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Down with the King: Mean Green get chance at beating quarterback-less Houston

Down with the King: Mean Green get chance at beating quarterback-less Houston

Down with the King: Mean Green get chance at beating quarterback-less Houston
September 26
06:30 2019

Coming off its largest scoring margin of the season, North Texas football (2-2, 1-0 Conference USA) will participate in the final non-conference game of its season without its opponent’s starting quarterback. Houston senior quarterback D’Eriq King decided to redshirt the remainder of his season on Monday and will return to Cougar football (1-3, 0-1 American Athletic Conference) at the beginning of the 2020 season, according to the Houston Chronicle. Senior wide receiver Keith Corbin also announced his decision to redshirt for the remainder of the season.

The news initially broke stating that King would be entering the transfer portal, but he released a statement explaining his desire to remain at Houston.

“I came here to play football for the University of Houston and that is not changing,” King said.

Through four games, King totaled 663 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions. On the ground, King added 312 yards and six more touchdowns, making him their leading rusher. Coming into the season, King was projected to finish as the seventh-best quarterback in 2019 by 247 Sports. Without King, sophomore quarterback Clayton Tune, brother of former North Texas quarterback Nathan Tune, is expected to start.

Head coach Seth Littrell is not fixated on the last-minute switch and wants to focus on preparing for the offensive overall.

“They have an explosive team,” Littrell said. “It’s not just about one guy, they have great players, they have great coaches. I know whatever quarterback they use will be explosive, He’ll understand the system.”

Houston’s three losses this year have come at the hands of No. 6 Oklahoma (3-0), Washington State (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12) and Tulane (3-1, 1-0 AAC). The Cougars have been outscored 123-135 in their four matches, with their sole victory coming at home against Prairie-View A&M (1-3, 1-1 Southwestern Athletic Conference). Houston has out-rushed its opponents 1,020-798 but has been less successful through the air, trailing 668-1,206.

“Don’t let the record fool you,” Littrell said. “They’ve had a very tough early schedule. It’ll be a great challenge for us so we’re going to be locked in and ready for four quarters.”

This will be the 15th matchup between the Mean Green and the Cougars. Similar to the 3-3 split heading into Texas-San Antonio, North Texas holds a 7-7 record against Houston. The Cougars hold a 4-game win streak dating back since 1980, including the most recent game, a 2012 matchup that saw the Mean Green fall 44-21.

Since then, both programs have had coaching changes, with North Texas handing the reigns from Dan McCarney to Littrell. Houston has had four coaching changes since the last game, with interim head coach David Gibbs taking over for Tony Levine in 2012. Current Texas head coach Tom Herman was hired in 2015, followed by Major Applewhite and current head coach Dana Holgorsen.

Redshirt freshman Jyaire Shorter scored his second receiving touchdown in as many games last week against the Roadrunners. Shorter has tallied 8 receptions for 116 yards and two touchdowns. Since senior receiver Rico Bussey Jr. suffered an ACL tear in Week 3 against Cal, Shorter has stepped up and seen significant growth, according to senior quarterback Mason Fine.

“I have a lot of trust in that guy,” Fine said. “Also, I’m going to be very hard on that guy just because I know the potential that Jyaire has. You’ll see him progress throughout this season.”

Littrell backs that sentiment and sees a player who is able to translate raw athleticism into talent at the Z-receiver position.

“You can just see the confidence he’s gaining every week,” Littrell said. “He’s a big, explosive guy.”

In the victory over Texas-San Antonio, Fine completed 68 percent of his passes for 195 touchdowns and two touchdowns. Both backup quarterbacks, redshirt freshmen Jason Bean and Austin Aune, led drives. The two completed a total of two passes for 16 yards and Bean scored the second touchdown of his career.

Since giving up two touchdowns in the first quarter against the Golden Bears, the North Texas defense has given up zero touchdowns in seven quarters of play. Through those same seven quarters, the Mean Green have allowed six total points. After giving up 30+ points in each of their first two games, the defense has held the past two opponents to 13 points per game.

“Everybody’s just doing their job,” junior middle linebacker Tyreke Davis said. “Everybody trusting one another on the defensive side is really the focal point for us.”

The third in-state game for the Mean Green will take place on Sept. 28 at Apogee Stadium at 7 p.m.

“Our coaches are always going, ‘Go undefeated in Texas,’” Fine said. “You know, be state champs. Obviously [Southern Methodist] got us earlier in the season, but now we’re looking to rebound against a great opponent and go out there and battle it out.”

Featured ImageRedshirt freshman wide receiver Jyaire Shorter fights past a Roadrunner defender to score a touchdown in the third quarter at the game against Texas-San Antonio at Apogee Stadium on Sept. 21, 2019. Jordan Collard

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Zachary Cottam

Zachary Cottam

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