Frank Harris UNT C-USA Conference Championship Game

Film Breakdown: C-USA Conference Championship vs UNT 2022

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No film breakdown hits quite like a championship breakdown. The Roadrunners struck first in front of a huge home crowd, then never let off the breaks as they choked the life out of the Mean Green and the Seth Littrell era in Denton, Texas.

More than any other meeting between these two teams, I thought Friday’s matchup boiled down to two things — UTSA having a generational talent at quarterback, and the Roadrunners having more speed across the field. UTSA noticed very early on that the Mean Green were giving up the flats in their defensive scheme, and the Roadrunners had the speed to pick up 7-10 yards on pretty much every play that went out wide. That’s a pretty easy way to win a ball game when you have a veteran quarterback leading the charge.

UNT blitzed the Roadrunners relentlessly, often leading to big plays for UTSA. The opening touchdown was one example, as Kevorian Barnes easily slips through the line of scrimmage and into completely vacated green space due to both weakside linebackers blitzing. With the Mean Green playing with two high safeties this was just easy mode for Kevorian. Great job by Terrell Haynes to pick up the block and clear the path for Barnes.

Two things to call out here on the reverse field long game from North Texas. Trey Moore should have backside pursuit on this play to prevent the spill back, but he gets lost in traffic and allows the receiver to make a big gain after the catch. Credit to the receiver for taking a pretty hard hit from Nick Booker-Brown and still trucking along. The other thing I wanted to point out is the hustle and speed from Corey Mayfield to get across the field and cut the receiver off, preventing a touchdown. Not the only touchdown he saved this game with his hustle…

Trevor Harmanson has been solid this year, but I really missed seeing these havoc plays from him with regularity like we saw in 2018 and 2019. Trevor times the snap pretty well and attacks his gap with downhill speed on a run blitz. While Trevor gets the tackle for loss, Donyai Taylor holding up against the pulling blocker helps prevent a bounce outside and potentially adds some extra negative yardage to the play.

I sure do love Will Stein play designs on fourth and short! Josh Cephus comes across the formation in a jet motion pre-snap, then delivers a block to the North Texas outside linebacker. Frank Harris reads the defensive tackle and correctly decides to keep the option when the tackle moves inside in pursuit of Kevorian Barnes. Very well schemed up play that makes for an easy and safe fourth down conversion.

UTSA really tried to impose their will on UNT with four straight runs towards the end zone out of shotgun formations. The fourth down attempt stood no chance due to Dan Dishman completely whiffing on his block. I can only imagine that Dishman doesn’t have many practice reps out of the H back alignment here and he wasn’t sure which defender to pick up. I also don’t like sending a blocker on a pull in this scenario. Just gives the defense more time to get penetration and blow up the play.

I remember turning to Adrian after this play and saying “well that was weird”. Still feel the same way after the rewatch. Why was Corey Mayfield the only third line defender in the tackle box on this play? There was no pre-snap motion from UNT, so it’s not like the Mean Green shifted into some different look and caught UTSA off-balanced. I guess I’ve just come to accept that a Jess Loepp defense will give up 2-3 40+ yard plays a game strictly due to the defense not being aligned properly. Thankfully Corey Mayfield shows amazing hustle to chase down Ragsdale to prevent a 99 yard touchdown.

Nick Booker Brown’s speed off of the snap presents so many problems for opposing offenses. The UNT offensive line has no shot to block him coming off the line which causes Aune to move outside of the pocket. Trey Moore and the inside linebacker join in the pursuit, forcing Aune to panic toss a pass while backpedaling. Never a great idea! Clifford Chattman happened to be in the perfect place to grab his fourth interception in as many games.

I’ve seen some folks call UNT linebacker KD Davis the front-runner for C-USA Defender of the Year. Simply couldn’t be me. The guy let himself get blocked by a 5’9″ freshman running back in the conference championship game and made practically zero effort to get around him. Pitiful. Super easy touchdown for Frank Harris though as UNT drops seven into coverage against a QB draw play call.

This quarterback hit on third and long from Ken Robinson is arguably just as impactful as Robinson’s interception late in the game. Robinson does a phenomenal job of disguising his blitz, then he dips right around the right tackle and come flying in as Aune is releasing the football. This very well could have led to an interception.

Remember what I was saying about Will Stein play designs on 4th and one? Could I fancy you for a shuttle pass power option to Oscar Cardenas? My heavens — these types of plays need to come with an “M for mature” rating!

Oscar Cardenas is under-utilized as a pass catching threat. UNT sends the house at Frank Harris on this play, and Frank quickly zips the ball to his check down route in Cardenas. Oscar breaks the tackle attempt then gets to the end zone way faster than he should at 285 pounds. Unfortunately a block in the back by Ogle-Kellogg wiped off the touchdown, but this was an another example of UNT getting burned for blitzing a veteran quarterback.

Sheesh Zakhari makes this out and up double move look easy. He’s the most fluid route runner I’ve ever seen come through UTSA. There’s practically zero deceleration as he cuts through his route. The corner had no shot given how much time in the pocket UTSA’s offensive line afforded Frank Harris.

UTSA executes a very pretty counter run with a pulling guard and an H back also getting in on the action as a follow blocker. Kevin Davis picks up the linebacker to wall off the interior, while Dan Dishman delivers a strong block to blow the play open. Walker Baty working up to the second level to catch the pursuing backside linebacker is what turns this play into such a big gain for UTSA.

Last week on the podcast I made mention that UTSA had stayed pretty vanilla on offense over the past three weeks. I wondered if we could see some fancy new wrinkles unveiled for the championship game. I think this play would qualify. UTSA motions Zakhari Franklin into the box, then runs a triple option RPO with a give look to Kevorian (covered by the defensive tackle), then a read look for Frank Harris (covered by the outside linebacker), and a pass option to Zakhari (wide open for a huge gain). Just kinda unfair to the defense! Filthy stuff! This is the type of play that had the internet fawning over Jamey Chadwell’s Coastal Carolina teams for two years.

When you only rush three defenders against UTSA on a play where Zakhari Franklin is running a hitch and go double move route… buddy… you’re gonna have a bad time.

What a cool moment for Ken Robinson to get his first interception of the season in the conference championship game. Robinson has been one of the unsung heroes of this team after giving up his starting cornerback spot to provide depth at safety. His contributions have been a huge boost to the roster, and he was rewarded with this pick after sliding back to cornerback on this drive. I’m giggling a bit at UNT thinking they had some huge mismatch with a second string safety lining up against their receivers when Robinson is actually a starting-level cornerback. He plays his technique absolutely perfectly and comes down with the turnover that put the game out of reach for the Mean Green, and ended Seth Littrell’s career in Denton. Only fitting from a G5 Metroplex recruit that UNT never offered.

Game Balls

Frank Harris – Legitimately one of Frank’s best games of his career. This guy just keeps getting better. I hope we get a chance to see him compete in the AAC, as he’s more than ready to make that jump.

Kevorian Barnes – The freshman from San Augustine was forced into his first career start in a conference championship game and rushed for 175 yards (6.3 YPC) and a touchdown. He also caught a seven yard pass and threw some blocks in pass protection. What a freaking find from Jeff Traylor and staff.

Clifford Chattman – Honorable mention to Corey Mayfield, but Chattman was an absolute force for UTSA in the championship game. He’s definitely one of the most improved players I’ve ever seen develop as a defensive back at UTSA. I wouldn’t sleep on Chattman as a practice squad player at the NFL level given his growth this season.

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