Prediction: UNT will finally find a way on the road against UTSA

North Texas players congratulate cornerback Kenny Buyers (31) after he intercepted a pass last week in a win over Florida International at Apogee Stadium. UNT will face UTSA on Saturday. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

North Texas at UTSA 11 a.m. Saturday, Alamodome, San Antonio

Records: North Texas 4-7, 2-5 C-USA; UTSA 3-8, 2-5 C-USA

TV: Fox Sports Southwest: Brendan Burke (play-by-play), Ben Leber (analyst), Christian Steckel(sideline)

Radio: KHYI-FM 95.3, KNTU-FM 88.1

When North Texas has the ball: UNT has struggled offensively for much of the season and floundered at times last week in a win over Florida International. UNT picked up two quick touchdowns, but managed just a field goal in the final three quarters. UNT has used three different starting quarterbacks this season and will likely stick with Andrew McNulty for the sixth straight game today. Reggie Pegram rushed for 114 yards in UNT’s win over the Golden Panthers last week in one of the Mean Green’s best individual performances of the season. UTSA’s strength is a defense that is allowing just 25.8 points a game. The Roadrunners have allowed 13 points or fewer in all three of their wins this season.

When UTSA has the ball: UNT is coming off one of its best performances of the season defensively in a 17-14 win over FIU. The Mean Green defense didn’t allow any points on a day the Golden Panthers scored on a punt return and an interception return. UTSA scored just once last week in a 45-7 loss at Western Kentucky and have not scored more than 12 points in any of their last four games. UTEP shut out the Roadrunners in a 34-0 win. UNT’s defensive players will be motivated to shine in the final game of defensive coordinator John Skladany’s career.

Prediction: UNT has been horrible on the road all year, losing all five of its games. And those games haven’t even been close. The Mean Green’s best performance on the road was a 35-17 loss to UTEP on a day its bowl hopes ended. UTSA has struggled just as much as UNT, which is a surprise considering the Roadrunners have 36 seniors, including 20 who start. Several of those players were key in UTSA’s surprising 7-5 finish a year ago. This game could come down to who comes ready to play. UNT is on a roll and should finish with consecutive wins and build momentum while winning three of its last four games.

UNT 21, UTSA 20

Jarvis Baxter makes the call

I really thought Baxter, a wide receiver who played at Trinity Valley JC last season, would end up at UNT. He was in Denton quite a bit and had some connections to the program.

He was one of the players I talked to early on for our on-going UNT recruiting target series.

Baxter had a big year at Trinity Valley and told me that he was putting off making a college decision to see if any bigger programs came along late in the process.

One did.

Now he’s off to USF.

Late-night hoops rewind: UNT 67, Mississippi Valley 52

Final: UNT 67, Mississippi Valley 52

Where UNT stands: UNT cruised through a five-game homestand to open the season, finishing with a 4-1 record

Now what?: UNT head to Arkansas for a game against the Razorbacks in the opener of a brutal three-game swing that also includes trips to Oklahoma State and Stephen F. Austin.

Ahmed

Star of the night: Muhammed Ahmed came off the bench to score a UNT career-high 15 points to go along with nine rebounds. UNT had a decided advantage inside and capitalized on a night a number of its post players came up with solid performances, including Colin Voss, who had 10 points and eight rebounds. The Mean Green finished with a 49-35 rebounding edge and outscored MVSU 34-18 in the paint. Ahmed played a key role in UNT establishing its dominance inside, which was the difference in the game.

Say what?

“I was happy to win, but I was really disappointed in our effort, focus and energy. We just thought we could show up and play. Sometimes people look at scores and see that they have been beaten by 30 or 40 and think that they won’t compete. They played extremely hard.”

– UNT coach Tony Benford on the Mean Green’s game against Mississippi Valley State, which came into the game allowing an average of 103 points a game.

Our take: The big news of the night was that JUCO transfer guard Carrington Ward has a Jones Fracture in his right foot.

