Inside Marshall Sports

Calling MU vs. (not San Francisco) 49ers

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Hello, Herd fans!

Enough joy over finally beating an FBS foe. Enough joy about being a loss out of the East Division lead. The cold, cruel truth is this: There is no team you can say Marshall will absolutely beat under any circumstances.

Believe it or not, that includes Charlotte.

The 49ers have some intangibles, starting with an enormous senior class. That includes 19 fifth-year players who started with the program in 2012, a year before the program’s first game.

Talented? In some cases, not really. Experienced? You betcha.

There’s just enough top-level talent to make this team interesting — nose guard Larry Ogunjobi and running back Kalif Phillips among them. The way the 49ers’ coaches handle the 3-4 defense is to maximize Ogunjobi’s ability, making him more than a space-eater. He is a future NFLer who can disrupt the run and rush the passer.

And then there is the introduction of Hasaan Klugh, who appears to pack more talent than every 49er quarterback in four years, combined. Sure, Marshall has played the ultimate dual-threat QB in Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, but Klugh will be be a plenty difficult test.

It’s still tough to get a handle on this Marshall team. For me, the most encouraging aspects of the Thundering Herd’s 27-21 win over Florida Atlantic are: (1) Chase Litton settling down and hitting every target available, (2) running for tough yards when needed, if not consistently, and (3) Chris Jackson not being a weak link defensively.

With a trip to Southern Mississippi on the horizon, Marshall needs something more than a come-from-behind-late victory. My guess? The Herd needs to clamp down on Klugh and force him into 2 or 3 key mistakes, and then keep Phillips under 125 rushing yards.

Holding the 49ers to 21 points — that should always result in a win — isn’t too much to ask. Finally reaching into the 30s isn’t too much for the Herd offense.

I may be exuding too much confidence, but this is what the Herd can do, and what it will do.

I think.


C-USA notebook for games of 10/22

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Hello, Herd fans!

Conference USA may have had a dreadful September, but it’s having the most fun October. Every team not named UTEP and Rice is leading the West; don’t even look at who’s atop the East.

Mark my words: One or both divisions will be won by a team 6-2 or maybe even 5-3.

With that, here is the week that was, and the week that will be.

Last week

Most notable

Western Kentucky 44, Middle Tennessee 43 (2 OT): OK, so this is the best game of the year, supplanting, WKU’s loss to Louisiana Tech the week before. Mike White threw for 391 yards and 2 TDs, and Deon Yelder blocked an extra point in the second overtime to set up the Hilltoppers’ win.

Skyler Simcox, perhaps the answer to WKU’s placekicking quandary, was named the Special Teams Player of the Week after his 14-point game. He hit a 52-yarder at the end of the first half.

Florida International 27, Charlotte 26: Go look it up — the Panthers lead the East Division by a half-game over Old Dominion, as Alex McGough threw a 9-yard TD to Jonnu Smith with 1:05 left.

The Panthers may still finish 3-5 in the league for all we know, but McGough is rounding into form and TE Smith was always, always for real. The problem with this team always will be run-blocking — there’s no way Alex Gardner should be held to 29 yards on 12 carries.

LB Anthony Wint is having a nice year. After tying his career high of 13 tackles, he was named C-USA’s Defensive Player of the Week for the 2nd time in 3 weeks.

Louisiana Tech 56, Massachusetts 28: I’d watch the replay to see Carlos Henderson catch 12 balls for 326 yards and 5 TDs. The Bulldogs’ yardage record is 405 yards by the great Troy Edwards.

Henderson was named the Walter Camp National Player of the Week. He has 558 yards and 8 TDs the last two weeks, and he is combining with teammate Trent Taylor for 1,871 yards and 18 TDs.

Marshall is fortunate to not have those guys on the schedule.

Hold your nose

Texas-San Antonio 14, Rice 13: After smashing Southern Mississippi, the Roadrunners were due for a letdown. The Owls lose on an extra points, summing up the first half of their 0-6 season.

Louisiana State 45, Southern Miss 10: Losing to a bigger-name SEC foe is not the end of the world, but you can’t shake the though that the Eagles were a tad overblown and their defense will betray them. Nick Mullens went 25 of 36, but for only 161 yards.

