator didn’t make the right call) and so NT was let off the hook. Other CUSA teams (not to mention Georgia next week) will not be so lenient.

Offensively, despite the scoring output and the yardage totals, the unit can be better. The passing game relies too heavily on methodically moving down the field. The longest pass of the day was 25 yards — good but not great. If the big plays will only come from the run game — that 32 yarded from Pegram or the 25 yarded from Byrd — then we’ll need to rely on Derek consistently hitting the intermediate stuff. That is incredibly hard to do. Derek’s 31 completions only went for 247 yards, whereas Keith Wenning’s 27 went for 333.

All that reads as if I’m nitpicking. I’m not. There is definite room for improvement and no reason we won’t see it. Mike Canales (no doubt with Dan McCarney’s blessing) opened up the offense in the wake of yet another very predictable, anemic offensive performance. If the opposition is going to give us 5, 10, 15 yards every play and leave acres of space for Derek to scamper in we should take it. They won’t, however, and this group needs to have an answer for it. I think they will.

Next week: Between the Hedges at Georgia where UNT is a 36.5 point underdog.

I’m already day dreaming of an epic upset where the local Dallas media is forced to acknowledge Denton.

Categories
MGN Podcast

MGN 21: Throwbacks

Thanks for tuning in to the live stream and dealing with the problems. They should be fixed next time.

In this week’s episode:

Official Podcast of the Unofficial UNT sports blog Mean Green Nation!  We’ll had @JustinBrumit on to talk about the new uniforms, the football team, and other Mean Green stuff.

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.

MGN21 download link

Categories
Football Football Recaps

MGN Video Recap: LSU Sept 1 2012

We were beaten pretty badly, but there were some bright spots. Here are few clips highlighting the kinds of things the guys did well and a few that explain what went wrong.