North Texas Daily

Football travels to Houston for a conference showdown with Rice

Football travels to Houston for a conference showdown with Rice

Football travels to Houston for a conference showdown with Rice
October 29
15:00 2021

Coming off their sixth loss in a row, North Texas travels 278 miles southeast tomorrow to take on in-state Conference USA rivals, Rice University in their fourth conference game of the season. 

Succumbing 35-26 to Liberty University last weekend, North Texas (1-6, 0-3 C-USA) has been put in a no-margin-for-error situation — as to become bowl eligible, the Mean Green must win out in their five remaining contests. 

Head coach Seth Littrell acknowledged his team’s dire situation Tuesday morning and referred back to the “one day better” philosophy he has referenced many times this season.

“We know our backs are against the wall and there’s no room for error,” Littrell said. “But, at the same time, if you really try to look at it that way, you’ll start overlooking things that are really important, and that’s getting better today.”

 Rice (3-4, 2-1 C-USA), is coming off an upset win over reigning C-USA champions, the University of Alabama-Birmingham. The Owls won by a narrow 30-24 margin versus the Blazers after being demolished 45-0 at the hands of the only ranked team in the conference, no. 23 the University of Texas-San Antonio the week prior.

Rice has used three quarterbacks this season, redshirt sophomore Wiley Green, fifth-year senior Jake Constantine and redshirt freshman Luke McCaffrey. While Constantine has gotten a majority of the playing time at quarterback this season for the Owls, Green was the man to lead Rice past UAB last weekend. Completing 17 of his 22 passing attempts for 205 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions versus the Blazers, Green earned C-USA Offensive Player of The Week honors along with the starting job this week. 

Sophomore quarterback Austin Aune started his third game in a row for North Texas versus Liberty. Aune completed 22 of his 35 passing attempts for 212 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. The 212 yards were good for Aune’s second-highest passing yard total this season. While missing out on chances to score touchdowns in the red zone–4 for 7 with two touchdowns and two field goals — North Texas did score more efficiently than in the previous five games played. 

Although the second half last week proved to be a struggle offensively for the Mean Green, Aune said that he believes the team has a good base to build on from last weekend.

“I think the offense clicked early — we had great energy on the sidelines [and] in the locker room,” Aune said. “We’ve got to be more consistent with that and roll from there.”

Defensively, North Texas posted a season-high six sacks, led by redshirt freshman Grayson Murphy’s 2.5. Injuries and penalties hurt the Mean Green defense going down the stretch as sophomore safety Deshawn Gaddie was ejected for targeting and junior defensive backs Quinn Whitlock and John Davis left due to injury. As a result of the recent injuries, freshman wide receiver Loronzo Thompson–who has played cornerback–is listed as a backup defensive back this week versus Rice. 

While the injuries to starters in the secondary seem costly for North Texas, senior linebacker Tyreke Davis said that the team cannot make excuses.

“I know we had some starters go down, but you know, that can’t be an excuse,” Davis said. “We’re all grown men, we all got to strap on our pads and play.”

North Texas versus Rice kicks off at 1:00 p.m. The game will mark the first of a five-game conference run to the end of the season for North Texas. 

Featured Image: Sophomore quarterback Austin Aune prepares to throw a pass to Mean Green receivers against Marshall University on Oct. 15, 2021. Photo by Zachary Thomas

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Reed Smith

Reed Smith

fall sports editor

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