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Where Is The Pass Game? North Texas 7 Texas 38

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

These are facts. They are not in dispute.

Both of the quarterbacks seeking to replace outgoing Derek Thompson underwhelmed. They combined for fifteen yards passing. Combined. For fifteen. Yards. 15

This is in an era where passing yards come in bulk. A weekend where three different quarterbacks put up 500+ yards passing.

Our guys? 15.

Full credit to Charlie Strong and his defense. This Texas Longhorn squad looked nothing like the undisciplined team we saw get beat soundly by Oregon in the Alamo Bowl last time out. They were hungry, focused, and ready to play.

That said, there were receivers open. There were plays to be made in the passing game. Part of the problem was the circumstances both quarterbacks found themselves in when it came time to pass the ball. Like all Dan McCarney teams, this year’s version looks to be a run-run-pass type. That puts a ton of pressure to be effective and efficient on first and second downs if you don’t want the quarterback to be staring down a pass-blitz on the third. This was often the case, and one thing that Derek Thompson thrived in. Whatever your thoughts on the guy, he stood tall in the face of pressure and delivered strikes. Unfortunately, he graduated and will not be returning. This is the last I’ll mention him today, because it doesn’t matter if we miss him or not,1 we have the guys we have.

Were we wrong to expect a chance at an upset? No. We were not. The defense held the Longhorn offense to less yards than they did Georgia last year2. It was always going to be on the strength of the defense that we had any chance to muster some magic in DKR. They, for the most part, did amazingly well.

Let’s break it all down shall we? Complete with non-sensical grades!

The Offense: F

Mostly for the frequent shouts of the Mean Green faithful: “What the F**k?!”. The run game was never going to be able to dominate Texas’ much-heralded defensive line. The expectation was that they’d keep them honest, and grind out a 3.5 yards-per-carry kind of day. It is some kind of cruel joke that they did just that. There weren’t any fumbles, only a few slips on some cuts, but no broken tackles or big gaps to run through. All in all the run game took what was given, and occasionally a bit more. I didn’t count any runs for losses, either, and that’s all you can hope for.

The quarterbacks, from the very first pass play, were awful. Josh Greer was starting his first FBS game ever. His first throw3 was poor, a bit behind his target on a double slant. His second was fumbled before it began. His third was picked off. I counted his early game jitters on nerves. Even Texas’ David Ash threw a ball a bit high (on the same route that Greer threw for an INT) early in the game.

Sadly, the awful continued. Greer’s next few passes were woefully behind Carlos Harris, Antoinne Jimmerson or were hopeful dump offs that never had a chance. Andrew came out, handed the ball off and then promptly threw an interception (the same way Josh did). Fellow MGN-er Greg mentioned on the twitters that he thought we were playing scared on offense. I had told The Woman that Andrew seemed to brace for impact as he threw the ball. I don’t blame him. That hit probably hurt like nothing I’ve felt this whole entire year. I can’t say I would be able to stand there and take that. I’m not out there, though. He is. Anyone in that position, if he wants to be successful at football things, will have to stand tall and deliver the pass on a line to his target.

Later, Greer threw4 some passes to the ground. McNulty through another pick.

Calling the pass game inept is being kind. It was almost willfully awful. A lot of it is on the shoulders of McNulty and Greer, but a good helping is reserved for Mike Canales and Dan McCarney. Where were the easy throws? If we are going to run every damn play — and they know we are — it would be helpful to play-action a bit off of that. Nothing fancy, but maybe an easy throw relieves some pressure off the run game that was courageously bashing the collective heads of Wilson, Ivery, Pegram and Jimmerson against the wall that was the UT defensive line.

I submit to you the basic bootleg that David Ash and company employed early in the first half after a few mildly successful runs. He faked the zone right and bootlegged left and tossed a 5-yard pass to the tight-end. Nothing fancy. It is a basic play-action play that does nott require a cannon arm. We didn’t call that play.

The only mitigating factor to explain the poor quarterback play was the low snaps from center. Kaydon Kirby’s5 snaps were low all game. I’m talking hitting the ground every single snap. UTSA writer Jared Kalmus mentioned this is something that happens when centers are eager to block and are in a hurry. I’ve never played lineman, he has. So there you go.

Also pretty terrible: The wideouts. There were lots of drops when the passes did manage to get to them. Granted, nearly all were high or behind. Still, Kidsy has to be feeling terrible after his drop allowed the TD late.

Dan McCarney said we “have to be the most improved team in college football next week.” “That was just about as inept offense as we’ve had since I’ve been here.”

The Defense: B-

A word about grades. None of these really mean anything. They just provide some common ground by which to communicate our interpretations and to facilitate conversation. Take them as such. I say a B-grade is a performance that is slightly above the basic requirements of the job. You didn’t make mistakes, and made one or two plays that were pretty good. Nothing outstanding. An A-grade means you were incredible. We are talking about this performance for a while. A C-grade is that you just did what is required. You took what was given and nothing more. You didn’t make stupid plays. You didn’t blow it all to hell.

So the defense played well considering they were outmatched, out-weighed, and had tons of pressure on them. There were some missed tackles and opportunities to really change the game. Early, Jarrian Roberts had David Ash dead to rights and let him slip his grasp. Instead of a sack, we had a big pass play that got Texas in scoring position. They punched it in right after. That same drive Sheldon Wade committed a personal foul (questionable, sure) to keep the drive alive.

On John Harris’s touchdown reception, Kenny Buyers, normally a stalwart tackler, missed the tackle that would have prevented the score.

Texas wanted to line up and run right at us. They did, for the most part. They kept their playbook small. We didn’t make them dig deep for anything, though we got to David Ash a few times. Without an offense to put pressure on the scoreboard — let alone provide some rest — the late-game lengthier drives were to be expected. In many respects, this was reminiscent of the Tulane game last year. Great defense, poor offense.

The Special Teams: C+

Carlos Harris looked like he will maybe wiggle away and get a good punt return this season. He didn’t have the best chances today against a disciplined Texas team. He finished with two attempts for seven yards. The kick off return game produced one return for 28 yards. That’s good. Texas only managed to return 18 yards on their one attempt and only 27 yards on four attempts at returning punts. That’s solid special team-ing. So often in these body bag games it is in the special teams that the difference in talent shines through. See that LSU game two years ago. Punt returns and big kick returns made a huge difference.

If we were going to pull an upset, it was in this department that we needed to shine. Both punters did well, and we even managed to pin them at the one-yard line one. That led to our only score. That’s the kind of thing we needed more of. Danny Mac is a classic field-position coach and we can do some good things with this approach. The turnovers really killed this strategy for most of the game.

Next up: SMU who takes on Baylor and is likely to get slaughtered at 6:30pm Sunday.

Hat tip: MeanGreenSports

  1. There are so many threads on, the most popular board, asking if we miss DT. Or if we feel bad about not effusively praising him forever and always. It is the worst. 
  2. Georgia had 641 and Texas 354. 
  3. This originally read “through” and I totally, fully blame the damn auto-correcting of my typo. I got so much hell for this. Rightfully so, I suppose. 
  4. This one, too. 
  5. I don’t know if it was only him all game. I’ll update this post if I find his backup was also to blame. Credit where credit is due and all that. 

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