A Look Back At North Texas – From the Bird’s Nest
i’ve never been one to take a game for granted when the Cajuns play on the road. In fact, my philosophy has always been there are few home games that are unwinnable and very few road games that are sure wins.
And, many fans made the comment, hey; the Cajuns should win this one, right?
And my response was, “We’re on the road…” and although I felt the Cajuns had better personnel, I didn’t automatically put the North Texas game in the win column before it was played.
In fact, about an hour before kickoff when we found out Alonzo Harris probably wouldn’t play I was pretty uneasy. Still, the Cajuns defense had played well in the Cajuns’ wins and I was still pretty confident.
In fact, when the Cajuns went up 20-6 with an early third quarter drive, I felt like this was going to turn out okay.
The Cajuns got off to a great start in the game, scoring on their first possession of the game. It was their only possession of the first quarter, but they had a 7-0 lead and the defense, as expected, was doing a good job against the North Texas running game. The Cajuns only had the ball four times in the first half, but scored two touchdowns. And, the defense held UNT to just two field goals, one of them as a result of a Cajun turnover. Most Cajuns fans felt pretty good at halftime, I’m sure.
But to an extent, it was fools’ gold. The Cajuns had over 100 yards rushing, but 75 of them had come on one play. Effrem Reed had one run for about sixteen yards, but nothing much other than that. And, the Cajuns led by just seven at the half, which was going to allow North Texas to stick to the game plan.
And, stick to it they did.
The Cajuns got a touchdown on their first possession, but paid a dear price when Harry Peoples hurt his shoulder on the touchdown pass. He would not return. And, for the most part, the Cajuns didn’t get much done offensively the rest of the night.
They didn’t get much done defensively either.
If you thought North Texas was capable of getting 500 yards in offense against the Cajuns, raise your hands.
Didn’t think so.
The Cajuns got a goal line stand, stopping North Texas on fourth and goal from the one, but Louisiana couldn’t get a first down and UNT took advantage of the good field position to make it 20-13.
Then the Cajuns were hit with a block in the back on the ensuing kickoff and a false start moved the team back to the five. Again, no first down. Brett Baer’s punt wound up high and short, even shorter when it got into a brisk wind. UNT took over at the 34 and got into the end zone two plays later to tie the game.
After North Texas got another drive and a field goal to take the lead, the Cajuns, playing with the wind in the fourth quarter, got good field position. But the Cajuns misfired on some deep passes and got a field goal from Baer to tie it.
But just a couple of plays later the Mean Green were in the end zone again, and this time it was over.
Now, fans will (and have) been critical about a couple of things. The Cajuns only ran the ball seven times in the second half (for negative yardage). In retrospect, maybe they could have run it more. But you keep pounding the rock when you have a rock pounder. Alonzo Harris wasn’t around.
In fact, if you take away the 75 yard touchdown run by Broadway and Reed’s 16 yarder in the first half, the Cajuns only had 14 net yards rushing on 17 attempts. Hmmm, maybe they abandoned the run at the right time. Their biggest run in the second half was two yards.
There were also some questions raised about Broadway throwing the deep ball on several occasions down the stretch. But only one of those throws was by design and that was on the first play after the Cajuns got the great field position following a short punt. The others were improvisations by Broadway when his primary guy was covered and he was feeling pressure. He was throwing to the guys he trusted most. At least one of those passes should have been caught and a second could have been.
No, it wasn’t the play calling.
If you want to break down why the Cajuns lost, here is the skinny.
MINUS TWO—The Cajuns have taken pride on being on the better side of the turnover battle this season. Saturday they turned it over twice and failed to force a turnover. Coach Mark Hudspeth believes if you win the turnover battle, you win the game.
LACK OF BULLETS—Not having Harris was a big part in this because the Cajuns couldn’t pound the ball without him. And, the game plan was to feature Peoples, and when the Cajuns lost him, they couldn’t recover.
But here’s the biggest reason the Cajuns lost:
They were out-toughed.
The Cajuns are in great shape physically. And, Hudspeth believes the Cajuns will be the better team in the fourth quarter. Last year, he was right.
But Tuesday night, they weren’t. North Texas was. And, they did it by being more physical and beating the Cajuns up on both sides of the line of scrimmage.
Criticize play calling, dropped passes, penalties and anything else you like. But if you look too closely at specifics, you miss the big picture: North Texas was the better team physically.
Now the Cajuns face four tough ones in a row, beginning with Arkansas State next Tuesday night. Reality is, all four are better teams than the one that beat the Cajuns in Denton.
Not a lot of margin for error over the next month.