Marshall 27, Florida Atlantic 21: Had to put this game, no matter how important it was to the Herd, here. Outside analysts couldn’t help but notice the 2-9 combined record.

C-USA best results vs. P-5

Southern Miss 44, Kentucky 35

Arkansas 21, Louisiana Tech 20 (Tech had ball with lead in 4th quarter)

Arizona 32, UTSA 28 (Roadrunners led in 4th quarter)

Vanderbilt 31, Western Kentucky 30 (WKU went for 2 and the win)

Note: Marshall cut Pittsburgh’s lead to 3 points in the 4th quarter, but never got the ball back with a chance to tie or go ahead. Therefore, that game is not listed here.

Overall vs P-5: 1-18

This week’s offerings, in order of interest (MU-Charlotte not included):

Old Dominion (4-2, 2-0) at WKU (4-3, 2-1), 1 p.m. (ASN): ODU is entrant No. 1 in the “Are They For Real?” sweepstakes. Jeremy Cox and Ray Lawry are combining for 168.6 yards per game.

For WKU, Anthony Wales rushed for 158 yards against MTSU, and has 2 such 150+ games.


Louisiana Tech (4-3, 2-1) at FIU (3-4, 3-0), 7 p.m. (ESPN3): Panthers are No. 2 in the “Are They For Real?” derby. Their home stretch is Tech, MTSU, WKU, open date, Marshall and ODU.

If FIU somehow survives that and contends for the East title, I offer this: My beloved Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup after sacking their coach — and they also did so in 2009. That, and you can do worse than Ron Cooper as your interim coach.


North Texas (3-3, 2-1) at Army, noon (CBS Sports Network): The Mean Green is No. 3 in the “Are They for Real?” derby. The Black Knights have worn out Texas-El Paso and Rice, but then again, so have everybody else.

The Mean Green has raised its scoring average from 15.2 per game to 25.8, and has reduced the defensive scoring from 41.2 to 28.7.


Middle Tennessee (4-2, 2-1) at Missouri, 4 p.m. (SEC Network): The Tigers are 0-3 in the SEC, losing the last 2 by a combined 82-21. The Blue Raiders are too good to be an SEC homecoming opponent, and could inflict embarrassment.

Brent Stockstill was 42 of 54 for 434 yards, his 9th 300-yard game in his last 12.


UTEP (1-5, 0-3) at UTSA (3-3, 2-1), 7 p.m.: Nifty facts about the Roadrunners — Josh Stewart is averaging a national-best 27.1 yards per catch, and UTSA has scored 30 points after opponents’ special-teams mistakes.


FCS parade: Prairie View at Rice (0-6, 0-4). America’s most unappetizing game of the week.

Last week vs. line: 4-2 (including MU game). Season: 24-28.

Grades for FAU game

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Rushing still a problem, really, as tailbacks went 34 carries for 121 yards, 3.3 average. BUT … an O-line that was 2 and sometimes 3 starters down got the big push in the 4th quarter when needed. Litton and his receivers kept coming up big. How about that Josh Knight?


Some of you think this is generous, but the simple fact is this: That unit gave up 147 total yards and ZERO points in the 2nd half. Struggled with the tempo and run fits in the 1st half.


Curraj missed an extra point and shanked that kickoff out of bounds, but did hit 2 FGs. Big ups to Kaare Vedvik for his punts of 55 and 49, with one bouncing up at the 4-yard line. Another concern: The Herd gave up a 12-yard punt return, which doesn’t often happen.


One awful pick at the end of the first half, blowing a very possible scoring drive. But Chase Litton kept coming up big on that final drive, and threw first-down balls to seven different receivers — that’s spreading it around. The 65-yard TD pass to Knight was big-time.


Chuck Heater did something right in the 2nd half with that defense, and the offense seemed a more creative. O-line showed it can survive with 3 starters out (2 did return) and get a push. Much stronger finish that last week at North Texas … coaches get credit for that, but have to find a way to keep this team from starting so slowly.


