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Q&A with MeanGreenNation

Talk all things North Texas against Cal

North Texas v SMU Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Adam from was gracious enough to answer some questions we had about North Texas. Take a read below!

Seth Litrell is starting his 4th year as Head Coach. What are the hallmarks of his teams? How do his teams play?

Seth Littrell came in an an offensive mind that was influenced by Bob Stoops, Mike Leach, Kevin Wilson, and Larry Fedora. It’s Air Raid, but he was also a fullback so he likes the run game more than Leach. It’s not even the Air Raid if Sonny Dykes, that you might remember from his tenure in Berkeley.

It’s up-tempo, with fewer screens than you might expect, and a few more gap runs (power/counter).

Critical fans will say that he puts up big numbers but his teams have issues getting short yardage and have some quarter-long droughts too often.

Will North Texas be competing again for a conference title?

CUSA is a mess right now, and Charlotte — yes Charlotte — has an outside shot at the title because they seemingly can score 45 ppg. Each team in this league has a major weakness — NT’s is the defense — and so there will be a scramble and multi-loss champion. So yes.

What went wrong in the SMU game? Do you think North Texas can recover against Cal?

The teams played each other close for three quarters but unfortunately that 21-0 first quarter counted toward the tally as well. North Texas likes to single-cover and bring pressure and that pressure was late or ineffective and the corners were beaten.

Mason Fine played like the 13th-best QB in the league instead of the best and that helped to kill the offense early.

Cal has a great defense so I figured _this_ would be the game where Mason struggled. I think there is a hunger but there is only so much that a hunger can do. I had higher hopes before I saw the events in Dallas.

North Texas had a pretty solid defense in 2018 - was last week’s 49 points allowed to SMU a reflection of how quickly Sonny Dykes has turned around their offense, or a reflection of defensive vulnerability?

More the latter with a sprinkling of the former. SD is a great offensive coach — as you might recall — he had scored big points at LA Tech, Cal and now at SMU. The Ponies were a little more sure of their plan this season but NT also had graduated the starting LBs, and three of the starting secondary. Two of those corners are on NFL practice squads.

Mason Fine is a senior with a pretty solid history of performance. Cal’s secondary is full of seniors with a pretty solid history of performance. Who wins this battle of strengths?

The thing about that matchup is that we are forgetting the WRs. North Texas has some talented wideouts but as Graham Harrell said (the newly installed OC of the Trojans) “we didn’t have [talent like USC’s] in Denton”

SMU erased Rico Bussey Jr from the game and no one stepped up beyond getting a few stat-padding grabs. NT’s wideouts will have their hands full and that may make Mason Fine force the issue a bit.

Tre Siggers enjoyed an excellent game against SMU in his debut as a running back. Does he have another big performance in store?

He is a former safety and he is unafraid if contact. I joked that he played like Marshawn Lynch with his total disregard for the defenders wishes to tackle him. He brought a level of physicality that was lacking up to that point — NT seemed to be trying to finesse the ball into the end zone with superior “clever” and perhaps forgot that this is a physical game.

The SMU secondary locked WR Rico Bussey Jr. down all game last week. How concerned are you for Mason Fine to face Cal’s secondary?

See above, but I am concerned. I think the offensive masterminds failed in that they did not get that ball into the best receiver’s hands at all. If SMU’s corners can lock them up — one of whom is a converted running back from UCLA — surely the Golden Bears can do the same.

After the departure of Graham Harrell to USC, how happy are you with new offensive coordinator Bodie Reeder’s performance so far this season?

He brought some tempo in the win over FCS ACU but otherwise he guided his team with an All-Conference QB and multiple returning starters to 27 points. Some of this is on Seth Littrell also. He has an incomplete so far.

What do you think caused North Texas’ offensive struggles against SMU last week?

NT came out flat and didn’t execute. SMU looked like they had a plan to attack NT’s defense and they did so — with the help of some friendly ref calls on those pass interferences. Some of the start was just misfortune but some of it seemed like NT was not ready to play at the same level. They picked it up but couldn’t get short yardage and guys were dropping passes.

Which game was discussed more in the offseason by Mean Green fans? SMU or Cal?

I think fans wanted to blow out SMU again but the P5 games are always discussed in the same way: “do we have a shot to get some headlines?” Last year a down Arkansas was the perfect victim and was fully taken advantage of.

Cal has been discussed as beatable — that offense is questionable — but no one is going to live or die with this either way.

I have been planning to go to the game, however. I have family in the area so it’s a reason to visit.

What impressions does North Texas get from Cal (both the team and the Cal faithful)?

Yours Truly followed Cal a little more closely over the years. I like a good offense and liked what Tedford and Dykes did. North Texas fans in general are not big Pac-12 followers.

General impression is that if NT plays up to their potential and gets a few breaks while on defense, we could see another win.

Which player on offense should Cal fans know about?

Mason Fine, but Rico Bussey and all three backs — DeAndre Torrey, Loren Easly, Tre Siggers

Which player on defense should Cal fans know about?

LaDarious Hamilton will be trying to sack people.

Who’s one under-the-radar or X-factor player who could swing this game for you?

Nick Harvey — he is the corner under the most pressure and he has the talent. He was picked on a bit, but if he gets a little luck the defense could get the ball back and that will be ideal for NT

What does North Texas need to do to win the game?

With this defense NT has a punchers chance against anyone — meaning the offense needs to score nearly every time. They did that in 2017 with nearly the same offensive roster so it is possible.

What does Cal need to do to win the game?

Get to Mason Fine. The offensive line is still not amazing. If the WRs cannot get open, Fine will be looking to find an option. He will throw the occasional interception under duress and also can be sacked.

How do you see the game going?

I had higher hopes before SMU. North Texas should come out more crisp on offense but the Mean Green do not travel well. Even the big win over Arkansas was more defense and special teams.

I see Cal frustrating the offense and taking advantage of a young and inexperienced defense to get enough for the win.

Whom do you most want to punch in the face?

There are many but I think I am also on a few people’s list so I will refrain.