Over the course of the last few days, I have been on multiple radio stations and answered more than one question-and-answer feature sent my way by newspapers that cover LSU.
One question that was posed along the way by more than one person stood out:
What does UNT hope to accomplish in its game against LSU?
When you get down to it, that’s the million dollar question, and maybe the one that is the most difficult to answer.
Yeah, UNT wants to win.
It’s possible. Louisiana-Monroe beat Alabama in 2007.
But for the sake of conversation, let’s stay with the more likely scenario that UNT falls on Saturday night.
At that point, what would be a success? UNT lost its last two games at LSU 56-3 and 41-3.
Dan McCarney wants to win, but I thought this quote said it all:
“America is watching. We want to make the most of the opportunity. I would love after this game for America to say, ‘Boy are they tough, boy are they tenacious, boy are they hard-nosed and physical,’ Wouldn’t that be cool if that is what America is saying? We are going to do our best to send that message.”
What would it take to send that message and feel good about what transpires?
Here’s an unsolicited to-do list:
1. Find the end zone
UNT was shut out by Alabama last year, 41-0; lost 53-7 against the Crimson Tide in 2009, managed just a field goal against LSU in 2008, scored just 10 points against Oklahoma in 2007, seven against Texas in 2006 … and I could keep going. The last time UNT scored more than 14 points against a ranked opponent was in a 48-28 loss to Texas A&M in 1986. UNT has gone 19 straight games against ranked team since without clearing the 14-point mark. It will be hard to make the case that UNT is on the upswing without scoring more than 14 points.
2. Don’t let it turn into a track meet.
UNT has a lot of young players who are trying to build some confidence. McCarney has said he wants this team’s defense to grow up this season and for years to come. LSU will score. UNT will feel a whole lot better about this game if the Tigers don’t score at will.
3. Avoid a ton of serious injuries.
There is nothing UNT can do when it comes to avoid injuries. You play the game and hope for the best. The best would without a doubt entail getting out of town with all of the Mean Green’s players upright, or at least all the key ones.
4. Have bright spots to point to.
UNT showed a little backbone defensively against Alabama last year. Yeah, UNT lost 41-0, but the Mean Green posted four sacks in that game. The Mean Green’s players talked a lot about the confidence that instilled in them. It was more than a coincidence that UNT bounced back the next week and beat Indiana for its first win of the season.
5. Make a few plays offensively
UNT’s long play offensively last season in its loss to Alabama was a 20-yard pass from Derek Thompson to Lance Dunbar. The Mean Green finished with 169 yards on the night. With Dunbar now trying to nail down a roster spot with the Cowboys, all eyes will be on the players UNT hopes will make some plays this season offensively. Making them against one of the top defenses in the country will be tough. Getting something going would make a world of difference down the line.
6. Have some young players emerge
UNT has young players sprinkled all through its lineup. Guys like Chad Polk and Antoinne Jimmerson are the future of this team. It would build excitement if a few of those players start to show up.
7. Give people a reason to come to the home opener
UNT will open its home schedule against Texas Southern next week. The Mean Green would love to have a great home crowd, especially after saying throughout the summer that building a bigger following is a high priority. Having a good turnout for the home opener would be a great step in the right direction. People on the fence will need a reason to come, and having a chance to see Texas Southern isn’t going to hack it. UNT could do itself a whole lot of good if it plays well enough to pique the curiosity of casual fans who might or might not show up to that first home game.