You were warned that FAU is a pain in the rear, even at 1-6. The Herd avoided dropping to 1-5, and is 1-1 in the conference, a loss behind East Division front-runners … Florida International and Old Dominion? Wow.


Desperation, the queen of Homecoming

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Happy Homecoming, Herd fans!

Welcome to the Desperation Bowl. I’m at a loss to remember a game between teams with a four- and five-game losing streak; maybe we’re talking the Seventies. (Marshall and Alabama-Birmingham 2007 pitted a 2-10 Herd against 1-11 Blazers, but MU didn’t have such a skid at the time.)

There are three teams the Herd is 3-0 against since 2013 — Southern Mississippi, Florida International and Florida Atlantic. Of those teams, FAU has been the biggest pain in the rear.

The Owls always will be athletic, particularly in the secondary. There will be other stars, including defensive end Trey Hendrickson and running back Gregory Howell. On the other hand, they have had injury-related shuffling in the offense line and Jason Driskel is still no Jeff Driskel.

The Herd has run successfully against this bunch, but that will be tied to Chase Litton’s success. I hope for a little creativity in the pass game, mixing in a screen pass or two with the usual downfield shot to Michael Clark. Tight ends Ryan Yurachek and Emanuel Byrd didn’t get enough love at North Texas.

Defensively, the Herd is closer than you think. The before-and-after of that fake punt is inarguable — the defense played well enough to win before and couldn’t defend the run afterward. North Texas held the ball 36 minutes.

But the corners are a more comfortable and the six sacks were encouraging.

Still, look for FAU’s Gregory Howell to get his 100-plus, for he’ll get the carries to do so. Keep him under 150 and you’ll like the result. And maybe the back end can intercept a pass for once.

This will be a white-knuckler into the fourth quarter — remember, FAU has lost its last three by a combined 11 points. On that stat alone, the 11-point line in MU’s favor feels ridiculous.

And it is, but I cautiously predict the Herd fundamental improvement in all phases. Maybe even a successful field goal; who knows?


C-USA notebook for 10/15

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Hello, Herd fans!

This will make you cringe, but Texas-San Antonio’s unexpected 55-32 waxing of Southern Mississippi gave the Lone Star State two conference wins in the same weekend. The last time that happened was Nov. 21-22, 2014 (North Texas over Florida International; Rice over Texas-El Paso).

With that grisly piece of trivia, the notable and not-so-notable results last week:

Louisiana Tech 55, Western Kentucky 52: If you missed this Thursday nighter, you missed perhaps the best game of the year. The Hilltoppers’ 13-game league win streak ended, but they had a combined six TDs from names Marshall fans painfully know: Taywan Taylor, Nicholas Norris and Anthony Wales.

Tech receiver Carlos Henderson was a player of the week with eight catches for 232 yards and 3 TDs. Jonathan Barnes was special teams player of the week for his 13 points, including a 54-yard FG.

UTSA 55, Southern Miss 32: The Roadrunners gained a school-record 532 yards on just 47 plays, had two 100-yard rushers (Jalen Rhodes 165, Jarveon Williams 122) and Dalton Sturm was 10 of 12 for 193. Previous loss at Old Dominion notwithstanding, this rebuilding project is ahead of schedule and the West Division is now in chaos.

Freshman LB Josiah Tauaefa was defensive player of the week with 12 tackles and an interception late in the game.

Hold your nose

FIU 35, UTEP 21: The Panthers are tied for the East Division lead with a trip to Charlotte this week. No lie.

Charlotte 28, Florida Atlantic 23: Yes, we had a walk-off video reversal. Check out the video.

Charlotte QB Hasaan Klugh was a co-offensive player of the week, going 14 of 17 for 223 yards and 3 TDs. He also ran for 54 yards and a TD.

North Texas 38, Marshall 21: No further explanation needed.

Standings: East — MTSU, ODU, FIU 2-0; WKU, Charlotte 1-1; Marshall 0-1; FAU 0-2.

