Oh man, I wonder what the reaction is going to be like if we come out of the gate and lose to UNT. I'd avoid BON for a week. -- Fellow Pessimist
Although we didn't lose to North Texas, it's kind of hard to celebrate a victory in which your senior starting center and junior starting quarterback both succumb to what are looking like season -- and possibly career-ending injuries. Especially for David Ash, this is devastating news whose repercussions reach far beyond the football field. With a top-20 QB rating in 2012, and a stronger start in 2013 prior to injury, I think Ash had a legitimate chance at being a top-10 QB in 2014. I hope he still does.
With the uncertainty surrounding the QB position, it is hard to feel good about the rest of the season even after this dismantling of UNT. Nevertheless, the play-by-play data are (partially) encouraging, and there are some trends to keep an eye on.
Big plays and Bad plays.
In the chart above, "big gains" are 20+ yard passes or 10+ yard rushes. Short gains are 0-20 yard passes or 0-10 yard rushes.
The chart above shows that the Texas defense was absolutely stifling. This may be the only time in the last four years that Texas has allowed no rushes for 10 or more yards in an entire game. And we stopped the long rushes while still stopping UNT behind the line on 20% of their carries; if I had to point to one thing, I'd say that's because of sound tackling. Zero big plays, lots of stops behind the line of scrimmage, and 94 total yards of offense -- domination.
On offense, Texas only completed 3 passes for more than 20 years, and 2 rushes for more than 10. This is not very encouraging. For some solace, keep in mind that UNT ranked #15 in the country last year in rushing defense, a statistic that includes a game against Georgia. But frankly, I didn't feel great about the offense Saturday, and feel worse knowing that our best Center-QB tandem is out for the season.
Left, middle, and right.
Above are the rushing and passing distributions over the left, middle, and right thirds of the field.
Weirdly, both the Texas rushing and passing offense struggled over the middle third of the field. When we ran to the outside Texas was averaging 7 yards per rush vs. 1.6 yards per rush up the middle. This is strange. Usually, teams run the ball better over the middle of the field, but against an opponent like North Texas bouncing the ball outside becomes a much less risky proposition, so perhaps this is just standard operating procedure against an overmatched opponent.
The Texas passing game also struggled over the middle of the field, with Ash only completing 5 passes for 9 yards over the middle. This is also atypical for David Ash who generally prefers the middle of the field, and whose career average over the middle is right around 10 yards/attempt (this is like, a yard shy of being the best in the country). Although Ash had the most yards throwing to the right, most of them came on throws to John Harris, who was running across the field from the flanker position. Kind of an odd pass distribution.
On defense, North Texas stubbornly rushed the ball into the middle of the defense for 60 yards, but it took them 24 rushes to do it; they were rushing about a yard per play (3.5 vs 2.5) better to the outside, but didn't stick with it, possibly because of the Texas DEs.
And finally, the North Texas passing attack is summarized by the following infographic:
Probability of Texas winning the game
The above chart shows the probability of Texas winning the game throughout the entire game. Mouse over the plays to see what they are. This is to see how much impact individual plays had on the outcome.
There is not much to be said here about this chart; Texas started well and played well throughout. As you can see above, after David Ash's 28 yard near-TD pass to Harris 20 minutes into the game the outcome was never again in doubt, and UNT's late game heroics (or rather, Texas' late game miscues) did little to affect the situation. All things we knew watching the game.
With the exception of the devastating losses of Espinosa and Ash, this was a pretty standard dismantling of an overmatched early season opponent. Although the Texas offense was bizarrely inept over the middle of the field, it's possible this is just because the quality of the opponent was opening up bigger gains elsewhere; it will be worth keeping an eye on this next week against a stout BYU defense. In general though, the passing game needs to improve on its 5.6 yards per attempt; the entirely average 4.1 yards per rush really carried the offense (Mack: we did it).
Lastly, the Texas defense was basically everywhere excellent. There is nothing to complain about on that side of the ball. And that feels pretty good.