Late-night UNT-Nicholls thoughts

One could see this one coming from a mile away, but the result was still impressive.

UNT whacked Nicholls State today 77-3.

Yeah, you read that score right.

The story of the night is that quarterback Dajon Williams looked like the real deal while throwing for 176 yards and rushing for 68.

Williams made all the plays anyone could have expected and provided another element for UNT’s offense. The guy can run and broke free for a 55-yard gain. That is an element UNT’s other quarterbacks don’t provide.

And while we are talking about things that went well, a short rundown …

– UNT blocked two punts

– Darvin Kidsy returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown

– UNT set a school record with 10 sacks

– UNT returned two interceptions for touchdowns

Afterward, UNT coach Dan McCarney made a very insightful comment, basically saying that UNT likely isn’t as good as it appeared in its win over Nicholls (safe bet) or as bad as it looked while getting whacked around by Louisiana Tech (also a safe assumption).

UNT fans are giddy at this point over Williams and just about everything else. That’s understandable. Williams looks unlike any quarterback UNT has had in terms of a dual threat in years.

UNT hasn’t had an all-conference quarterback since Scott Hall in 2003 and 2004.

There is certainly reason for hope that UNT has found a replacement for Derek Thompson, who was highly under appreciated during his career.

I just won’t expect too much — from Williams or UNT, for that matter — at least not yet.

Williams will be good, but he’s going to have some growing to do just like any young quarterback.

Teams will also have tape on Williams now and will be able to formulate game plans to slow him down and especially to get some clean shots at him.

Even with taking those factors into account, there is a lot to like about Williams and about where UNT stands at the moment. A win like the one UNT produced against Nicholls is still a huge one any way one slices it.

Five quick thoughts following UNT’s win over Nicholls State

Here are five quick thoughts following UNT’s win over Nicholls State on Saturday at Apogee Stadium.

1. UNT has found its quarterback

There were a whole lot of question about Dajon Williams and if he is ready to become the Mean Green’s starting quarterback heading into the weekend. Williams has started just one game, but appears more than ready. Williams accounted for five touchdowns against Nicholls and will only improve from this point forward.

2. UNT fans should be careful about elevating expectations for Williams

Dajon Williams may have looked great in UNT’s win over Nicholls, but it was still a game against a floundering team playing at the Football Championship Subdivision level. UNT and Williams will have much bigger challenges ahead.

3. UNT’s special teams will continue to be an asset

Darvin Kidsy looks like he is the best option as far as returning punts goes for UNT’s specials teams that continue to be a strength. Kidsy took a punt back 75 yards for a touchdown and had three returns for 132 yards in the first three quarters.

4. UNT is back on track for a bowl game

UNT looked like a bowl team once again during its win over Nicholls. The Mean Green may only be 2-2 on the season, but there are enough winnable games left on the schedule for UNT to win six games.

5. UNT answered the bell in the running game

UNT struggled to run the ball in its first three games of the season, but got back on track against Nicholls State. The Mean Green had 280 rushing yards after three quarters.

UNT-Nicholls State preview/running blog

UNT will take on Nicholls State at Apogee Stadium this afternoon.

On the surface, this game appears like a clunker. Nicholls competes in the Football Championship Subdivision and might be one of the worst teams in the country at the next step down in terms of divisions in college football. The Colonels are 0-3, lost to Arkansas 73-7 and fell last week to Division II Henderson State 27-10.

Nicholls is a team UNT (or any other major college team for that matter) should flatten without much of a problem.

There is a bit of intrigue when it comes to today’s game because Dajon Williams will make his debut at quarterback today.

UNT dug the redshirt freshman out of mothballs when it fell behind 42-7 to Louisiana Tech in a nationally televised game at Apogee last week. Williams proceeded to lead UNT on a pair of fourth quarter touchdown drives in garbage time.

UNT named Williams its starter on Monday despite the fact he missed a huge chunk of offseason workouts due to injuries and off-the-field issues. We talked a little about the situation in today’s paper.