Ward landed awkwardly on his right foot and broke his fifth metatarsal, the long bone on the outside of the foot that connects to the little toe, during practice. Chances are, he will be out for the remainder of the year.

UNT is pretty deep at the guard spots, but with the status of Texas A&M transfer J-Mychal Reese still up in the air, and Greg Wesley out due to personal issues, there is at least some question how well equipped the Mean Green are to handle a backcourt injury the rest of the year.

What makes the situation all the more interesting is that UNT is now experimenting with T.J. Taylor at point guard. UNT has struggled at that spot all year, but is has plenty of guys it can turn to on the wings. Is playing Taylor at the point the answer?

UNT is going to take a look and see. the early returns against MVSU were pretty positive. Taylor had seven points and four assists.

The bottom line is that UNT took care of business in a pretty favorable early schedule. The Mean Green will soon find out if they can keep it going against a higher level of competition.

UNT-MVSU preview/running blog (UNT loses Ward for year)

Ward

UNT will face Mississippi Valley State tonight at the Super Pit, but before we get to that, here’s a bit of breaking news.

Junior guard Carrington Ward is out for the year with a Jones Fracture in his right foot.

Ward has not played a lot this season. He’s averaging 1.3 points in 7.5 minutes a game. What makes losing Ward a little tougher on the Mean Green is that the team is already shorthanded.

UNT has yet to announce if Texas A&M transfer J-Mychal Reese will be eligible at any point this year. Tonight is UNT’s fifth game and he has yet to see the floor.

The Mean Green are also without Greg Wesley, another player who has set to see the floor. He is dealing with off-the-court issues.

UNT has added a walk-on to fill Ward’s roster spot, but that is not going to help the Mean Green anywhere outside of practice.

UNT will need to stay healthy from here on out and hope it gets Reese eligible and Wesley on the floor at some point.

As far as tonight’s game goes, it’s one UNT should roll though. MVSU is 0-4 on the year and has been drilled in every game it has played. The idea tonight is for UNT to get back on track after being drilled in the second half of its last game against Iona before it heads out on the road for a three-game trip to Arkansas, Oklahoma State and Stephen F. Austin.

UNT is 3-1. Getting to 4-1 would guarantee that the Mean Green would be at least .500 when it gets back home.

Update tip — T.J. Taylor will start tonight for the first time this season. UNT will go without a point guard. UNT has really struggled at that spot this year. It should be interesting to see who brings the ball up and handles it for UNT.

16:22 — MVSU is up 6-3 and just took a timeout to avoid turning it over when UNT went to a fullcourt press.

15:00 — Welp, this isn’t starting well for UNT. MVSU has hit three 3s and nearly had another one drop. The Mean Green trail  9-3. Maurice Aniefiok hit a shot to open the game for UNT. That’s the Mean Green’s only bucket from the field thus far.

14:27 — Jordan Williams just got T-ed up. UNT is down 11-7.

11:37 — UNT has come to life here at the Super Pit and gone on a 12-2 run to take a 15-11 lead. The Mean Green went to a fullcourt press and forced a couple of key turnovers that got UNT going. T.J. Taylor has seven points for UNT.

6:45 — UNT’s run has fizzled out. The Mean Green actually trailed there for a minute, but is back up 26-25 after Colin Voss scored in the lane. MVSU has dropped five 3s already. T.J. Taylor has seven points for UNT.

3:36 — UNT is on an 8-0 run and is up 32-25 late in the first half. T.J. Taylor has seven points for the Mean Green. MVSU has cooled off after a hot start offensively.

1:40 — UNT is on a 14-2 run and is up 38-27. It’s starting to look like UNT might roll from here.

46.2 — UNT is still up 38-27. The Mean Green took their 30 to set something up here late in the half.

Halftime — UNT cashed in late in the half on a Maurice Aniefiok 3. The Mean Green are up 41-27 at the break. UNT got off to a horrible start, but it pretty close to where it should be. Maurice Aniefiok and Colin Voss both have eight points for UNT. The Mean Green shot 52 percent from the field in the first half. MVSU used some hot 3-point shooting to jump out to an early lead, but cooled off.

