Q&A with Mean Green Nation

With an awesome, regional match up on tap against North Texas on Saturday this week will definitely fly by. UTSA fans have waited for a non-El Paso road trip for months and it is finally approaching. The added caveat? This game will actually have some huge implications for UTSA’s postseason chances, as a win against the 7-3 Mean Green will certainly impress bowls that may consider helping UTSA apply for a waiver for bowl eligibility if their default slot isn’t filled. With such a big game lingering, we set up a cross-site Q&A with our homies over at Mean Green Nation. Adam asked me a few questions and you can read my responses here. Below are Adam’s thoughts on the Mean Green heading into Saturday’s showdown.

 

Taking a brief cruise around the internet reveals that UNT message board posters despise UTSA and everything that it stands for. Do you think Joe Sixpack that goes to a couple of games a year but doesn’t follow the team much outside of that shares that same resentment for UTSA?

Haha! I think there is a certain set of people on the boards that are having a little fun poking at the next opponent. The fan base hasn’t had this much of a good feeling since the basketball team was rolling a couple of years ago. This time it isn’t all potential like that was. We are seeing real, actual wins. There are a ton of fans and recent alums who did not see wins during their entire time in Denton. In fact, during my time as a student I think I only saw one or two home wins so it is incredible to have a team undefeated at home.
I don’t know anyone in non-message board life that honestly hates UTSA. I bet a good number of people did not know San Antonio had a University. Joe Sixpack definitely does not care. He sticks to what ESPN and sports radio tell him to pay attention to. Of the people that do, actually, dislike what UTSA has done has to do with the Runners getting so much attention and success while North Texas was struggling so mightily up to this point. I bet we’d see some more anger and frustration if UTSA were doing well and North Texas were having a poor season. As it is, I think the worst hate is already on the board. For a fan base so used to self-loathing, talking a little mess is a nice change of pace.

Coming into the season Derek Thompson and Brock Berglund went through a bit of a position battle before returning starter Thompson secured his spot. How has Derek played this year and who takes the reigns in 2014?

Well the battle was actually between all the quarterbacks. Freshman Dajon Williams even had a surprise run that had Dan McCarney declaring he would get plenty of playing time (he did play in the Idaho game but was hurt and now is seeking a redshirt).  Andrew McNulty also had a chance to make an impression. Derek won the job outright and has done a great job this season. He’s very much like Eric Soza in that he has had some detractors and some vigorous defenders. His problem has always been his inconsistency. When he plays well he is really accurate, decisive and even a little mobile. When he is bad, is stares down his targets and throws the ball high. This season he has had fewer lows and much higher highs. He is good to lead one or two good drives down the field. This season that is all the team has needed. He is tough and a leader. He has the occasional terrible interception but has balanced that by leading some comebacks where he has had to make some tough throws. He is perfect for the team as constructed presently.
Next season? Wow. I have no idea. Most people that weren’t on the Thompson bandwagon wanted Berglund to start this season (I won’t exclude myself from this group) and so they likely will want him to take the reigns next year as well. Andrew McNulty is a good one too. He has some wheels and has shown some signs of good things. Dajon Williams is intriguing. Practices were closed so no one really knows what the amazing things that Dan McCarney saw that made him think of Seneca Wallace. That has everyone really excited. Freshman sensation!

While you’ll agree that UNT football is still a work in progress, head coach Dan McCarney has certainly taken some fantastic steps to turn the culture around at UNT. What are a few areas of improvement on and off the field that McCarney has implemented?

The most obvious thing about Danny Mac’s changes was the renewed enthusiasm. Everyone he talks to comes away feeling his energy and enthusiasm. I watched his introductory press conference and came away ready to run through a wall. The “Why Not North Texas?” refrain after so the worst era in North Texas history (seriously, Todd Dodge had the worst winning percentage in UNT history) was a breath of fresh air. He turned what he termed a “non D-1 roster, physically” into a tough, hard nosed defense. Dodge’s defenses were some of the worst in the country and just three years later McCarney has arguably the best in the conference. He wanted a tough running team with a stout defense led by a dominating defensive line. These last few years we have seen signs of this goal but only in spurts. The run game would have games of dominance and then become stuck (partly because of the quarterback play). The defense would have strings of stoutness followed by a 50 yard TD on a play-action. This season it has all come together. The run game is still kind of hit-or-miss, but the defense looks like he envisioned it. Everyone tackles well, and the defensive line gets into the backfield and wreaks havoc.
You are right about the work in progress. The defense has played well, but the top three cornerbacks include a former running back and a walk-on. There is much to be improved upon and the success of this season should make that a little easier to do.

Mean Green has the ball at the UTSA twenty in a tied game. Five minutes to play. Third and four. What’s the play call and who gets the ball?

Coach Mike Canales will line up 5-wide and Derek would be looking for Brelan Chancellor on a slant or a quick-out.  With no Darnell Smith (injury) and Brelan being the best playmaker on the team, this is a no-brainer. I wouldn’t even be surprised to see a Derek Thompson called-draw here, either. This season he has been trusted with some running duties and has been stellar. He won’t be confused with Johnny Manziel or Jordan Lynch but he can run on an inverted veer or a read option.
With UNT’s strengths and weaknesses in mind, what scares you the most about UTSA coming into this game?
Eric Soza isn’t a freshman QB like Mack Leftwich. He has seen lots of football and can move the ball down the field with his arm. His mobility might help him get around the aggressive North Texas defense. Rice’s McHargue was able to make some plays with his feet and his arm. If Soza can scoot around a sack and find space to make plays I think UTSA has a chance to make it very interesting. I feel like this game is going very much like the Rice game — a team that has some weapons and can score if UNT’s defense doesn’t make some plays like they did in that one. Worst case scenario is that the Special Teams and Defense don’t get turnovers and scores so the offense has to do all the scoring.

Plan a weekend in Denton for a UTSA fan coming into town for the first time.

Get in on Friday night, go by Rooster’s over on Industrial and see if you can handle a hell burger. If spicy isn’t your thing, grab a tasty, greasy burger and then head over to the Square and Paschall bar — owned and operated by Denton’s own Midlake. When you get your fill, head over to East Side Social Club and sample some of the many amazing beers on tap. If you are still standing maybe make it over to Oak Street Drafthouse. Saturday, after the game you can head over to Fry St to see the legendary drinking spot. It isn’t what it once was —developers have put apartments all around it and forced some of the cooler local spots out. Still, if you know what you are doing you should be able to have a good time there. On Sunday if you have recovered enough to grab breakfast at Old West Cafe — it’ll be packed but it’s a great place to cure a hangover.
I will be doing some of the above, myself so if any UTSA fan wants to hang out in Denton just hit me up on the twitter machine – @aztecskin

About jared

A UTSA alumnus that has been cast away to Austin, Jared enjoys live music and a craft beer. He thinks four verts is the best play in football but loves a QB sneak on fourth and inches. Twitter