The question now is if Williams can spark UNT’s offense that has struggled all season following the departure of Heart of Dallas Bowl MVP Derek Thompson. Any reasonable person knew that UNT would miss Thompson, and it has. UNT set a school record for total offense last season with 5,336 total yards and averaged 410.5 yards a game.

There was a ridiculous notion out there that UNT would be better at quarterback without Thompson. Well, three games into the year UNT has used three quarterbacks and is averaging 242 yards a game, a total that ranks No. 122 nationally. UNT ranks 121st out of 125 teams nationally in passing offense at 99.3 yards a game.

UNT believes Williams will be able to handle the promotion, largely because of his calm nature that coaches and players told us about this week.

We are about to find out how Williams fares.

And in a side note …

UNT cornerback commit Nate Brooks is at today’s game.

Stay tuned, I will update the blog all day.

2:10 p.m. — UNT will be without a couple of key players today. Defensive end Daryl Mason hasn’t played all year and won’t be in there again today. I would expect Jarrian Roberts to start. UNT will also be without running back Jeffrey Wilson, who was hurt in the Mean Green’s loss to Louisiana Tech. Wilson actually started in the Mean Green’s game against the Bulldogs. Mason is expected to return in UNT’s game at Indiana after a bye week.

2:28 — It won’t matter today, but it is interesting when one looks back at UNT’s recent history to see how the Mean Green’s running game impacts its overall performance. I mentioned this earlier in the week, but the Mean Green have lost six straight games when rushing for 110 yards or fewer.

14:52 — Nicholls won the toss and deferred. UNT received and has the ball at its own 41-yard line.

13:42 — Well, that started well. Williams hit all four of his passes on UNT’s opening drive and scored on an 8-yard run. UNT is up 7-0 less than two minutes in.

13:34 — James Jones intercepted a Nicholls pass on the Colonels first play from scrimmage. Dajon Williams rolled out and hit Carlos Harris, who no one covered down the field for a 41-yard touchdown.

11:46 — Derrick Teegarden blocked Nicholls’ punt and UNT quickly stuck the ball in with three straight runs from Reggie Pegram. UNT leads 21-0.

5:03 — Nicholls is on the board on a Francisco Condado field goal at the end of a 13-play drive. It’s 21-3 UNT.

1:19 — UNT has the ball back at its 26-yard line late in the first quarter.

End of the first quarter — UNT is up 21-3 and is at the Nicholls 24-yard line after Carlos Harris picked up 43 yards on an end-around on third-and-3.

14:24 — Williams goes in from five yards out at the end of a 74-yard drive. UNT is up 28-3 and is rolling. Williams has two rushing touchdowns and a passing touchdown — UNT’s first of the year.

14:08 — UNT is on the board again, this time on defense. James Jones intercepted a Kale Henderson pass and returned it 33 yards for a touchdown. UNT is up 35-3.

12:30 — UNT forced a punt on Nicholls last possession, but was called for roughing the kicker.

10:29 — UNT has the ball back after forcing another punt. Darvin Kidsy returned it to the Nicholls 41-yard line. UNT will have great field position to start this drive.

10:08 — UNT is on the board again. Marcus Smith was open over the middle. Dajon Williams hit him for a 41-yard touchdown. UNT is up 42-3.

7:46 — UNT has the ball back at its 12-yard line in the second quarter. The Mean Green are up 42-3 and are rolling.

4:38 — UNT has tacked on another touchdown. Dajon Williams hit Willy Ivery on a perfectly set up screen deep in Nicholls’ end of the field. Ivery went in untouched from 14 yards out. UNT is up 49-3.

Halftime — UNT is up 49-3 at halftime of its game against an over matched Nicholls State team. Dajon Williams had a monster first half and didn’t show any signs of jitters in his first start.

13:43 — Darvin Kidsy just took a punt back 75 yards for a touchdown. He was pinned to the sideline and just stayed in bounds before turning around and taking the ball back while cutting across the field. UNT is up 56-3.

9:10 — Linebacker Sed Ellis blocked a punt on Nicholls last possession. He had a clear path to return it, but couldn’t get a handle on the ball. UNT needed just five plays to cash in with an 8-yard run from Reggie Pegram.

