North Texas Daily

Month-long football drought leaves North Texas hungry for Rice

Month-long football drought leaves North Texas hungry for Rice

Month-long football drought leaves North Texas hungry for Rice
November 21
10:25 2020

The Rice Owls (1-1, 1-1 Conference USA) come to Denton for Saturday’s matchup against a North Texas (2-3, 1-2 C-USA) team that has not played a football game since Oct. 17. The Owls have played a total of two games so far in 2020 compared to North Texas’s five games played.

Both teams seek back-to-back conference wins with the Mean Green’s most recent being 52-35 against Middle Tennessee (2-6, 2-4 C-USA) and the Owls most recent being 30-6 against Southern Mississippi (2-6, 1-3 C-USA). North Texas could not put together a late comeback against Rice in 2019 and lost 20-14.

Head coach Seth Littrell said the physicality of the Rice defense is apparent and was ultimately the deciding factor in their loss to Rice a year ago.

“I think the strength of their defense is their defensive line,” Littrell said. “I think they whipped us this past year and I think that’s why we didn’t have success. We got beat upfront and that’s something that we understand and that’s where it starts with them.”

A the majority of defensive players for Rice returned for 2020, so North Texas can expect another physical matchup.

North Texas has not played a game in over a month after multiple postponements and while Rice has only played two games, they have played more games within the last month than North Texas has. 

Mean Green senior running back DeAndre Torrey said the team is eager to get back on the field since it has been frustrating with every game being anything but a guarantee.

“It’s been so long and we would’ve never thought this season would turn out as crazy as it has,” Torrey said. “We have had this big break through the middle of the season and there’s just a lot of built up anxiety that comes with the postponements.”

Despite the frustration, Torrey said practices have been fun and energetic, and that players feel like the craziness of the season has lifted some pressure off of their shoulders.

One player in particular who does not feel any pressure is senior wide receiver Jaelon Darden.

Darden is on the verge of breaking school records for North Texas, but what seems like an inevitable success continues to be delayed due to games being postponed. 

When games are postponed Littrell has given players the day off, or they are given the option to workout.

Darden said last Saturday’s postponement was disappointing, but believes the team is headed into the right direction after everyone showed up for Saturday’s optional workout.

“Normally we get those Saturday’s off when a game gets postponed but this past weekend the whole team came to workout,” Darden said. “It was a big deal and I feel like when we came in together and saw there was still work to be done, it kind of put a different mindset in people’s minds. It’s like everyone woke up and opened their eyes that we have a season still going on and have work to do.”

If Darden scores two receiving touchdowns against Rice he will tie the school record for career receiving touchdowns.

Rice played their first game of the season on Oct. 24 against Middle Tennessee in a double-overtime loss of 40-34. They played the following week and gained their first conference win against Southern Miss.

Rice quarterback Mike Collins is a graduate student who transferred from Penn in 2017. Collins has thrown eight touchdowns in two games so far in 2020.

Collins threw four touchdowns against Middle Tennessee and four against Southern Miss. He has one interception and 475 passing yards. 

Senior wide receiver Austin Trammell has been the go-to guy for Collins through their first two games. Trammell has five touchdowns and 217 yards receiving in 2020.

The Owl’s have 95 rushing attempts through two games and 52 pass attempts. While their passing game has proven successful, they have also shown dominance running the ball.

Sophomore running back Juma Otoviano leads Rice’s run game with 45 total rushes for 195 yards. 

With most of the recent postponements now scheduled for December and each matchup against a team floating in the middle of the division, Littrell said the next month will decide the fate of their season.

“We need a big month there’s no doubt, I think it’s a big month for everybody,” Littrell said. “We’re excited about this month of football, but it all starts with Rice first.”

Featured Image: Sophomore senior wide receiver Deonte Simpson runs past Southern Mississippi defender on Oct. 3, 2020. Image by Zachary Thomas

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Jarrett Farley

Jarrett Farley

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