Welcome to the fourth of a series of weekly articles that pose the big question facing The University of North Texas in their upcoming game.
UNT's offense pulled a no show on the team's road trip to New York to play the Army Black Knights. Sophomore Derek Thompson looked rattled in his first start before the Black Knights broke his leg.
A rusty Riley Dodge was forced onto the field and played timidly.
Much of the poor play from both players appeared due to head coach Todd Dodge and offensive coordinator Mike Canales offering insufficient support for either quarterback with their play calling.
There are four or five good options for this question of the week, but one trumps all the others.
Will Todd Dodge and Mike Canales make the tweaks required in their philosophies and play calling to get RB Lance Dunbar untracked this week?
Lance Dunbar is a threat to break a TD run from anywhere on the field.
He got 12 carries last week and UNT was shut out.
There is a correlation there.
I think if Dunbar gets 25 carries out of some plays suited for him, he will have at least 150 yards and probably a couple of TDs. With a strong running game, UNT's passing game should open up enough to score some points. After all, WRs Darius Carey, Jamaal Jackson, and Tyler Stradford all have big play potential and are all healthy enough to start.
The defense has played pretty solidly all season.
I see enough pride in this team to think that their performance last week embarrassed them. The players will probably come out with focus this week.
The question is will Todd Dodge and Mike Canales have a game plan that best utilizes the skills of the remaining offensive players?
Lance Dunbar was (and possibly still maybe) Riley Dodge's roommate. It is a pretty fortunate thing when your best player really has a personal, sincere stake and deep commitment to wanting to see the coach win.
On some teams a top player on a bad team may check out hoping for a new and better coach.
There is no indication that Dunbar is that kind of guy.
You have a committed difference maker. You know the senior heavy line isn't looking ahead to next season. Let him and the offensive line carry the team for now.
It isn't a bad plan. After all, relying on Dunbar and running the ball is exactly what the UNT offense did to great effect last year in Sun Belt play.
Perspective is needed
The season isn't over after three weeks because UNT lost two QBs. Ultimately Tune proved to be very good. That legitimately hurt a lot.
Thompson proved to only be a good prospect at this point in his development. He didn't do anything against Army that Riley Dodge or any other healthy UNT QB could not have matched or exceeded with a full week of practice.
The loss of JJ Johnson hurt. Replacing his backup Nick Leppo with another of UNT's many quality backup linemen maybe changes some of the specific plays that the team should run, but like Leppo, the guys coming in are pretty good players who excel in certain areas too.
Yes, it is shocking and sad for the team to lose the new starters at QB and center, but the difference between the second and third team players at those spots is just not that pronounced.
Because UNT lost their second team center and QB does not mean the season is lost.
Now UNT is down to an option QB who plays within himself and has some passing moxy in Chase Baine...and LAST YEAR'S STARTER.
You know how many schools would kill to have last year's starter available to them? And I will tell you right now—Chase Baine does not suck. He can be a very serviceable fill in starter at the FBS level.
Last year UNT rolled up 516 yards of offense and scored 40 points on Florida Atlantic. Lance Dunbar rolled up 238 yards rushing and three TDs on 25 carries against them. For those of you who are bad at math, that is damned near 10 yards a carry.
We have all the starters from that offense back and healthy with the exception of graduated senior Guard Tyler Bailey and injured Center JJ Johnson.
Both of those guys were quality starters, but I don't recall them picking up Lance Dunbar on each of those running plays, carrying him four yards, and then throwing him like a javelin for another six.
Now granted, like UNT, FAU appears to have a better defense this year...And UNT is in a little crises of confidence on the OL...But the idea that this OL and Lance Dunbar are incapable of powering the offense to a good outing vs. FAU seems preposterous.
Sack up boys.
As one of my Texas high school coaches used to say about road trips, "If you bring your balls, the rest will follow."
Don't buy into this "woe is me" BS. Tune it out and focus on the job at hand. It is just a question of will, focus, determination, and perseverance.
Do your jobs on each play. Play with controlled determination (not wildly inconsistent and unpredictable emotion) and you have a solid chance to win this week. You guys are skilled enough, talented enough, and experienced enough to be a very good running team.
So maybe you can't be the high flying offense you thought you'd be this year. Big Deal!
There is absolutely nothing preventing the UNT offense from responding to anything FAU does by knocking the teeth out of that FAU defense play after play.
Maybe this is fate's way of saying the Mean Green's lot in life this year is for once under Dodge to physically kick some ass on both sides of the ball to get their wins.
So be it. That is a so much more satisfying way to win anyway.
Finally a word for any UNT fans at the game
If Dunbar isn't getting carries in the first quarter, you could probably help the kids out a lot by chanting "Dunbar" at the end of the first quarter to remind Canales...