6:01 — UNT will have the ball back again after another short Nicholls possession. This is a perfect scenario for UNT, which will have an opportunity to get Williams some work with no pressure on him. This game has long since been decided with UNT up 63-3. The question now is how long UNT will leave Williams in the game.

5:37 — And there is the answer. Dajon Williams is done for the day. Andrew McNulty is in for the Mean Green at quarterback.

2:34 — Andrew McNulty led UNT down the field and has the Mean Green in the end zone again. Erick Evans took the ball in from a yard out to put UNT up 70-3. UNT

14:03 — Zac Whitfield just intercepted a pass from Beaux Hebert at the UNT 2-yard line and returned it 98 yards for a touchdown. UNT is up 77-3. The crazy part of it all is that this game essentially still has an entire quarter to go.

8:30 — This is over. I am about to head down. I will be back later.

Thoughts on UNT’s running game, UNT-KU volleyball on ESPN3

North Texas running back Reggie Pegram carries the ball in a loss to Louisiana Tech last week at Apogee Stadium. UNT will look to get its running game going on Saturday in a game against Nicholls State.

One of the surprising aspects of UNT’s season thus far has been the way UNT has struggled to run the ball at times.

The Mean Green had a terrific night in a win over SMU, rolling up 245 yards, but hasn’t been as effective the rest of the year.

UNT managed just 79 yards on the ground in a loss to Texas and 104 in a loss to Louisiana Tech.

That might not sound like a big of a drop-off, but if one looks at recent UNT history it is a bit of a dip in production.

UNT was held to less than 110 yards in a game only four times all of last season.

Those four games were against Ohio (104), Georgia (7), Tulane (34) and UTSA (105).

What do those four games have in common? They are the only four games UNT lost all year.

UNT also lost the Texas and Louisiana Tech games this season.

Bottom line — UNT has lost six straight while rushing for less than 110 yards.

There are several reasons UNT has fallen under the 110-yard mark a couple of times this year.

To review …

– UNT has really struggled to throw the ball down the field, or anywhere else for that matter.

– The Mean Green’s offensive line is in a state of flux due to the graduation of LaChris Anyiam and the shuffling around that caused. A few key injuries haven’t helped and have forced UNT to shuffle things around even more. UNT head Dan McCarney likes to keep his injury issues a secret, but there have been some key guys dealing with issues this year in UNT’s offensive front.

– The loss of Brandin Byrd hasn’t helped matters either. Byrd might not have been a spectacular runner, but he was rock solid in what he did. The guy did pass the 1,000-yard mark last season. UNT started out with Reggie Pegram in the starting lineup, but turned to Jeffrey Wilson in its last game. UNT likes to rotate its running backs, but doesn’t seem to have hit a rhythm yet. UNT is averaging 3.2 yards a carry. And now Wilson is hurt as well.

UNT will look to sort things out tomorrow in a game against Nicholls State before things get tough at Indiana and UAB after that.

And in a side note, the UNT volleyball team’s match against No. 24 Kansas is on ESPN3 at the moment. UNT is already down a set. UNT is 9-1 and off to the best start in school history.

Thursday thoughts: Williams and the blitz, recruiting tidbit

UNT defensive back target Darreon Jackson who we talked to over the summer picked up a new offer a couple of days ago. Boise State has entered the running.

And in other news and thoughts …

I was running through my notes while working on stories for the paper and started to wonder about UNT’s offense and how it will change with Dajon Williams at quarterback.

We talked a lot about it, but one aspect we haven’t talked about is if UNT will be less susceptible to the blitz going forward. Everyone UNT has played this season has blitzed heavily, largely because Josh Greer isn’t the most mobile quarterback out there.

Last week, Louisiana Tech defensive coordinator Manny Diaz stacked the line of scrimmage and blitzed UNT at every opportunity.

That’s largely why UNT turned to Williams in the first place.

“Dajon’s mobility with what Manny Diaz was doing stacking the box created opportunities,” offensive coordinator Mike Canales said this week.

