UNT did pretty much everything a team could do but win the game on saturday vs. the Ohio Bobcats. They dominated the Ohio offense for most of the game, making both of Ohio's platooning QBs look very ordinary in the first three quarters of the game.
The UNT offense was not as sharp as last week, but in the middle of a 24 hour long rainstorm, that is to be expected. The UNT offense still played very competently on the wet field going into the third quarter.
But then injuries shuffled the deck. UNT knocked Ohio's primary QB Boo Jackson out of the game on a sack. UNT's Riley Dodge went out with a shoulder injury. Suddenly it was a game of backups.
In the UNT season preview I mentioned that UNT's backup QB Nathan Tune has a tendency to telegraph his passes. He was caught staring down a receiver and Ohio CB Kenny Jackson took it 69 yards for a touchdown to give Ohio their first lead of the game.
Tune for his part responded as appears to be part of his makeup and lead the team on a drive to an apparent game winning TD. Then more bad luck. Tune's perfectly thown end zone pass to WR Mike Outlaw bounced off Outlaw's facemask. UNT had to settle for a game tying field goal.
Ohio got the ball back with a little under a minute to play, but veteran Ohio coach Frank Solich wisely decided not to risk a turnover trying to drive the length of the field with his out of synch offense against a strong Mean Green defense. The odds were much better for the Bobcat offense only having to work with the shorter overtime field, so Ohio ran out the clock and went to overtime.
Ohio was able to engineer a short drive in the first overtime, but the UNT defense stiffened again and held the Bobcats to a field goal. One of UNT's dominant JUCO DTs Kelvin Jackson went out with an elbow injury in a move that signaled potential trouble for the Mean Green.
Tune and the Mean Green had their shot and moved the ball into the red zone. Tune again looked to Outlaw in the endzone. This time Outlaw was slightly overextended and could not control the pass and it bounced off his hands. The team had to kick a game tying FG and proceed to double over time.
In double overtime, Tune and the Mean Green Offense were again able to engineer a drive into the red zone. This time Cam Montgomery barrelled into the endzone behind a good block by Matt Tomlinson for his second TD of the day. UNT knocked in the extra point to take a 30-23 lead.
At this point, it seemed any momentum Ohio had was exhausted and UNT seemed likely to win the game behind their defense. Still, Ohio had a little sucess before the Mean Green defense managed to force Ohio into a 4th-and-15 at the goal line.
On first down Scott threw deep to Ohio's star receiver Taylor Price and drew a pass interfernce call on UNT CB Adryan Adams. That gave Ohio a first and goal.
DE Sam Owusu-Hemeng sacked Scott on a play action rollout for a 4 yard loss on first down. On second down, UNT's star linebacking duo, Craig Robertson and Tobe Nwigwe sussed out a screen pass for a yard loss. On third down, Ira Smith and Tobe Nwigwe had excellent coverage on ohio's intended receiver, forcing Scott to throw the ball away.
Then coaching experience seemed to again come into play. UNT had been playing quite agressive man coverage against Ohio with great success for much of the game, but on this potentially last play the team went with a zone scheme and Ohio Star receiver Taylor Price found a crease in the zone behind CB Adryan Adams for the TD.
On the play UNT also incurred a roughing the QB penalty that was marked off on the extra point play putting Ohio at the one and a half yard line. Recognizing that his team was operating on borrowed time all day Solich decided to go for two and the win rather than risking another OT.
Scott took the snap, made a weak fake on the handoff on a dive, and rolled right, tiptoeing away from pressure. UNT bought the run fake en masse. UNT's corner on that side had been planted by a blocker and UNT's safety on that side, Ira Cook, bit hard on the run.
As cook and the CB from the other side, Adams sprinted to recover, Scott found Price in thC front of the end zone for an easy TD and the Ohio left Fouts Field with the kind of improbable victories that veteran teams seem to regularly acheive.
For the Mean Green there were highs and lows. All three units (offense, defense, and special teams) have now in consecutive weeks dominated two teams that were seen as upper tier MAC teams. In fact if the team could have eliminated minor offensive mistakes the team might have beaten both teams convincingly. The Mean Green have to feel like with the exception of Alabama they can compete against any other team on their schedule. That is huge.
The defense was very strong for most of the day although again they had 3rd and 4th quarter breakdowns again this week. It is possible the unit simply lacks the game long focus of the great defenses. With the amount of substitutions the defensive staff employs, I would hate to blame it on fatigue. The team recorded a number of sacks including two by DT Shavod Atkinson, who in general seems to lack great pass rushing technique. He simply destroyed his opponent at times today with superior talent.
Additionally, the team seems to respond very well to adversity. That is 180 degrees from last year's team which would fold like a ladder at the slightest bad news.
The receiving corps looks pretty strong although most of the players have an abundance of bad technical habits for the position that prevent at this point prevent any of them from being dominant players. There is no denying that Jamaal Jackson, Mike Outlaw, and Darius Carey are capable receivers. Neither Jackson nor Outlaw has the nose for the end zone that great receivers have, but they appear to be very good second receivers capable of moving the chain with great regularity. Jackson does regularly show big play potential. There is no way around the fact that Outlaw had a bad game. Still, he has shown enough this year to reveal his talent. Carey had a very solid game and might have worked his way into the starting lineup.
Alex Lott lead all receivers with seven catches but needs to work on his professionalism. Every Lott catch seemed to end with Lott seriously fighting a need to taunt the opposition. He was flagged on a play that really hurt the team and managed to keep his stupidity in check for the rest of the game, but it clearly was a challenge for him. If he grows up he could be quite a good player...and one the coaching staff trusts and is not looking to replace. With former high school big play receiver BJ Lewis due to come back next week, it seems likely this offense will be able to move the ball through the air regardless of who is playing QB.
RB Cam Montgomery didn't get a chance to show much of his straightline speed on Saturday vs. Ohio's top notch linebackers but ran hard all day breaking tackles on almost every carry. If UNT had won the game, he certainly would have been the game MVP.
In spite of a 24 hour long rainstorm the team drew between 9000 and 16,000 depending on which report you believe; 16,674 was the official reported attendance total, but that maybe some kind of paid attendence number, which while that is totally valid for NCAA record keeping, it seemed like there was probably closer to 9000 fans who braved the rain. For the weather, that was a great turnout.
On the negative side, the team had some big injuries this week. The loss of Riley Dodge is a mixed bag. On the positive side, there is no chance Dodge will be knocked out for the season by Alabama and he should be back by the following game vs. MTSU. On the flipside, this is the same shoulder (non-throwing) Dodge injured before. This could become a chronic issue.
DT Kelvin Jackson was having a very good first season at the FBS level. From this vantage point, he appears to be one of UNT's better defensive linemen, perhaps flashing more talent and skill than any of UNT's other linemen. He has a dislocated elbow that may have him returning vs. MTSU at the earliest. LT Victor Gill will probably miss the next two games with a seperated shoulder. That loss will hurt Tune a lot next week especially. CB Antoine Bush (UNT's most experienced CB) and DE John Weber (UNT's third member of their JUCO star defensive line trio) should also be healthy for the MTSU game.