North Texas Daily

“It’s a big game:” Football set to take on Southern Methodist University Saturday

“It’s a big game:” Football set to take on Southern Methodist University Saturday

“It’s a big game:” Football set to take on Southern Methodist University Saturday
September 10
14:00 2021

North Texas (1-0, 0-0 Conference USA) renews an old rivalry with Southern Methodist University (1-0, 0-0 American Athletic Conference) this Saturday. Coming off a 44-14 season-opening win versus Northwestern State University, the Mean Green hopes to beat SMU at Gerald J. Ford Stadium for the first time.

Head coach Seth Littrell and his players are not daunted by the tall task North Texas has this weekend, saying that the game versus Southern Methodist is like any other game preparation-wise.

“Preparation is preparation,” Littrell said. “Obviously [the team] [knows] who we’re playing, and SMU is a very good football team in all three phases–they’re very explosive.”

The explosiveness Littrell’s referring to was seen last Saturday as SMU took on Abilene Christian University. Oklahoma junior transfer quarterback Trevor Mordecai threw for 317 yards with seven touchdowns in his debut for the Mustangs. The game ended in a 56-9 thrashing of Abilene Christian as the Mustang offense showed a significant amount of horsepower. 

Last season, quarterback Shane Buechele and the SMU offense lit up the scoreboard at Apogee Stadium, scoring 65 against a North Texas defense that finished last in FBS for total defense. Like his head coach, senior linebacker Tyreke Davis sees no reason to put unnecessary pressure on the game, regardless of recent outcomes versus the versatile SMU.

“[The defense] has a chip on our shoulder from last year in general,” Davis said. “We gotta be a little relaxed, we’re just playing football – There [are no] nerves leading up to this game, it’s just another game.”

While the North Texas defense only allowed 14 points versus Northwestern State, they also gave up 418 yards of offense. Littrell believes that the defense needs to clean up their mistakes to avoid the same against the Mustangs.

“Defensively [last week against Northwestern State] we missed too many tackles,” Littrell said. “[The defense] had close to 100 yards after missed tackles on us.”

Offensively, North Texas has named sophomore quarterback Jace Ruder as the lone starter versus SMU after the North Carolina transfer’s debut last Saturday. Ruder threw for 131 yards, a touchdown, and was intercepted twice versus Northwestern State.

“I thought Jace [Ruder] handled the situation really well,” Littrell said. “I thought [Ruder] was solid, saw everything well – I thought he did very well, just continuing to get a week better.”

Ruder’s touchdown pass last Saturday was to walk on sophomore wide receiver Roderic Burns, who stood out against Northwestern State, earning six catches for 114 yards. Burns–nicknamed “HMO” (hustler moves only) by his teammates–says that his stellar performance is nothing new.

“Just routine plays,” Burns said of his catch that landed him on ESPN’s Sportscenter. “I made a couple moves in practice, so I feel like I just made a routine play.”

Last time North Texas played at Gerald J. Ford Stadium was 2019 in a game that saw the Mean Green lose by a respectable 49-27. Among North Texas’ top performers that day was running back Tre Siggers, who now plays for SMU after transferring last offseason. Littrell says there is no bad blood between the team and Siggers.

“It’s just a part of the game, just another player on another team,” Littrell said. “If you focused too much about who you know on the other sideline, it would be hard to play.”

The game kicks off at 6:00 p.m. Saturday. North Texas hopes to end a two-game losing streak versus the Mustangs and start the season 2-0 for the first time since 2018. 

“SMU is always a big game, not [just] for players,” Littrell said. “[SMU] has gotten the best of us, especially the last couple years, and it’s a big game.”

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Reed Smith

Reed Smith

sports editor

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