16:45 — MVSU has gone on a 6-1 run to open the second half. UNT is still up 42-33, but momentum is definitely in the Delta Devils’ corner at the moment. Tony Benford has taken a timeout.

15:04 — This is getting kind of interesting, which is not good for UNT. MVSU has pulled to within 44-37 and is on an 8-3 run. The Delta Devils had a shot to get within five, but missed it. Colin Voss and Maurice Aniefiok have eight points for UNT.

11:20 — UNT has scored the last four points of the game and is back up 48-37. UNT is headed to the line. The fact the Delta Devils are shooting 26 percent from the floor is helping the Mean Green’s cause substantially.

7:27 — UNT is on a 12-4 run and has pushed its lead to 56-41 late in the second half. Muhammed Ahmed has 11 points and Colin Voss eight for UNT, which is winning the game in the point. UNT has a 38-31 edge on the glass.

3:24 — UNT is up 63-46 late in the second half here at the Super Pit. The Mean Green appear as if they will coast to the finish from here on out. Muhammed Ahmed has 13 points for UNT.

55.7 — UNT is up 67-50. and just called a timeout.

26.7 — And there’s another UNT TO. 67-52 UNT.

Final — 67-52 UNT. I will be back later.

 

Five things UNT fans should know about UTSA

 

UTSA’s Sean Ianno (92) celebrates with teammates after he kicked a 38-yard field goal to give the Roadrunners a 12-10 win over Southern Miss earlier this season in San Antonio. UNT will face UTSA on Saturday. (Associated Press/Eric Gay)

North Texas will face UTSA at 11 a.m. on Saturday at the Alamodome in San Antonio

Here’s a quick scouting report of the the Roadrunners:

UTSA: 3-8, 2-5  in Conference USA (Lost to Western Kentucky 45-7 on Saturday)

Key number: 36 (the number of seniors on UTSA’s roster, the highest total on the Football Bowl Subdivision level)

1. UTSA is loaded with seniors finishing out a disappointing year

There was a feeling at the beginning of the season that this would be the Roadrunners’ breakout year. UTSA finished 7-5 overall and 6-2 in Conference USA play in 2013. With 20 starters back, it seemed like a safe bet that the Roadrunners would challenge for a bowl bid. Unfortunately for UTSA, one of the seniors it lost was quarterback Eric Soza, who threw for 2,719 yards last season. The Roadrunners have struggled without him and are averaging 15.5 points a game

2. The Roadrunners have serious quarterback issues

If there is a team in C-USA that can relate to UNT’s struggles at quarterback, it’s UTSA. The Roadrunners have used three quarterbacks extensively, just like UNT. Tucker Carter has thrown for 806 yards, Austin Robinson 645 yards and Blake Bogenschutz 282. Carter is expected to start against the Mean Green. Carter is a former Allen standout who played at Trinity Valley before transferring to UTSA.

3. UTSA isn’t bad defensively

While UTSA has struggled offensively, it has played well on defense at times this season. The Roadrunners beat Southern Miss 12-10 and held a Rice team that hung 41 points on UNT to 17 in a loss to the Owls earlier this season. Houston managed just seven points in a loss to the Roadrunners to open the season. UNT has floundered all year offensively and could face a big challenge in the Roadrunners.

4. UTSA has a really good kicker

Two of the better kickers in C-USA will be on the field when UNT takes on UTSA. Trevor Moore has been a find for the Mean Green. Dan McCarney has raved about him all year while watching him hit 11 of his 13 attempts. UTSA also has a good kicker in Sean Ianno hit an 18-yard game-winner in the Roadrunners 12-10 win over Southern Miss and a 39-yard game-winner against Florida International.

5. UTSA safety Triston Wade is one of C-USA’s best

One of the reasons UTSA has been solid all year defensively is the play of safety Triston Wade,  a 5-11, 170-pound senior who plays a lot bigger than he is. Wade ranks seventh in C-USA with an average of 7.4 tackles a game and is also second in passes defended at 1.18 per game. He is one of the Roadrunners’ key playmakers.