Williams took advantage of those opportunities while leading UNT to two touchdowns.

UNT has given up seven sacks this year after allowing 17 in the last two years combined.

We will begin to see in the next few weeks — although not necessarily on Saturday against over matched Nicholls State — if Williams will be a tougher target for opponents.

Prediction: UNT will roll past Nicholls State as excitement about new QB builds

North Texas freshman running back Erick Evans celebrates after scoring a late touchdown in a loss to Louisiana Tech on Sept. 11 at Apogee Stadium. UNT will look to rebound from a 42-21 loss to the Bulldogs on Saturday when they host Nicholls State. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

Records: North Texas 1-2, 0-1 Conference USA, Nicholls State 0-3, 0-0 Southland Conference

TV: TXA 21: Ron Thulin (play-by-play), Keith Moreland (analyst), Evan Nemec (sideline)

Radio: KHYI-FM 95.3, KNTU-FM 88.1, KGAF-AM 1580

On the line: North Texas has finally gotten to the point as an athletic program where it is following the plan of buying in an opponent for what amounts to a sure win on an annual basis. UNT brought in Texas Southern in 2012 and paid $410,000 to buy in Idaho last year. That move paid off when UNT won its season opener over the Vandals and built some confidence that paid off in a nine-win season. UNT will bring in Nicholls State this week in another well-timed game. The Mean Green elevated Dajon Williams, a redshirt freshman with pretty much no experience, into the starting lineup after a loss to Louisiana Tech last week. Williams will make his first start in just his fourth college game against Nicholls. The concern for UNT is not so much if it will beat a Nicholls team that is 0-3, lost to Arkansas 73-7 and fell to Division II Henderson State last week. UNT will win. What UNT is really worried about is getting Williams experience and preparing him for a the rest of the season. UNT has a bye week and a game at Indiana on Oct. 4 before its next conference game at UAB on Oct. 4. UNT has to get something going now if it wants to head to a second straight bowl game, a point head coach Dan McCarney made this week.

When North Texas has the ball: UNT will look to get its running game going again after managing just 104 rushing yards in its loss to Louisiana Tech. The Mean Green relies on their running game and a veteran offensive line. Freshman Jeffrey Wilson started last week, but was injured and might not play this week. UNT will likely lean on the veteran duo of Reggie Pegram and Antoinne Jimmerson while rotating several running backs. UNT will look to get the game under control early and then allow Williams to work on getting his feet under him in the passing game the rest of the day.

When Nicholls has the ball: There is a bit of mystery when it comes to what Nicholls will look like now that Steve Axman has taken over as the Colonels’ head coach following the resignation of Charlie Stubbs due to health concerns. Nicholls does have an experienced and athletic quarterback in Kalen Henderson, who has thrown for 388 yards on the season. UNT struggled at times in pass coverage last week in its loss to Louisiana Tech, allowing Cody Sokol to throw for 243 yards and five touchdowns. Nicholls will likely try to attack UNT’s secondary.

Prediction: This one has all the makings of a blowout. UNT was embarrassed at home in its last game, where it trailed Louisiana Tech 42-7 before scoring a couple of late cosmetic touchdowns and will be determined to bounce back. The Mean Green will also want to get Williams off to a good start. The quarterback switch seems to have energized the Mean Green in general. Nicholls appears to be the perfect opponent to help Williams settle into the role. The Colonels have struggled all year long and are coming off a loss to Division II Henderson State at home. UNT will get up early and get Williams a ton of work. The former Pflugerville Connally standout will make enough plays in a basic offense to get UNT’s fans excited again and raise hope that all is not lost heading into a two-game road swing with what looks like tough games against Indiana and UAB.

UNT 42, Nicholls State 10

UNT women pick up commitment from Oklahoma guard

Raven Prince, a guard out of Millwood (Okla.) High committed to UNT today.

I have yet to talk to her, but she averaged 12.3 points and 6.9 rebounds a game last season.

Prince helped lead her team deep into the playoffs and finished with 16 points and nine rebounds in a state tournament game.

