UTEP at North Texas Gameday Q&A

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

A little late in the week, but just in time for some last minute information on today's opponent, the North Texas Mean Green.

In this week's Q&A, we got a chance to catch up with Adam from MeanGreenNation.com. Have a read to find out a little more about today's contest.

MinerRush: North Texas has been a clear to surprise to the rest of the league. Does the fan base see their success this year as a surprise or was this something that was expected?

Mean Green Nation: Certain portions of the fan base have seen the incremental improvements throughout the McCarney Era and so expected a good year but to the casual fan this has come from nowhere. North Texas Football has been a laughing stock -- and sometimes worse: an afterthought -- and fans have been trained to expect the worst. Even in basketball, the much hyped Tony Mitchell era ended in a terrible season. So even though the Mean Green had lots of contributors returning, and a little buzz surrounding the program,  there was an unease on the message boards. People were looking for when it would all come crashing down. That said, Dan McCarney has shown he knows what he is doing and the team has made strides toward becoming a respectable program each year under him.

MR:  The Mean Green enter as the top scoring defense in C-USA. What can we attribute this to?

MGN: John Skladany, the Defensive Coordinator. His defense is simple in that it doesn't try to be too cute. That simplicity allows the players to play and react quickly instead of thinking too much about exotic schemes.

Offensive football has simplified and gotten faster and aggressive, so Skladany counters that by doing the same on defense.

He has Kenny Buyers and James Jones play soft coverage on the edges and fly up to make tackles on shirt stuff. That has allowed the front seven to focus on the run game and short crossing routes. Also, there isn't one bad tackler in the starting eleven. That ability to make teams work for their points has gone a long way toward keeping teams from scoring.

MR: Derek Thompson is having somewhat of a breakout year under center. Talk about his play, and what you expect of him and the offense this weekend.

MGN: Derek has done a great job doing what he has had to do to keep the offense complimenting the defense. A big reason for his near record-breaking season and career is the fact that NT hasn't had a history of QBs that put up big numbers. He has shown he can run and that has taken a lot of pressure off an already burdened run-game. He probably throws too many INTs, but really it's no different from a 70s era QB -- lots if hand offs and trying to get the ball downfield.

This week I expect what he has done all season -- lots of hand offs and looking for our best WR: Brelan Chancellor. Because I think the run game will do the heavy lifting, we provably won't see many Derek Thompson passes.

MR: North Texas is currently on a four game win streak with a 1-7 UTEP team coming to town. Do you think the guys will be ready to play, or they be overlooking the Miners just a bit?

MGN: I've been worried about a hangover since clinching bowl-eligibility. Although Danny Mac will no-doubt do his best to keep everyone thinking about the task at hand, the players are still 19-23 years old or so. They've been getting showered with praise all this Homecoming week (and rightly so). They will either take that as motivation -- seeing the rewards of hard work and subsequent success -- or start resting, thinking they've accomplished something. I think we'll see a hungry team mostly because of guys like Marcus Trice, Sarge McCoy, Zach Orr and others who won't let anyone get complacent.

MR: What are your thoughts on the possibility of playing for a Conference USA crown in UNT's first year in the league?

MGN: Most people are more excited about the bowl game than a CUSA title -- and I personally would rather the Heart of Dallas bowl than the Liberty Bowl that goes to the title winner. Still, it is amazing that it is so close. Four winnable games and one Tulane loss puts UNT in the title game. It is great but it still is a ways off. Anything can happen on any given Saturday (including this weekend) so I think we'll see more excitement about it as it becomes more of a certainty.

MR: Final thoughts/prediction for the game?

MGN: I feel bad for Jameill Showers. Even though it was a tough season already, it was still cool for everyone to see him out there putting up some numbers, and the offense putting up points. Still, I mostly feel for Mack Leftwich getting thrown to the wolves, basically. It is a bold move for Kugler but against the Conference's best defense at grabbing turnovers? Tough. Whereas before the announcement I could have seen a close one, I just can't see a Mack leading UTEP to more than a score.

North Texas 35 UTEP 6.

A big thanks goes out to Adam from MeanGreenNation.com for taking some time out to help us with this week's Q&A.

Make sure to stay tuned to MinerRush for more information on all things UTEP sports, and make sure to on Twitter for live updates throughout the game. And, as always don't forget to like our Facebook Page. Picks Up, and Go Miners!

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