Chalk talk: UNT vs. Mississippi Valley State

UNT forward Colin Voss drives to the basket in a win over Delaware State at the Super Pit earlier this season. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

Mississippi Valley State at UNT

When: 7 p.m. today

Where: Super Pit

Radio: KNTU-FM 88.1

Records: UNT 3-1; MVSU 0-4

Projected UNT starting lineup:

PG: Greg White-Pittman, 6-2 Fr. — 5.0 points, 1.0 rebounds a game, three total assists

SG: Jordan Williams, 6-6 Sr. — 15.3 points, 4.8 rebounds a game, six total steals

SF: Maurice Aniefiok, 6-5 Jr. — 8.0 points, 2.3 rebounds a game, 50 percent from 3-point range (4-for-8).

F: Armani Flannigan, 8.5 points, 4.8 rebounds a game, 70.6 field goal percentage

F: Colin Voss, 6-7, Sr. — 6.3 points, 6.3 rebounds a game, 77.8 free throw percentage

Scouting Mississippi Valley State :

Mississippi Valley State was picked to finish ninth out of 10 teams in the SWAC and has lost all four of its games this season while allowing at least 100 points in three of them. MVSU is bad, really bad. Jordan Washington, a 5-foot-10 sophomore guard, is averaging 14.8 points a game to lead MVSU. The Delta Devils ranks No. 346 nationally both in rebounds per game with 26 and field goal percentage at 32.7. TCU beat MVSU 106-53 in its last game.

Who’s hot:

Armani Flannigan continued to play well in UNT’s loss to Iona in the Mean Green’s last game, finishing with nine points and eight rebounds. Flannigan continues to show signs of improvement this season. At this point, it looks like the senior will be a consistent performer this season. He’s averaging 8.5 points and 4.8 rebounds a game.

What you need to know:

This sets up as a classic rebound game for UNT. The Mean Green were slapped around in the second half of their loss to Iona and need a bit of a confidence boost heading into a road trip to Arkansas, Oklahoma State and Stephen F. Austin. This is why teams like UNT schedule teams from the SWAC, so that can, uhh, S-whack them. The Mean Green should have this one in the bag by halftime. UNT needs to head into its road trip at 4-1.

 

Thoughts on where UNT might head as far as QBs go

McCarney

UNT acknowledged its plans for 2015 season yesterday when Dan McCarney said the Mean Green will look to add quarterback in its next recruiting class.

Up until that point, it appeared as if UNT might not take one in this class since it is already overloaded with underclassmen at the position.

There was a feeling out there that the idea UNT was not going to take a quarterback was hatched by the father of a recruit. Whether or not UNT will take one or not has been debated a whole lot longer than that.

UNT is loaded up with guys who have played and have eligibility remaining. Current starter Andrew McNutly is a junior, Josh Greer is a sophomore and Dajon Williams is officially listed as a redshirt freshman. And don’t forget Connor Means, who is redshirting this year.

Caleb Chumley is expected to arrive as a grayshirt at the semester break. He will start out as a quarterback, but seems destined to move to tight end or another position.

There was a very good chance that UNT would have stood pat had one of its options, especially Williams, taken the job and run with it. None did.

Where does that leave UNT?

Teams often carry five quarterbacks. Six may be pushing it.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of UNT’s quarterbacks leave after the season, but there are not any who are set to graduate, which would make the whole process easier. Brent Osborne left with a year of eligibility remaining after he graduated.

UNT will have to sort through its options with its returning players in the coming days.

UNT has been actively recruiting quarterbacks the last few months. There are options out there from high school to junior college to transfers from other Division I programs.

Here are a couple of scenarios I see out there:

1. UNT goes the Louisiana Tech route

Louisiana Tech hit the jackpot last season when it landed Cody Sokol as a fifth-year transfer. Sokol transferred in from Iowa and has the Bulldogs in position to win the C-USA West Division title heading into a game against Rice on Saturday.

