North Texas Daily

Homecoming: Mean Green look to serve Rice

Homecoming: Mean Green look to serve Rice

Homecoming: Mean Green look to serve Rice
October 25
00:39 2018

North Texas (6-2, 2-2 C-USA) has moved forward in preparing for the annual homecoming game against the Rice Owls (1-7, 0-4 C-USA) following their loss to Alabama-Birmingham. 

The loss pushed them out of first place contention in the Conference USA Western division. 

The Mean Green will aim to establish the ability to stay consistent in all facets of the game. This is something they have not been able to grasp in both of their loses this year to C-USA opponents.

“We’ve got to be able to run the ball and have some balance to be able to spread the ball to other positions,” head coach Seth Littrell said. “We’ve got to coach that better, and overall we’re at our best when we’re clicking on all phases of the game.”

The Mean Green are No. 1 in C-USA in passing yards per game with 324.9 yards. However, North Texas is No. 8 in the conference in rushing yards with 144.5 yards. 

Rice has allowed 178.5 rushing yards per game along with a total rushing defense that’s No. 11 in C-USA.

The Owls will look for their second win of the season to put an end to their seven-game losing streak this Saturday. Rice is currently the second most penalized team in the conference coming into this game.

The Rice offense averages 19.1 points per game along with 320.3 yards of total offense. The Owls running game consists of running backs Austin Walter and Emmanuel Esupka. They are dead split on the season with 112 carries each, a combined 950 yards and eight touchdowns. North Texas is 8-0 when their opponent is held to 20 points or less under head coach Seth Littrell.

Starting Rice quarterback Shawn Stankavage is completing 54 percent of his passes and has 1,011 passing yards with nine touchdowns and seven interceptions through eight games. However, Rice has been successful when running as they only have 3 total fumbles this season.

The Mean Green forced another turnover last week against Alabama-Birmingham, totaling 16 turnovers through the first eight games so far this season. The Mean Green are No. 14 in the country in turnovers forced.

“In that perspective, who doesn’t want to go out there and play defense, especially if you’re a defensive player,” linebacker E.J. Ejiya said. “We want to get the ball back to the offense as fast as possible because we know they can score.”

North Texas’ defense will look to keep the same mentality they’ve kept that has them No. 4 in C-USA in total defense. The Mean Green plan on resetting for this year’s homecoming game and refueling an offense that lately has shown signs of inconsistency.

Starting quarterback Mason Fine currently holds the all-time career passing record for a North Texas quarterback at 139.79. Sophomore wide receiver Jalen Darden had a career night during North Texas’ loss against Alabama-Birmingham after he caught 10 passes for 143 yards and two touchdowns, and Darden is the first Mean Green receiver to make 10 or more catches in a game since Michael Lawrence had 11 catches at Florida Atlantic on Oct. 21, 2017.

“He’s a special player,” Fine said. “He makes guys miss, and he’s always getting open with his fluent route running. He’s a smart player. He reads defenses well and knows where all the open spots are in the secondary.”

The sophomore wideout is presently the team’s third-leading receiver with 35 catches for 498 yards and four touchdowns. Darden will look to repeat the same success against a Rice team that ranks No. 12 in C-USA against the pass.

According to ESPN’s Power Football Index, North Texas is the favorite coming into this game with a 97 percent win chance, leaving Rice with a 3 percent chance to win this matchup. The game will be played at 3 p.m. Saturday at Apogee Stadium.

Featured Image: North Texas senior Kemon Hall runs the ball after catching an interception in a game against Arkansas on Sept. 15 at Arkansas. Sara Carpenter

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Matt Suarez

Matt Suarez

Sports Editor

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