C-USA best results vs. P-5
Southern Miss 44, Kentucky 35
Arkansas 21, Louisiana Tech 20 (Tech had ball with lead in 4th quarter)
Arizona 32, UTSA 28 (led in 4th quarter)
Vanderbilt 31, Western Kentucky 30 (WKU went for 2 and the win)
Note: Marshall cut Pittsburgh’s lead to 3 points in the 4th quarter, but never got the ball back with a chance to tie or go ahead. Therefore, that game is not listed here.
Overall vs P-5: 1-17

This week’s offerings, in order of interest (MU-FAU not included):

WKU (3-3, 1-1) at Middle Tennessee (4-1, 2-0), 2:30 p.m. (ESPN3): Here comes the 100 Miles of Hate, a nifty little rivalry of two schools on opposite sides of Nashville. Since WKU joined C-USA in 2014, the teams have split, with MTSU winning in 3 OTs in 2014 and the Hilltoppers dismantling the Blue Raiders 58-28 last year.

FIU (2-4, 2-0) at Charlotte (2-4, 1-1), 6 p.m.: Enjoy prosperity while you can, Panthers. After this one, you face Louisiana Tech, MTSU and WKU in a row. Marshall two weeks after that.
Alex Gardner has four 100-yard games for the Panthers, while Charlotte WR Austin Duke had his 11th 100-yard outing, and has 3,000 career yards.

UTSA (2-3, 1-1) at Rice (0-5, 0-3), 7 p.m. (beIN Sports): Roadrunners are the most intriguing team in the league, but Rice is the least — except this may be the strange upset of the week. In the Southern Miss game, the Roadrunners had four of the longest 13 plays in their short history.

Southern Miss (4-2) at No. 25 Louisiana State, 7:30 p.m. (SEC Sports): The Golden Eagles are too good to be an SEC homecoming victim, so it’s Alumni Band Reunion night. But here’s the real news for USM, and it’s not good:  QB Nick Mullens may miss the game with a thumb injury he played through against UTSA.

Louisiana Tech (3-3) at Massachusetts, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN3): I’m tired of looking at UMass on these schedules.

Last week vs. line: 3-3 (including MU game). Season: 20-26.

Grades for North Texas game

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The run got stuffed. The 2 tailbacks, Keion Davis and Anthony Anderson, combined for 40 yards on 20 carries. Chase Litton hit the deck 5 times, making the run total a 13 net. All the offensive problems started here, against a team that was giving up 224 yards per game.


For 42 minutes, this unit more or less played well enough to win. That assessment ended with Jeffrey Wilson’s 72-yard run.


Lowest I’ve ever graded a unit that had a kick return TD. Missed 2 FGs, roughed the punter and gave up a horrifying fake field goal.


Probably could have made better use of Michael Clark, even though he caught 8 for 122. At times, it didn’t look like Chase and his receivers were playing in the same game.


I have no basis to improve this mark.


Can this team win five of the next seven to go to a bowl? You tell me.


Marshall-North Texas prediction

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Hello, Herd fans!

Is it time to go to Texas? Hadn’t been there in four years, right?

No, three. I had to be reminded that Marshall was sent to Rice for the 2013 Conference USA championship game (“we can extend the BCS formula”), which the Herd lost. I had successfully drummed that entire trip out of my memory.

Thanks a lot, Grant Traylor.

Anyway, the Herd hasn’t done well in Texas, and will now play in the sixth different Lone Star venue. This Apogee Stadium venue looks pretty cool, and I hear rumors these guys are a respectable draw by modern-day C-USA standards.

As for the game, I look for Marshall to run for 200-plus yards, but suffer a turnover or two (courtesy of Kishawn McClain), and maybe have to settle for a field goal or three in the red zone.

Defensively, the Herd’s problems aren’t going away, and mobile QB Nelson Fine will strike early. The Mean Green is a good candidate to take a 7-0 lead after Marshall wins the toss and defers. NT may lead at halftime, so brace yourselves.

MU’s halftime adjustments should be spot-on, though, and clamp down on Fine & Co. MU’s offense will be solid and balanced, though not spectacular.

This will be win No. 2 in Texas, but you’d better keep provisions on hand for all four quarters. This won’t be automatic.


C-USA notebook for games of 10/6-8

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Hello, Herd fans!