Five things UNT fans should know about Nicholls

Nicholls State quarterback Kalen Henderson has thrown for 388 yards and a touchdown this season and is one of the key players in the Colonels (photo courtesy of Nicholls sports information)

North Texas will host Nicholls State at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday at Apogee Stadium. Here’s a quick scouting report of the Colonels:

UNT Record: 1-2, 0-1 Conference USA (Lost to Louisiana Tech 42-21 last week)

Nicholls State: 0-3 (Lost to Henderson State 27-10 last week)

Key number: 3.2 (Yards UNT is averaging per rushing attempt through three games, down from 4.3 yards per attempt last season)

1. UNT will be first opponent for Nicholls under interim Axman

Steve Axman, a longtime college assistant who has made stops at UCLA, Washington, Minnesota, Stanford and Arizona, will make his debut as Nicholls State’s interim head coach when he leads the Colonels into Apogee Stadium to face UNT. Axman took over for Charlie Stubbs, who resigned due to health concerns on Sunday. UNT head coach Dan McCarney said earlier this week that he expects Nicholls’ players to be ready to play for their former coach.

2. Nicholls State’s struggles stretch back to last season

Nicholls State enters its game against UNT riding a nine-game losing streak that dates back to a win 33-21 over Northwestern State on Oct. 12. The Colonels haven’t come close to breaking that streak yet this fall, dropping all three of their games. Henderson State beat Nicholls State 27-10 last week. Nicholls State has scored just 33 points in three games this season and was hammered 73-7 by Arkansas in its second game of the season.

3. Wins against FBS teams have been hard to come by for Nicholls

Nicholls has won just three of its 24 games against schools playing on the Football Bowl Subdivision level since 2000, but did beat Western Michigan last season. UNT has won all five meetings in the series, including a 23-0 win in the teams’ last meeting in 2002.

4. Nicholls State has struggled to slow down opponents rushing games

The Colonels have struggled to slow down opponents running games this season and are allowing 415.3 yards a game. That should be good news for UNT, which has relied heavily on its running game throughout head coach Dan McCarney’s tenure at the school. Nicholls State’s three starting defensive linemen average just 270 pounds. That could make it tough for the Colonels to hold up against UNT’s offensive line that includes a pair of Lombardi Award candidates at guard in Cyril Lemon and Mason Y’Barbo. UNT rushed for just 104 yards on 36 carries in its loss to Louisiana Tech and will be sure to look to get back on track on Saturday.

5. Henderson is the key to Nicholls State’s offense

Kalen Henderson has thrown for 388 yards and a touchdown so far this season and is one of two quarterbacks who are keys to Nicholls State’s offense. Beau Hebert has added 184 passing yards. Both are good athletes who can make plays if they get the opportunity.

Janis Peterson leaves UNT hoops program

Former North Texas guard Janis Peterson has left the program and returned home to California, head coach Mike Petersen confirmed on Wednesday. (DRC file photo)

Janis Peterson has left the North Texas women’s basketball program after one season to return to California, head coach Mike Petersen confirmed Wednesday afternoon.

Peterson was UNT’s third-leading scorer last year with an average of 8.6 points a game. The senior guard played at City College of San Francisco in her hometown before signing with UNT.

“Janis was home sick,” Petersen said. “She stuck with it for a year and decided to go back home. She had never been out of the state before.”

Peterson is the second key player to leave UNT since the end of last season. Alexis Hyder, UNT’s second-leading scorer, transferred to LSU. Hyder averaged 11.3 points a game last year.

UNT has begun preseason workouts and should have two of its key guards back for its season-opener against Houston on Nov. 11, which should help soften the blow of losing Peterson. BreAnna Dawkins has returned to practice after suffering a season-ending knee injury last season, while point guard Candice Adams is on course to return from a torn ACL in the next few weeks.

Video: Mike Canales talks about the adjustment to Williams at quarterback

One of the key figures we haven’t heard from yet on UNT’s move to Dajon Williams at quarterback is offensive coordinator Mike Canales. Here is a video I shot with him yesterday talking about the switch after Josh Greer started the Mean Green’s first three games.