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North Texas Destroys UTSA 45-3

Ladies and gentleman, North Texas destroyed rival from San Antonio UTSA.

The final was 45-3 and it was not even that close. North Texas put up 501 yards of offense and 290 of that was on the ground. Tre Siggers, newly appointed star running back, ran for 143 himself (on 14 carries), knocking UTSA dudes aside as he ran through them.

North Texas fans had hoped for a playmaker to help Mason Fine and it turns out it is the stable of running backs. DeAndre Torrey had 62 yards running on the ground and added 60 through the pass game and a score. The two starting backs combined for 265 yard, four scores through the air and on the ground.

Mason Fine had a pedestrian 195 and 2 scores, on 15/22 passing.

The defense that played so well for three quarters against Cal last week was outstanding against UTSA’s questionable QB talent. The thought was that if UTSA could hurt NT it would be through missed gaps, and the QB extending plays with his legs.

That proved true, but there was not enough of the execution that would hurt NT. UTSA put up 295 total yards but only 128 through the air. Frank Harris, the star sophomore QB who was an NT recruit, was hurt again on the 2nd play of the game and did not return. His backup Lowell Narcisse played well in spots but his passes were not catchable by the UTSA WRs.

He overthrew his targets, and one was intercepted because it was thrown to hard at his WR. He finished 16/36 for 124 and 2 INTs. He was most dangerous on the ground, running for 98 yards, including a 42 yard scamper that put UTSA into NT territory.

Dangerous freshman RB Sincere McCormick had a nice 20-yard run that saw him break some tackles but he was held to 62 yards. UTSA was held to 6/20 on third downs and 2/7 on fourth.

That was the story here tonight. NT’s defense is suddenly ferocious against teams without quality offensive minds calling the shots like SMU’s Sonny Dykes. SMU, by the way, upset TCU earlier this afternoon and Cal beat Ol’ Miss in Oxford.

NT is now 2-2 on the season and has a conference win to boot.

Offense

Mason Fine did not have to do much, and that is always nice. He sat for the final quarter as we saw a couple of drives from Jason Bean and Austin Aune. The run game is the driver for this group and that is fine. We have an identity now, and a spread-power run game is fine by me.

UTSA is a poor tackling team and but we have seen four games where NT has powered through tackle and showed their ability to run. Tre Siggers is much of that. When Easly went down last year, NT struggled to find the power, even though DeAndre Torrey was slicing through defenses. Their combined attack is devastating so far.

NT still can use some help in the pass game, but it was nice to see the ball move crisply through the air when it was needed. NT was 7/14 on third down and 0-2 on fourth. Not bad.

NT’s points-per-drive: 3.214. That’s excellent and includes the time-wasting at the end. Offense added 14 combined chunk plays to the total.

Defense

This unit was great. We can throw a lot of caveats about how UTSA sucks on offense and all that but the thing is you are supposed to beat up a bad team. North Texas harassed the QB all night, got turnovers, and kept UTSA off the scoreboard.

Ultimately, that is what this game is about. Stats are great, but points are the only thing that wins or loses games. Three points in four quarters against a conference opponent, and six points in seven quarters against Cal and UTSA combined.

I am feeling better about this defense as I hoped I would. We thought this unit needed time and repetitions and so far it has paid dividends. KD Davis was the leading tackler and Dion Novil was a monster up front. He created pressure, and collapsed the line from a three-man front.

NT had six tackles for loss, three sacks, five QB hurries, and two interceptions. That is quality defense, folks. Defense allowed only six chunk plays and only one of those was in the pass game.

Special Teams

Hey, a missed field goal. Mooney made another and was not needed. Just the way I like it. Kenworthy had three punts and got one inside the 20. No returns for UTSA went anywhere, and NT had some decent ones of their own but nothing noteworthy.

Coaching

Hey well NT won by 42-points and was never really threatened. They subbed out the starting QB in time to get reps for the future signal-callers and everything ended fine. Those are quality coaching results.

Thoughts

This felt real nice. It is always nice to destroy a team, but it feels extra good to do it to one of the ones that has been so close to NT for so long. No game in this series has been a true blowout — even the one in 2016 in San Antonio was close before UTSA got up two scores.

The UTSA fans are thinking of firing their coach and well, that reminds me of when NT beat SMU so bad that June Jones up and quit. SMU beat the hell out of NT and well, it is nice to be on the other side of that again.

Next up: Houston, who lost on national TV on Thursday night to Tulane. They bring a dynamic QB in D’Eriq King and a quality offensive head coach in Dana Holgerson.

Corrected Lowell Narcisse’s name. S/O to Adler on gmg.

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Football Football Recaps

Struggle Win: North Texas 27 UTEP 24

The North Texas Mean Green went to UTEP and struggled with the Miners. This has been a theme for some time. NT lost the last two in El Paso coming into today, including that awful 52-24 defeat in 2016 that served as the Miners’ most recent win.

