North Texas Daily

Growing pains continue to affect football team

Growing pains continue to affect football team

Growing pains continue to affect football team
October 28
00:20 2014

Ehsan Azad / Staff Writer

Around this time last season, the Mean Green football team had a 5-3 record and was in the midst of one of its best seasons in recent memory. This year is a far different story as the team struggles to get back on a winning streak.

At 2-6 and in the middle of a four-game losing streak, the team has no room for error if it wants to get back to a bowl game. In order to qualify for one, a team must have six wins, and the team has to win the remaining four games on its schedule to hit that mark. Going into the season, head coach Dan McCarney knew his team had a lot of work to do if it was going to be a contender.

“I knew we had to have some guys grow up really fast, because we had a lot of guys that didn’t pay at all or a little bit and they needed to step it up for us,” McCarney said. “We are still in that process right now.”

A lot of the growing pains have to do with a majority of the team from last season graduating.  Seven starters have left a defense that, last year, was ranked top 10 in the nation for scoring defense, turnovers gained and red-zone defense.  In those same categories this year through eight games, the Mean Green is 45th in the nation for turnovers gained and outside the top 50 in scoring defense and red-zone defense. 

The team also lost former quarterback Derek Thompson to graduation, and the coaching staff has yet to find a suitable replacement. The team has gone through three quarterbacks this season, the most recent being junior Andrew McNulty.

McCarney said the team has time to turn things around, but said it needs to start fixing some mistakes if it is to compete.

“God only helps those who help themselves, so each of us has to take a good look at ourselves and what we need to do a better job at, coaches and players alike,” McCarney said. “We won’t accept losing. It is a bad feeling, and it stinks.”

The players going into the season also knew that there would be some adversity, but felt like they could overcome it.

“We had a ton of question marks coming into this season with the amount of guys we lost last year and a little bit of the inexperience coming in,” McNulty said. “Yet, I think we have the guys to make the plays and I think that we’ve played well at certain points the last couple of weeks. We just got to put it together a complete game and get a win.”

McNulty said there are still a lot of things the team needs to work on to turn the season around.

“We’ve hit some speed bumps up until now,” McNulty said. “But I think our guys still have the confidence. We still have the trust in each other that we’re going to make the plays on Saturday.”

Other players, such as freshman defensive back Kishawn McClain, said all the team can do is focus on whatever game is next.

“We take it week by week. We don’t plan ahead,” McClain said. “We are working every week for a better outcome and at practice we are just sticking to Rice.”

On the offensive side of the ball, the team struggled from the outset but has improved slowly. McNulty said that the offense would keep getting better, and hopefully help the Mean Green win some games.

“As long as I continue to protect the football, take care of this team and take care of the offense, not turn the ball over, then I think our offense will continue to get better,” McNulty said.

While McCarney hasn’t commented specifically about the team’s chances of making a bowl game, he said the team needs to fight down the stretch and wants to bring pride back to the university.

“Mean Green football has been a rallying point for this whole university since I took the job here. There have been some positives things that have been put into place. It has been great for the university,” McCarney said. “So let’s not lose that, let’s get some more of that, and let’s bring some of that back, because it is a great sense of pride when you do that as a program.”

Featured Image: Junior quarterback Andrew McNulty gets stopped at the line of scrimmage by two Southern Mississippi University defenders during the most recent home game. Photo by Edward Balusek – Visuals Editor

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