For North Texas the road trip Saturday to Huntington, W.Va., might be looked upon with favor, if for nothing else to escape the soap opera that has enveloped University Union.
While the football program seeks its first victory of the season and a new head coach, a growing chorus of alums and boosters are shouting for a new athletic director in the wake of a football season that has been chewed to bits while programs in men’s and women’s basketball are struggling.
That will wait for another day.
He knows he can be much better. He’s very hard on himself. He wants to lead this team to victory.
Interim North Texas football coach Mike Canales on new quarterback DaMarcus Smith
For the members of the Mean Green football program, interim head coach Mike Canales insists the focus is on Marshall. The Thundering Herd (6-1 and 0-3) welcomes its Conference USA peer for a game at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
Including six losses to start this season, North Texas is riding a seven-game losing streak dating to 2014, and closing in on the school’s all-time mark of nine consecutive losses.
“Everyone has a role to help us beat Marshall and that’s our mentality, beating Marshall,” Canales said. “All we can control is our future. We’re going to show up and play Marshall and see what happens.
“If we can get us one, maybe two will come.”
Finding a way to beat Marshall will depend on a defense being able to find the stops that have eluded it all season and improvement from new starting quarterback DaMarcus Smith
Finding a way to beat Marshall will depend on a defense being able to find the stops that have eluded it all season and improvement from new starting quarterback DaMarcus Smith, who more than showed he has something to build on.
In his first start Oct. 15 against Western Kentucky, Smith became the first quarterback in school history to pass for 200 yards and rush for 100 yards in the same game. Consistency was an issue while he completed 17 of 35 passes for 228 yards. He ran for 122 yards.
On display were his strong arm and good mobility that allows him to extend plays when things break down.
“He knows he can be much better,” said Canales, echoing remarks Smith made after the Western Kentucky game. “He’s very hard on himself. He wants to lead this team to victory.”
No one ever disputed that Smith — a transfer from Butler (kna.) Community College who also had a stop at Western Kentucky after originally signing with Central Florida —had the best ability among a stable of Mean Green quarterbacks, but his ascension to the top job was stalled by missing spring practice and undeveloped work ethic, Canales said.
“I think he thought he was going to just walk in and be the starter,” Canales said.
0 North Texas quarterbacks to pass for 200 or more yards and run for 100 or more yards in the same game before DaMarcus Smith did it last week against Western Kentucky.
Smith’s turnaround began with a “come-to-Jesus” meeting a few weeks ago with Canales, the coach said. The quarterback wanted to know what it would take for him to get on the field, and in what the coach termed a heated exchange, he told him.
Start working harder and study the game and prepare more intently.
“It hit home for him,” Canales said. “He said, ‘You’re right, coach.’ He went out the next three days and was on point.
“He realized then that this is the way we expect our kids to perform and act and practice. I will help you get where you want to go if you will help yourself.”
Smith is only Canales’ first example of the coach’s vow to make “sure we’re doing everything right on the field and off the field to compete.”
“We’ve seen the things he can do with the ball in his hands,” Canales said. “He believes he can will the team to win with his performance.”
North Texas at Marshall
2:30 p.m. Saturday, FSSW