Thursday night is important for the Herd, as far as the East Division race goes. That’s when Western Kentucky goes to Ruston to take on Louisiana Tech. The Hilltoppers are on a 13-game winning streak
So who reading this thought WKU was not a worthy candidate for C-USA expansion? I’ll skip the way-too-easy Florida International joke this time.

The notable and not so notable results last week:


Old Dominion 52, Charlotte 17: Beating Charlotte is not worth brownie points, but the Monarchs weren’t expected to beat up on anybody. The 17 points against is a program-best in C-USA play.

Florida International 33, Florida Atlantic 31: All hail Ron Cooper! In his first game as the Panthers’ Austin Taylor kicked a 32-yard field goal with 12:14 left to take the lead. More impressive: The Panthers killed the final 6 minutes, converting a third-and-11 along the way.

FIU LB Anthony Wint is the C-USA defensive player of the week for making 12 tackles and forcing a key third-quarter fumble. FAU’s Charlie Partridge is 11th on one of my favorite dark-humor web sites, Coaches Hot Seat.

Southern Mississippi 44, Rice 28: This game produced some silly stats as Allenzae Staggers caught TD passes of 75, 81 and 93 yards from Nick Mullens. He caught 6 passes for 292 yards, and Mullens threw for 591. That’s five-nine-one.
As you might guess, Staggers was a player of the week.

Hold your nose

Middle Tennessee 30, North Texas 13: Both teams scored a very late TD, so this game was a yawner by G-5 standards. NT (I still refuse to use “UNT”) ran for a net 5 yards.

Mean Green punter Eric Keena averaged 51.6 yards on eight punts, downing four kicks inside the MTSU 20. He deserved the special teams honor.
WKU 50, Houston Baptist 3: Yawn.

Non-conference report

C-USA vs. G-5

Southern Methodist 34, North Texas 21

Texas-El Paso 38, New Mexico State 22

Appalachian State 31, Old Dominion 7

Colorado State 23, Texas-San Antonio 14

Akron 65, Marshall 38

Middle Tennessee 41, Bowling Green 21

Western Kentucky 31, Miami (Ohio) 24

Eastern Michigan 37, Charlotte 19

Troy 37, Southern Miss 31

Temple 48, Charlotte 20

Ball State 31, FAU 27

UCF 53, FIU 14

Overall: 3-9

G-5 standings

American 10-1

Mountain West 8-8

MAC 9-10

Sun Belt 7-9

C-USA 3-9

Note: Army and Massachusetts are independents and are not factored in. C-USA is 0-3 vs. those teams.

C-USA best results vs. P-5

Southern Miss 44, Kentucky 35

Arkansas 21, Louisiana Tech 20 (Tech had ball with lead in 4th quarter)

Arizona 32, UTSA 28 (led in 4th quarter)

Vanderbilt 31, Western Kentucky 30 (WKU went for 2 and the win)

Note: Marshall cut Pittsburgh’s lead to 3 points in the 4th quarter, but never got the ball back with a chance to tie or go ahead. Therefore, that game is not listed here.

Overall vs P-5: 1-17

This week’s offerings, in order of interest (MU-NT not included):

WKU (3-2, 1-0) at Louisiana Tech (2-3, 1-1), 8 p.m. Thursday (CBS Sports Network): In the Skip Holtz long-winded poor-mouth file, he told the world his team is 121st in the nation in giving up plays over 20 yards. That’s not a good omen in this game.


Southern Miss (4-1, 2-0) at Texas-San Antonio (1-3, 0-1), noon (American Sports Network): Last call for UTSA’s darkhorse hopes comes two weeks after the Roadrunners ran into a ditch at Old Dominion. Southern Miss gained 702 total yards against what we now know to be a horrific Rice defense.


FIU (1-4, 1-0) at Texas-El Paso (1-4, 0-2): An East Division co-leader (no, really) against a Miner team that has proved itself not ready for the limelight, having been outscored 169-35 over the last 4 games. The last 2 games came against Southern Miss and Louisiana Tech, so that kills UTEP’s darkhorse hopes.


Massachusetts (1-4) at Old Dominion (3-2), 8 p.m. Friday: After this week, the vagabond Minutemen play their third C-USA team, Louisiana Tech, at Foxboro. This is a nonconference game, but respresents another proving ground for QB David Washington and the upstart Monarchs. Note time change due to Hurricane Matthew.


