Heading into the 2005 season, they were riding a 25 game Sun Belt Conference winning streak and they had the last two NCAA rushing champions in Jamario Thomas and Patrick Cobbs. They had reason to believe that they might give LSU a good game on September 3. Then, the game fell victim to Hurricane Katrina and was rescheduled for October 29. Now, at this point in the season, the Mean Green can not hold those same notions about their chance against LSU. They are 2-4 (2-1) and are floundering in all facets of the game.
On offense, they are missing departed quarterback Scott Hall more than they could have realized. Thomas and Cobb are underperforming because all 11 players on the opposing defense are keying specifically on those two. The offense has scored a measly 46 points in five games and the defense has given up 128 points, including 54 points to both Tulsa and Kansas St.
For LSU, this game is uniquely important. Most teams play their out-of-conference games in the beginning of the season as a tune-up. LSU was forced to begin their season at Arizona St. Then, they began five straight weeks of SEC conference play. This resulted in many trials by fire. Now, they have the opportunity (starting this week and next week against Appalachian St) to shore up any existing problems and reload for the final conference stretch. They also could use a big, blowout win to boost their confidence level before heading to Tuscaloosa to face Alabama.
Beginning with North Texas, they should get that chance.
The 2005 season for the Mean Green began with an unconvincing 14-7 victory over Middle Tennessee St. Their cause was assisted by five Middle Tennessee St turnovers. With 8:48 seconds left in the third quarter, senior linebacker Maurice Holman returned an interception for 99 yards to tie the game at 7-7. Later in the third quarter, Patrick Cobb had a four yard run scamper to take a 14-7 lead. That touchdown would prove to be the game winner. Cobbs had 28 carries for 103 yards rushing. North Texas had then players making their first start in the game. Redshirt freshman Daniel Meager, making his first start, was 10-15 and threw for 122 yards.
The little bit of confidence picked up from their first win was quickly shattered in an embarrassing 54-2 loss at the hands of Tulsa. A safety at the end of the first quarter proved to be the only points for the Mean Green all day. Cobbs rushed for 100 yards, carrying the bulk of the 129 total yards North Texas scratched together. Tulsa was up 19-2 at halftime. Then, they scored 35 unanswered points in the second half to cripple the Mean Green.
Much of the same was seen against Kansas St in game three. North Texas was defeated 54-7. The only bright spot was that Cobb became the all time leading rusher in school history with his performance. Other notable stats include that they finally registered their first passing touchdown with a Matt Phillips 25 yard TD throw to Johnny Quinn. Quinn had six catches for 46 yards. The other half of the dynamic running duo, Jamario Thomas, ran for 62 yards on 11 carries.
North Texas continued their skid with a 13-10 loss to Troy, which was their first conference loss since 2001 to UL-Monroe. The Mean Green had five turnovers and that proved the difference. Three-fourths of their possessions ended in turnovers. Nick Bazaldua got the first points of the day with a 21 yard field goal in the second quarter. In the fourth quarter, Troy was up 13-3. With 1:38 left to play, Meager scampered in for a 20 yard touchdown to cut the Troy lead to three. It was not enough as the Mean Green dropped to 1-3.
They did manage a 13-10 victory over FIU the following week. FIU had eight turnovers and Cobbs had 27 carries for 112 yards. Two Bazaldua field goals and Quinn touchdown catch was all they needed to escape with a three point victory.
LA Tech then deflated the Mean Green with a 40-14 victory over North Texas. The Bulldog defense held the Mean Green to just 16 passing yards and 68 total yards in the first half of the contest. Cobbs did it all again with 108 yards rushing and a touchdown pass to Quinn to make the score 30-14 with four minutes left in the third quarter. But that is as far as it would go. LA Tech added ten more points to push the game out of reach.
Heading into this weekend, North Texas is road weary and beaten. LSU will look to worsen the feeling.
And it will begin with Meager. The defensive line of LSU will look to wear him out. He has a cannon for an arm and is pretty mobile. But a few good knocks by the big four up front could have Meager listening for footsteps all game. If that is the case, the Mean Green can go with Joey Byerly. Both quarterbacks duked it out in the spring for the starter job. Meager won because of his skills, but Byerly has the experience. In 2004, he appeared in 11 games and was 5-12 for 73 yards.
Cobbs and Thomas are the main weapons on offense. Cobbs gets the bulk of the carries because before his injury last year, he averaged 152.7 yards per game in 2003. But last year, Thomas averaged 180.1 yards per game and had 17 touchdowns. Expect a lot of carries by both. Clearing the way will be fullback James Mitchell.
Johnny Quinn will be a good measuring stick for LSU's secondary. Last year, he had 49 catches for 773 yards and nine touchdowns. He is dangerous and can break lose from a defender. Assisting Quinn will be Zach Muzzy. Robert Harmon will line up at tight end as an extra blocker.
The offensive line is a pretty talented bunch. Former Sun Belt conference newcomer of the year, Dylan Lineberry will be at right guard. Jeremy Brown has finally kicked mono and will be at right tackle. At center is Chad Rose. Joel Foster will play left tackle and Jason May will play guard.
Although the offense has been scrutinized for their lack of production, the defense has not offered a helping hand. They have often not given the offense a chance as the opposition continues to steamroll over them.
A lot of that has to do with the young defensive line. They are all first time starters. Eli Hutchinson and Jeremiah Chapman will line up at the ends. The interior will be Chris Miller and Sky Pruitt at both tackles.
Of the four starters returning on defense, three are linebackers. Brandon Monroe will line up at outside linebacker and is trying to resume his 2004 numbers, where he posted 63 tackles. Derek Mendoza will patrol at middle linebacker. Shawn Early will be the other outside linebacker.
The unproven secondary of North Texas could become a playground for LSU's bigger, stronger receivers. After dropping so many passes last week against Auburn, the receivers will want to make a big statement. Quarterback JaMarcus Russell will attempt to let the likes of Early Doucet and Dwayne Bowe show their abilities. Last week against Auburn, both receivers dropped costly touchdown passes. Trying to mute LSU's passing game will be other returning starter T.J. Convington at corner. Ja'Mel Branch will play the other corner. The Mean Green lost two all conference safeties with Jonas Buckles and Markeith Knowlton. Doing their best to replace them is Roderick Cotton and Cliff Higgs.
Nick Bazaldua will punt and kick. Quinn and Muzzy will handle returning duties.
NORTH TEXAS GAME
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