Senior Ryan Metz started in place of redshirt freshman Kai Locksley and perhaps showed a little bit of why he should remain the starter. He brought another dimension (passing) to things, while retaining just enough of the ground attack that makes Locksley so dangerous.

He threw for 313 yards on 16/33 passing. A good number of those yards were so much luck that it was infuriating and frustrating and perhaps a little reminiscent of last year’s defensive performance. So it goes. North Texas was always going to have a bad game this season and it came against UTEP, a very beatable team that — despite the offensive explosion — only managed 24 points on 417 yards.

The offense had a similar fall-off, but it managed 27 points — the same number as it produced last week against Tech but in much different fashion. We have concerns about the Easly-less run game, and the struggling pass game. That said, those are relative complaints as MGN remembers when a struggling pass game looked like barely getting 100 yards.

Mason Fine put up 294 yards and threw two scores (one on another one of those jet-sweep ‘touch’ passes) on 23 of 34 passing. Rico Bussey dominated the game with 8 grabs for 117 and a score. Jaelon Darden reappeared for five grabs and 91 yards. That was all good, but why does it feel bad? Well, UTEP came in looking terrible and we all expected an offensive show. Instead we got a solid game and it required some tough yards late to put things away.

All in all that was a winning effort when we did not think we would need one.

Let us obsess about this game that was horrible to watch:

Offense

Again, the offense put up good numbers 428 yards, 294 passing and 134 rushing. The Mean Green added 21 first downs and converted 8/17 first downs. NT ran only 69 plays and came in averaging 81 per game. The good news: NT averaged 6.2 yards per play and came in at 6.08. So yes, by at least one measure this offense was better than it had been.

Okay, but 27 is not 44, which was the per-game average coming in. Part of that was that the first and third quarters saw some bad running. NT could not get the easy runs that get them ahead of the chains and then saw Mason Fine run for his life on later downs. Mike Lawrence had a drop, and Rico Bussey lost the ball over his shoulder again. Little things like that were overcome, but against a good team those can be losing plays — see last week.

In the second and fourth quarters Nic Smith and company did some nice things. Mason Fine led some TD drives and NT won the game by scoring when it had to. Mason Fine was 9/9 for 105 and a score in the third quarter when the run game struggled.

Ideally, he is tossing TDs early — something like we saw in the first quarter against Tech — and NT is running to close things out later. Credit to the UTEP defensive line that showed it is good in its own right. The D-Line helped UTEP produce five tackles for loss. They were tough.

Defense

That was not fun to watch. We can forgive the NT defense for being caught a bit off guard. There was no tape of Metz in this UTEP offense. Gone were the QB-centric run things that UTEP had relied on so much this season and in place were more of the passing things that Locksley is not so good at.

UTEP broke out the K-State jump pass on the QB-play action thing and kept NT honest about it by actually running Metz some times. Former NT coordinator and interim Head Coach Mike Canales called a good game, catching NT sleeping on some plays and finding the fullback — son of UTEP head coach Dana Dimel — and Q. Wadley big plays on play-action.

There was some bad luck to deal with: A couple of catches were the result of miracles or falling down (Cam Johnson on the 67-yard TD to Keynan Foster). That is frustrating but the defense did come up with a couple of interceptions to extend the nation-leading lead in that category.

Tyreke Davis and Nate Brooks grabbed one each. Davis’ was a diving one across the middle that was the best of the night.

There were two sacks (shared among four players) and five tackes for loss. The defense swarmed and gang-tackled, which is nice to see.

Ultimately, there were a few mistakes but it was a good effort. Ryan Metz was able to escape and extend drives on some third-and-longs. It was not the defense’s finest hour. Again, we should commend the UTEP squad for executing and pulling out some nice plays. They mixed in surprise with power runs that got them to 24 points.

You can see the outlines of the team they want to be in the coming years.

Special Teams

Cole Hedlund had a 52 and a 29 yarder. Kenworthy had four nice punts that flipped the field and the coverage was solid. No muffed punts this time, so that is nice.

NT blocked one UTEP kick that ultimately decided the game.

What It Means

North Texas is 5-1 and 1-1 in conference play. Elsewhere, Louisiana Tech dropped their home opener to UAB. The Blazers defensive line held J’Mar Smith to 9/23 for 107 and an interception. UAB rushed for 229 yards and three scores.

The Blazers do a lot of what UTEP tried tonight but with success and have a defense to be very afraid of. That matchup is coming up in two weeks but next week is a very good USM team that is coming off a bye.

North Texas was always going to have to battle for this division, good start or no. The squad has not been playing that well on offense, but there is still time to correct that. North Texas was expected (by MGN) to come out more crisply, but there was a lethargy there. I suppose it could be chalked up to human nature, but coaching and play is supposed to bring teams beyond the natural inclinations.

NT might have escaped this one, and that is good. It means that the squad has a chance to control some aspect of its fate. There will be tougher teams and less room for awful play.

Next Up

Southern Miss who had a bye. Apogee Stadium gets a chance at a re-do against a good squad that can score and has talent on defense

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Football Football Recruiting

2017 National Signing Day Recap

National Signing Day came and went with few surprises. Tre’von Bradley did, in fact, get flipped by Houston, but even that was not very surprising considering the rumors after his visit with The Major.

