By Craig Fields
If you have seen one North Texas game this season, then you have pretty much seen them all. Horrible defense. Deficient offense. This is why the North Texas Mean Green (0-6) fell to the Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers (6-1) in a nationally televised game 55-28. Even though this was the most points the Mean Green have scored this season, it still was not enough.
Quarterback Brandon Doughty and the Hilltoppers put up 48-points on the Mean Green in three quarters, before Doughty sat out the remainder of the game. He ended his day with 350 yards on four touchdowns and one interception on 26-37 passing. It was quite a day for the senior.
On the other hand, starting running back Anthony Wales had 194 yards on 21 attempts, continuing a string of starting running backs getting 100 yards or more against the Mean Green defense. The offense in all managed 683 total yards, which was the third most yards gained in Hilltopper history, and the most yards given up by the Mean Green this year.
However, all was not bad this week. Let’s figure out what the Mean Green did well in this week’s “Three Things to Take Away From”…
First and foremost: The Rise of starting Mean Green quarterback, DaMarcus Smith
The junior quarterback accounted for 350 total yards of the Mean Green’s 431 yards that they managed to get on the day. He completed 17-35 passes for 228-yards and four touchdowns and one interception.
He also rushed 16 times for 122 yards which is the main weapon upgrade that the Mean Green gain when putting him in the starting lineup. He is a major improvement from fifth year senior, Andrew McNulty, because of his ability to not only buy time in the pocket, but also scramble and make plays with his legs.
He showed that ability multiple times in this game and was able to make more plays simply because of that ability. His accuracy did leave something to be desired, he completed just 48.5 percent of his passes. But the main thing that he managed to do was get more comfortable in the offense, make a few plays that UNT desperately needed, and he was able to have a nice level of success which is always important for a quarterback getting his first start in college football.
There were some moments when nerves were apparent, and there were some throws that the junior should have been able to make, but there is no doubt that this was a step in the right direction for the Mean Green. Wide receiver Carlos Harris thought so when asked what the biggest difference was in McNulty vs Smith at quarterback.
“DaMarcus has the capability to extend plays a lot, as you saw he made a lot of plays with his legs,” said the wide receiver. “He has a good tight spiral, and he is able to hit open receivers down the field when he needs to. That’s the difference.”
Harris said a mouthful right there, and hopefully these abilities that Smith possesses will get the Mean Green a win at some point during the season.
Secondly: The Coaching style of Interim Head Coach Mike Canales
Canales is a rah-rah type of guy. If you do not know what that means just watch the press conference uploaded to the Blitz Weekly YouTube channel here. You will find out exactly what that means.
To be honest his style does not contradict former head coach Dan McCarney really, but it does take it to another level. Just witnessing his interactions with a couple of his players after the loss, it was easy to notice how well they responded to him and just how much they actually love this coach.
This is Canales’ second stint as the interim head coach at UNT. He took over after Todd Dodge was fired in 2010, and has been the offensive coordinator for the duration of his time at UNT. It remains to be seen if he will keep his job as the head coach, but there are far worse coaches out there than Canales. He may just be what this team needs to get them over the hump.
For Canales to bench McNulty and start Smith at quarterback, said a lot about what his plans are and how he wants to change the type of offensive plays UNT will run for the remainder of the season. For the first time in the season, UNT actually opened up the playbook a bit and did some different things that actually worked.
This was the most points that the team has scored to this point in the season, and it came with an interim head coach and a quarterback getting his first start against a defense that leads the nation in turnover margin. Things can only get better from here, and I feel that Canales is the coach to see to it that they do.
Last but certainly not least: The Play of the Defense was Atrocious… Again!
If it was speculation before, then it has all but been proven now; there is a clear trust issue between defensive coordinator and players on the Mean Green football team. So clear in fact that fans and lookers-on were stunned or shocked when WKU did not score. Granted that was not often but it did happen a couple of times.
Whether the lack of trust or production is due to lack of talent or lack of proper preparation from defensive coordinator Chris Cosh, whatever the problem, it is both palpable and extremely visual. I have also heard through the grapevine that Cosh is having a hard time getting through to some of his players because some of the players flat out do not like him.
But hey what can you expect when you have to follow a very likeable guy and player’s coach like John Skladany. But I digress.
At any rate, whatever the problem may be, it is definitely hindering this defense. They currently rank dead last in the FBS, out of 127 teams, in yards given up and total defense. Plain and simple that is bad. Very, very, very, very bad.
There were multiple missed tackles, times when there was late play recognition by certain players, and multiple bad pursuit angles taken when attempting to make tackles. That is all stuff that coaches have the responsibility of teaching their kids. And somewhere along the way there is a disconnect between Cosh and his players.
Granted there are injuries on this defense, none more significant than the injured starting cornerback Kenny Buyers, arguably the team’s best tackler. But this team has enough playmakers to get the job done. Whether or not they get the job done enough to get a win is the million dollar question.