Impact transfers are tough to find, especially at quarterback.

UNT has landed a few at other positions over the years, including safety Marcus Trice. Could UNT hit on another at the most important position?

That has to be about the best possible scenario.

2. UNT finds a JUCO quarterback

A second option for a quick-fix type of player for UNT would be to go the junior college route. There are typically some high-risk, high-reward type of players out there. UNT signed Greer last season out of Navarro JC last season. That has yet to work out, but if UNT can’t find a transfer, dipping back into the JUCO ranks for a player with experience is another possibility. Austin Apodaca of Mesa (Ariz.) Community College has been listed has having at least heard from UNT.

3. Find a player who decommitted/qualified late 

There is always some movement right around national signing day. Players will decommit from a school or be cut loose at the last minute. Chason Virgil of West Mesquite is a good example. He was cut loose by Mississippi State after they got off to a great start and raised their profile. Virgil is a little higher up on the recruiting radar than UNT can reach and appears to be headed to Louisville at this point, but there is always a chance another player could come along late in the process.

4. Hit a home run with a high school quarterback

The chances of a high school quarterback coming in and making an immediate impact seem slim, especially with so few prospects still out there who are on the market. UNT’s system doesn’t appeal to a lot of Texas high school spread quarterbacks, either. What UNT can offer is a chance to compete for the job right away. Could that entice a player committed to another school to flip to UNT a la Tillman Johnson last season. He was committed to Texas State.

It’s a lot to consider as UNT heads down the stretch in the recruiting season.

UNT press conference notes, quotes (video to come)


UNT head coach Dan McCarney hosted his weekly press conference this morning. The Mean Green will face UTSA on Saturday in San Antonio.

The game is one several UNT players said is an important one for the Mean Green for a myriad of reasons. UTSA knocked UNT out of the running for a spot in the C-USA championship game last season with a win in Apogee Stadium. UNT’s coaches and players have felt ever since that game that they didn’t play to their capabilities.

This weekend’s game  will give the Mean Green a chance at revenge.

Saturday’s game also marks the end of the careers of 17 UNT seniors and defensive coordinator John Skladany. This no surprise, but UNT’s seniors universally said they want to go out on a high note.

The real news tidbit of the day, though, was that McCarney said UNT will sign a quarterback in its 2015 class.

There has been some question as to the direction UNT will go as far as finding a quarterback for next season. The issue is UNT has four quarterbacks slated to return next season — current starter Andrew McNulty, plus Dajon Williams, Josh Greer and redshirt freshman Connor Means. UNT also has Caleb Chumley coming in.

That’s five, which is a ton of scholarship quarterbacks for a team to carry.

Williams and Greer each started three games for UNT before the Mean Green turned to McNulty.

UNT plans to add another player to the mix. One can bet that when the music stops, there are not going to be six scholarship quarterbacks on the roster. I am not going to speculate as to the direction this is headed, but I would not be surprised to see UNT with a far different looking depth chart by the beginning of spring practice.

McCarney spoke highly of Means and the way he has looked in practice. He appears to be solidly in UNT’s plans for the future.

As far as this week goes, McNulty will be back in the starting lineup against the Roadrunners.

And in other news …

– Starting tackle Antonio Johnson should be back this week after not playing in UNT’s win over Florida International.

– Defensive end Chad Polk will miss his second straight game. He was out due to illness last week.

– McCarney spoke highly of UTSA coach Larry Coker and said he expects the Roadrunners to be highly motivated to go out on a high note this weekend.

Quotable

“It was an outstanding with on Saturday. I am really proud of my football team and staff. It was great for my players and seniors. Thanks to the fans and the students. When you get to 16-7 in a stadium after opening it up and have four straight winning seasons, it is a strong statement that we are trying to do things the right way. All of us together — administration, coaches, players, fans, students and alumni we are going in the right direction. That was a big, big win for our team.”

– McCarney on UNT’s 17-14 win over Florida International on Saturday.