Here is the class and some thoughts.

PlayerPositionHeightWeightTown
Jacob BrammerOL6'4"278Richmond, Texas (Foster HS)
Jaelon DardenWR5'9"160Houston, Texas (Eisenhower HS)
Tyreke DavisS5'10"194Denton, Texas (Billy Ryan HS)
Kody FulpLB6'2"225China Spring, Texas (China Spring HS)
Jalen GuytonWR6'1"190Allen, Texas (Trinity Valley CC)
Cameron JohnsonCB5'11"176Houston, Texas (John H. Reagan Heights HS)
Evan JohnsonRB5'6"175Loranger, La. (Loranger HS)
Tony KrasniqiDL6'1"249Sachse, Texas (Sachse HS)
Manase MoseOL6'1"306Euless, Texas (Trinity HS)
Dakoda NewmanOL6'3"329Benbrook, Texas (Mansfield Timberview HS)
Dion NovilDL6'4"240Abilene, Texas (Wylie HS)
Jevin PahinuiOL6'2"260Mountainlake Terrace, Wash. (College of the Siskiyous)
Brian ParishOL6'4"262Arlington, Texas (Seguin HS)
Cade PearsonQB6'2"193Texarkana, Texas (Texas HS)
Makyle SandersS6'0"188Tyler, Texas (Robert E. Lee HS)
Tre SiggersRB5'8"180Duncanville, Texas (Duncanville HS)
Chris ThorntonLB6'1"210Amarillo, Texas (Palo Duro HS)
Greg WhiteWR6'3"175Riverdale, Ga. (Riverdale HS)

Billy wrote a primer that covers most of the ins-and-outs coming into today that still holds up. Let us quickly assess some things about this class:

This Is Not A Public Relations Win

On NSD, there are three unofficial ways to win the PR campaign: 1. Flip a high profile recruit 2. Finish with high/top recruiting class 3. Sign the best class in school history.

In CUSA, our winners are 1. FAU — who signed Deandre McNeal, formerly of Texas and flipped from UCLA. 2. UTSA/FAU/FIU – UTSA had the top class all year, but FAU/FIU shot up the rankings in the conference 3. FAU/UTSA

Jalen Guyton is a good WR, and there is some talent here, but the other CUSA schools are going to get the hype.

Needs Were Met

North Texas lost three OL (Rice, Gunter, Keenan) and signed five in this class (plus a likely blueshirt). Littrell said OL and WR were the top priorities coming in, and that they wanted to get longer and bigger along the front. Harrell called it a ‘home run’ offensive line class. Brian Parish is 6’4″ 262, and Dakoda Newman is 6’3″ 329. There may be a starter among these five, and there should be at least one or two in the rotation early. Ideally, the lineman will get the time to develop, but NT could use contributors right away.

NT lost Thad Thompson, Kenny Buyers, and Tee Goree out wide. This was a from an already thin position group. Jalen Guyton is a playmaker and highlights the class. Greg White was a late target that brings some of the height that Goree had. Littrell mentioned that RB recruit Evan Johnson can play a little of slot WR, also.

RB Willy Ivery is also gone, and NT “got a couple [RBs] after this year that will graduate.” Getting two backs to fill out the depth chart here is solid.

Signed Another QB

Cade Pearson is taller than Mason Fine and probably has a bigger arm. This is good ‘competitive’ depth to have at the very least, and might be the guy at best. He is already on campus and is eager to learn. Having the tools and desire is a good combination. It will be interesting to see if Littrell sticks with his ‘Gotta play two QBs’ aphorism, when he has a couple of young QBs instead of the senior + exciting freshman. Pearson came in thinking he has a real chance to compete with Mason Fine and that makes the competition interesting. Also of note: Pearson’s noting of Graham Harrell’s resume.

There Will Be More

NT plans to blue shirt a couple more players, which likely will include more lineman and more LBs and DBs.

Final Thoughts

Ideally we would have liked to have seen a breakthrough class that got headlines. The good news is that NT has mostly hit on a good number of roster moves in the Littrell regime. From the JUCO signings before last season — Eric Jenkins especially — to Mason Fine and Tyler Wilson, generally speaking Littrell’s staff has a high rate of return.

The staff noted repeatedly the high number of quality character guys in this class. While that is an oft-repeated refrain, it is important considering some of the schools above NT in the 247 ratings signed some guys with questionable reputations. I realize this is the type of thing that mid-ranked teams say, but it is not untrue. Also not untrue: that if NT signed a highly rated class, everyone would be pointing to the number of stars.

Overall I like the fact that this class met the important needs. The OL was a sore spot, and the DL needed more bodies. The rest of the class is at worst a man-for-man swap. NT did not get worse and is taking steps to fill out the depth that is sorely missing. The real test of this class — like all classes — is if in three years or so it is mostly intact, with contributors among its ranks.