Charlotte (1-4, 0-1) at FAU (1-4, 0-1), noon Sunday: Somebody has to emerge from this 1-1. I guess that will be the Owls. Note time change due to Hurricane Matthew.


Last week vs. number: 3-2. Season: 17-23.

The NCAA rule on medical redshirting

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From what I gather from below, Willie Johnson will be eligible for a medical redshirt as long as the NCAA rounds up from 3.9 games. The number in question is 30 percent of the max number of games (12), plus conference championship whether MU makes it or not … Read on:

12.8.4 Hardship Waiver. A student-athlete may be granted an additional year of competition by the con- ference or the Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement for reasons of “hardship.” Hardship is de ned as an incapacity resulting from an injury or illness that has occurred under all of the following conditions:

  1. (a)   The incapacitating injury or illness occurs in one of the four seasons of intercollegiate competition at any two- year or four-year collegiate institutions or occurs after the rst day of classes in the student-athlete’s senior year in high school;
  2. (b)   The injury or illness occurs prior to the rst competition of the second half of the playing season that con- cludes with the NCAA championship in that sport (see Bylaw and results in incapacity to com- pete for the remainder of that playing season;
  3. (c)  In team sports, the injury or illness occurs when the student-athlete has not participated in more than three contests or dates of competition (whichever is applicable to that sport) or 30 percent (whichever number is greater) of the institution’s scheduled or completed contests or dates of competition in his or her sport. Only scheduled or completed competition against outside participants during the playing season that concludes with the NCAA championship, or, if so designated, during the o cial NCAA championship playing season in that sport (e.g., spring baseball, fall soccer), shall be countable under this limitation in calculating both the number of contests or dates of competition in which the student-athlete has participated and the number of scheduled or completed contests or dates of competition during that season in the sport. Dates of competition that are exempted (e.g., alumni contests, foreign team in the United States) from the maximum permissible number of contests or dates of competition shall count toward the number of contests or dates in which the student-athlete has participated and the number of scheduled or completed contests or dates of competition in the season, except for scrimmages and exhibition contests that are speci cally identi ed as such in the sport’s Bylaw 17 playing and practice season regulations. Scrimmages and exhibition contests that are not exempted from the maximum permissible number of contests or dates of competition may be excluded from the calculation only if they are identi ed as such in the sport’s Bylaw 17 playing and practice season regula- tions; and
  4. (d)  In individual sports, the injury or illness occurs when the student-athlete has not participated in more than three dates of competition or 30 percent (whichever number is greater) of the maximum permissible number of dates of competition as set forth in Bylaw 17 plus one date for a conference championship (e.g., gymnas-tics: 13+1=14, wrestling: 16+1=17), regardless of whether the team participates in the conference champion- ship, provided the institution is a member of a conference and the conference holds a championship event in the applicable sport. Dates of competition that are exempted per Bylaw 17 (e.g., alumni contests, foreign team in the United States) from the maximum permissible number of dates of competition do not count toward the number of dates in which the student-athlete has participated.

Grades for Pitt game

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First 4 possessions of 2nd half: 37 plays, 280 yards, 4 TDs. So what about the first half?


The 2nd half was better, but not as much as you might think. The Panthers had only 3 offensive possessions, scoring 10 points and setting up a long field goal that was faked. Pitt was kept from advancing into MU territory just once in 9 possessions


Between the prettiest onside kick I’ve seen in a long time and Davon Durant destroying a fake field goal, I don’t see much problem — except for the grisly kick-catching interference foul.


Welcome back Chase Litton, who went 20 of 32 for 240 yards and 2 scores, both beauties. First-half sack was tough to stomach, his 2-point pass to Ryan Yurachek was not a good pass at all, and Litton gave up another late “pick-6.”


MU’s defense was not ready for Pitt’s run-based offense, which is more creative than is given credit. But there had to be a good halftime adjustment or 2 at the half.


This team should be mad as hell, but confident after the 2nd half. Must stop shaky starts, beginning at North Texas.