Can they do it?
UNT has shown an ability to hang with every team they have played this year with the exception of Alabama.
Game 1: Beat Ball State triggering a collapse in confidence for the Cardinals.
Game 2: Dominated 5-2 Ohio for 3 most of the game. QB Riley Dodge is knocked out of the game and QB Nathan Tune is picked off for a TD in his first playing time of the season. Regulation play ends in a tie. UNT dropped 2 well thrown TD passes from backup QB Nathan Tune late to lose in double OT by 1.
Game 3: Lost 53-7 to the now #1 team in America, 7-0 Alabama. Alabama was coming off a weak showing vs. FIU and was feeling heat from their fans. UNT took their A game and scored a TD even though backup QB Nathan Tune had to start and UNT had some other key players out.
Game 4: UNT played 3-3 MTSU fairly even through the first quarter and then fell asleep in the second playing horribly on both sides of the ball and spotting the Blue Raiders a 30-7 halftime lead. UNT came raging back in the third dominating the Blue Raiders and cutting the lead to 9. Then disaster struck. UNT forced a potentially game changing fumble but didn't recover it, tipping off a meltdown. Their leader Tobe Nwigwe got called for unsportsman-like conduct. The team emotionally collapses and allows a MTSU TD on the next play. UNT never emotionally recovers and loses 37-21.
Game 5: Riley Dodge throws 2 INTs that are turned into 10 pts. The Mean Green suffer a blocked punt for another TD. In spite of giving 4-2 ULL 17 first half points, UNT dominates the first half going in to the locker room tied 24-24. In the third quarter UNT comes out and and takes a commanding 34-24 lead. Lulled to sleep, the defense allowed ULL to mount a rare drive for a TD to cut the lead to 34-31. UNT's punter boots a 10 yard Punt and ULL takes it in on a short field for a TD. A shocked UNT loses 38-34.
Game 6: UNT's defense is a no show but UNT still has a chance to win against one of the sunbelt pre-season favorities 1-5 FAU. Dodge is again knocked out, but Tune leads a comback to take the lead 40-37. UNT foregoes a FG to potentially take a 6 point lead and goes for it on 4th and 3. They are stopped. FAU capitializes on the momentum shift and goes in for the winning score. Without the FG, UNT was down 44-40 instead of 44-43 and they needed to drive the length of the field for a TD. A stunned Mean Green team was unable to put that kind drive together.
This UNT team is 3 plays away from being 4-2 and arguably could be 5-1. They have dominated winning teams like Ohio and ULL for most of those games and have dominated talented teams like MTSU and FAU for a couple quarters.
But they haven't put together 4 good quarters all season.
UNT has only scored in the fourth quarter in two games. They won the fourth quarter vs. Ball State and played FAU to a 7-7 draw last week.
Eventually, UNT will probably put 4 good quarters together and will win the fourth quarter. When that happens they will beat whoever they are playing that week.
Could it be Troy?
Troy is a good team that most sunbelt teams are conditioned to lose to, but UNT has been condidtioned to lose to EVERY sunbelt team but Western Kentucky over the last few years. UNT has still been in every sunbelt game this season. Troy's mental edge may not be as strong this week as it normally is.
UNT has dominated good teams for periods all season long.
Tune has played very well this season, has a live arm, and has faced the nation's best defense AND put a TD Drive together on them. With all due respect to Riley Dodge who may end up being a mobile Ty Detemer by his senior year and the best QB to ever play at UNT, Tune is not likely to give Troy 4 or 5 turnovers.
UNT has one of the best OLs in the conference and talent at the skill spots.
UNT's defense can force 3 and outs with consistency when they are focused. (The focus just hasn't been there lately.)
UNT will have moments vs. Troy. Can they do it for most of the game?
Additionally, this Troy team has shown some dog this year. Could they take UNT a little lightly?
One of their reporters was quoted in the Denton paper saying Troy should win easily. That certainly implies at least the media thinks this will be a cakewalk for Troy.
Certainly they could be right.
But I think all football players have pride. UNT has suffered a pair of self inflicted defeats, endured a week of fans calling for their coach's head, and then had to read about how they weren't talented enough to play with Troy and how Troy would win easily.
I said earlier this season that this UNT has a little uppityness that hasn't been seen around here in a while.
I think it comes out this week.
UNT's upperclassmen called the team together this week. It is easy to blow off "players only meetings" as the despirate act of collapsing teams.
Generally they are.
Usually the teams simply lack the talent to win, so player's only meetings don't do much.
The thing is, in spite of tons of mistakes, this team is playing well enough to win every week. The game plans are usually solid. The coaching is there. The effort is there. They have just lacked the leadership from upperclassmen to close the deal.
If that leadership is asserting itself...If that leadership stops the lack of focus the leads to long drives and eliminates ill-timed penalties... If they quicly rally their teammates after each Troy score, UNT may be able to take every punch Troy gives out.
If that happens UNT might very well win this game --- regardless of how Troy plays.
No maybes about it.
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