“We are going to definitely recruit another quarterback this year. The good news is there were no seniors in this bunch. We have struggled and been inconsistent all year at the quarterback position with three guys in the lineup. We have to be a hell of a lot better next year no matter who is in the lineup. Those guys all should be back and we will bring another one in. Connor Means has redshirted. That comes off on Saturday. He has some great promise. We will find out. In 2015 we have to be more consistent and productive than we have been this season.”

– McCarney on UNT’s quarterback situation heading into next season

“It’s important to us. You have to think about the past. We were on a roll last year and had a chance to go to the conference championship game. They got in the way of that. There is a little bit of a revenge factor. With it being the last game, just to win wound be big.”

– UNT offensive lineman Mason Y’Barbo

“It’s about creating your own energy on the road, You don’t have your fans to cheer you on. As a team you have to create your own energy and to get going.”

– UNT linebacker Derek Akunne on what it will take for UNT to break through after losing its first five road games of the season

The Sunday leftovers

North Texas players celebrate after Kenny Buyers intercepted a pass during the Mean Green's win over Florida International on Saturday at Apogee Stadium. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

The end of the weekend is upon us, and that can only mean one thing — It’s time for the Sunday leftovers, where we pick through what took place over the last couple of days and hopefully put it all in perspective.

The big news of the weekend was that UNT finished the home slate in football in style. The Mean Green snuck past Florida International 17-14, sending defensive coordinator John Skladany and 17 seniors out on a positive note.

UNT didn’t play its best game of the season, but it did enough to pull through. That was all that really mattered.

Reggie Pegram finished with 114 rushing yards in his final home game and Derek Akunne posted his 300th career tackle. 

UNT will head to San Antonio this week for its season-ending game against UTSA and can finish 5-7 with a win,

If you look back on the blog from earlier today, you will find the late-night hoops rewind where we went over UNT’s loss to Iona tonight. The UNT women fell to 0-4 on the year earlier in the day with a 59-57 loss to Eastern Illinois.

And finally, the UNT volleyball team was swept by Western Kentucky in the semifinals of the Conference USA tournament. UNT had a pretty successful season and finished 22-10.

Late-night hoops rewind: Iona 78, UNT 58

Final: Iona 78, UNT 58

Where UNT stands: UNT is 3-1 after its first loss of the season and has one game left in five-game home stand to open the year.

Now what?: UNT will face Mississippi Valley State on Wednesday.

Williams

Star of the night: Jordan Williams finished with a team-high 11 points and hit one 3. Williams also had two rebounds, two blocks and an assist. The senior was at his best in the opening moments of the game, when UNT ran out to an early lead.. Williams scored four of his points in the early going and hit a jumper to give UNT a 12-5 lead. The Mean Green couldn’t keep their early run going, but it made things interesting.

Say what?

“This is a measuring stick. This was a great opportunity on our home court that we let slip away. We knew this would be a tough game. I’m disappointed we didn’t measure up to it. I thought we were poised and ready to play.”

– UNT coach Tony Benford on the Mean Green’s game against Iona

Our take: UNT ran into a buzz saw in the second  half of tonight’s game against Iona in guard A.J. English, who lit the Mean Green up for 37 points. English is one of the better guards in the country and was on top of his game against UNT, going 11-for-21 from the floor and hitting five 3s.

English’s 37 points were the most scored against the Mean Green since Demetrius Evans scored 40 against for University of the Southwest in a 91-62 loss to UNT on Dec. 2, 2009.

The chances of UNT knocking off Iona seemed pretty remote. One has to give the Mean Green credit for making a game of it early. Iona had superior talent. That eventually made the difference.

Benford talked about how UNT missed out on a chance for a signature win. One does have to give the Mean Green credit for a 3-0 start. At this point in the season, a win over Delaware State does look pretty good on paper.

UNT has Mississippi Valley State up next before it faces a brutal stretch on the road at Arkansas, Oklahoma State and Stephen F. Austin.

Bouncing back and getting to 4-1 heading into that trip would be a big boost.