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North Texas football reloads for this year’s rematch against Houston

North Texas football reloads for this year’s rematch against Houston

North Texas football reloads for this year’s rematch against Houston
September 23
16:35 2020

North Texas (1-1, 0-0 Conference-USA) travels to Houston this weekend to take on the Cougars (0-0, 0-0 American Athletic Conference) in their season opener after beginning the season with three consecutive postponements. The Mean Green in their matchup last season fell 46-25 to Houston.

North Texas suffered their first loss in a 65-35 contest to SMU (2-0, 0-0 American Athletic Conference) last week. It was a game that featured the Mean Green committing 13 total penalties and the defense allowing 710 total yards of offense. Starting linebackers KD Davis and Tyreke Davis were sidelined in the game due to medical concerns, according to a team spokesman. No further information on the progress of the two players has been released as of Tuesday.

Head coach Seth Littrell says the team is doing a good job of shaking off the loss and expects them to play hard regardless of who might be sidelined.

“They’ll have to bounce back [after the loss] because you need them on Sundays to correct their mistakes and we’ll cover everything as a staff to show the positives and negatives,” Littrell said. “The guys have a good attitude and you need to have the right mentality no matter who is in or out to be playing a physical type of football game.”

Houston’s most recent scheduled game over the weekend against Memphis was postponed due to COVID-19-related issues, making it the third postponed matchup of 2020.

The Cougars in 2019 (4-8, 2-6 American Athletic Conference) fell below expectations after head coach Dana Holgorsen chose to redshirt then-senior quarterback D’Eriq King with a 1-3 record. King later lost his starting job to then-sophomore quarterback Clayton Tune for the rest of the season and entered the transfer portal.

Littrell says he is looking forward to coaching against an old friend in Holgorsen as the two coached at Texas Tech under Mike Leach.

“He’s very competitive and always has been very demanding out of his players,” Littrell said. “He has high expectations for his guys and has them ready to play every game so they’ll be ready.”

In the game against Southern Methodist, redshirt sophomore quarterback Austin Aune broke out with 276 yards and a three-touchdown performance. Aune split time with sophomore quarterback Jason Bean in the first half, where the coaching staff stuck with Aune the remainder of the game.

According to the offensive depth chart, the starting quarterback slot will be a game-time decision.

“I thought [Aune] did a good job the other night getting the hot hand toward the second half, so we rode it out with him,” Littrell said. “Both guys had some positives and negatives but we’re still working trying to get them comfortable.”

Senior wide receiver Jaelon Darden snagged two touchdowns against the Mustangs on 66 yards receiving, making it two consecutive games in 2020 with multiple receiving touchdowns.

The Cougar defensive depth chart shows the defense is experienced. Seven are seniors and the rest are juniors.

“The [Houston] defense is good and physical,” Darden said. “They like to come down on the ball and make plays including stacking guys up on the line to play mind games. At the end of the day we need to do our job and execute because it’s not about them, it’s about us.”

On the offensive side of the ball, Houston has a majority upperclassman group of the starting 11 players. Tune took the most snaps under center in 2019 throwing for 11 touchdowns and 1,533 yards.

Senior running back and Texas transfer Kyle Porter led the Cougars last season in rushing yards with 633 and three touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Marquez Stevenson led the team in 2019 with 907 yards receiving and nine touchdowns.

“[Houston] is a team that’s athletic and they have a good quarterback with dynamic receivers,” Senior defensive end Dion Novil said. “Offensively they’ll want to play fast and our defense will have to know how to keep up with their tempo.”

In last season’s matchup junior running back Tre Siggers rushed for 93 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore receiver Jyaire Shorter and senior tight-end Jason Pirtle had touchdown receptions against the Cougars.

Tune passed for a touchdown and rushed for 105 yards with the Cougar offense last year, where Stevenson returned an 82-yard kickoff for a touchdown.

“I look at Houston being a good football team with a lot of guys coming back for them with lots of experience and big-time weapons,” Littrell said. “Whether [Houston] has played football games or not this year we’ll be prepared to battle it out. This will be a tough game and I’m excited about the competition.”

Featured Image: Redshirt sophomore quarterback Austin Aune throws a touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Jaelon Darden against Houston Baptist on Sept. 5 2020. Image by Zachary Thomas

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Preston Rios

Preston Rios

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