The only reason Miami became “the U” is because all of their talent wanted to stay home and turn a program around together. Our country’s most talented high school athletes are in the DFW. If more of y’all decided to accept the challenge and stay home, there’s nothing the world of college sports could do to stop y’all. Honestly , if the DFW players stayed home to UNT, they would be a major power house every year. Who’s going to be the class to accept the challenge and bring back glory to DFW football?
With that being said, #gomeangreen. Stay home and show the world that we are #untouchable #countmein
Marcus Trice, Mesquite HS ’09
That’s mighty convincing recruiting work from one of the leaders of the 2013 Mean Green squad that nearly won a conference title, and did win the 2014 HOD Bowl.
Like most great sales pitches, it leaves out the ugly bits: like how you need some good coaching to go along with a talent-grab. Mack Brown’s Texas squads reflect some of this, as they had talent but not the best development1.
I really like how Seth Littrell is not only continuing the very good McCarney practice of welcoming back alumni, but doing so in a very 2016 way. While simply having former members come to the practices and hang out on the field during games was great, getting them out on twitter to sell the program is better. Go where your audience is, y’all.
The other argument you can make against Trice’s plea is that he himself chose Oklahoma first. Well, that kind of strengthens his point. He transferred to Denton, fully immersed himself in the program and culture, became a team captain, and won some hardware for the program. If similar guys chose to do North Texas first instead of using Denton as a safety school good things could happen.
Again, this is great and I love it. Seth is checking all the right boxes so far.
Well, they at least had talent that was projected to be good in college. All those early commits don’t necessarily guarantee a haul of actually good players. Mack might have got too good at selling his program to HS Juniors. ↩
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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?
You knew Brelan Chancellor was going to win Special Teams player of the week for that PR TD against Rice on Halloween. He did. You also knew that Marcus Trice’s forced fumble, and two-interception day would win him the DPOW right? Wrong. That went to a guy with three interceptions. As if Trice didn’t already feel bad for dropping that one early in the game. Gah.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 email@example.com.
Let’s give a cheer for U of NT; Cheer for the Green and White. Victory’s in store whatever the score, Our team will ever fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Shoulder to shoulder we march along, Striving for victory. Playing the game for the honor and fame, And the glory of UNT. U … N … T … Eagles! UNT Eagles Fight, Fight, Fight!
Now you can sing along with Dan McCarney, Marcus Trice and co. It’s decidedly not corny:
//via Mean Green Sports