A Day-After Look At North Texas-Rice
Weekly Feature Looking Back And Looking Ahead At North Texas Football
DENTON -- Each week at MeanGreenSports.com, after the dust has settled, we take a look back at the football team's previous matchup and look ahead to what it means for the team and program moving forward. Here are some of our thoughts on North Texas-Rice:
Senior quarterback Andrew McNulty threw for 303 yards, the first 300-yard passing game by a North Texas player since Derek Thompson in 2013, and the North Texas offense averaged nearly eight yards per play, but the Mean Green were unable to overcome a minus-three turnover margin in a 38-24 loss to Rice at Apogee Stadium on Saturday. Rice, which was unable to overcome a minus-four turnover margin of its own the previous week in a 42-28 loss at Texas, turned three North Texas turnovers into 17 points, while committing zero turnovers of their own.
It may be a cliché, but as evidenced by the first two games, winning the turnover battle remains a key ingredient to success for North Texas, and it will likely continue to be a factor moving forward this season. The Mean Green had a minus-one turnover margin in their loss to SMU and then a minute-three turnover margin against Rice. Taking a broader look at the turnover battle, North Texas is now 18-9 when committing fewer turnovers and 1-15 when committing more turnovers than its opponent under head coach Dan McCarney.
The quarterback position draws the most attention and scrutiny of any position on the field, and McNulty largely impressed in the first home game of the season, completing 19-of-35 passes for 303 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. With McNulty, North Texas showed more tempo than against SMU, particularly on the first drive, a 15-play, 74-yard drive in 4:50 that ended in a 23-yard field goal. He also had more success in throwing the ball downfield and creating explosive plays, completing six passes that went for 15 yards or more, none more impressive than touchdown passes of 33 yards and 93 yards to senior wide receiver Carlos Harris.
On the defensive side of the ball, North Texas finished four sacks and seven tackles for loss, giving the Mean Green six sacks and 12 tackles for loss through two games this season. Their 3.0 sacks per game leads Conference USA and is tied for 15th nationally. Individually, junior defensive end Jarrian Roberts had a breakout game, disrupting the Rice offense and totaling career highs of 2.5 sacks and 4.0 tackles for loss. It was the sixth-most sacks by a North Texas player since 1998 and the third-most tackles for loss since 2001.
Further, the Mean Green defense started the game strong, holding Rice to a missed field goal attempt at the end of 17-play, 64-yard drive that chewed up the first 7:52 of the game and then forcing a punt on its second defensive possession, before the Owls scored on six of its next seven drives, including five touchdowns. Similar to the SMU game the previous week, the North Texas defense appeared worn out by the end of the game, playing against a Rice offense that ran 90 plays and finished with a time of possession of 41:50. When assessing the play of the defense through two games, it’s worth noting that North Texas ranks last in the nation in time possession (21:10/game) and ranks third in the nation with opponents averaging 83.5 plays per game.