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North Texas refuels for bout with Charlotte, names Austin Aune as starting QB

North Texas refuels for bout with Charlotte, names Austin Aune as starting QB

North Texas refuels for bout with Charlotte, names Austin Aune as starting QB
October 09
11:00 2020

The Charlotte 49ers (0-2, 0-1 Conference-USA) will battle North Texas (1-2, 0-1 C-USA) on Saturday as both teams will play for their first win in conference. The Mean Green seeks a different outcome after falling to Charlotte 39-38 last season.

North Texas lost their first conference matchup in a 41-31 contest against Southern Mississippi (1-3, 1-1 C-USA) last week. Turnovers proved costly as the Golden Eagles recovered three Mean Green fumbles in their own territory. Head coach Seth Littrell committed to quarterback Austin Aune after having co-starters the first two games of the season.

North Texas is currently ranked first in offensive scoring in C-USA and Littrell says Charlotte’s defense is among the best in the conference.

“They have a lot of their secondary guys back, they’ve got starters coming back who were injured last season and I think they’re a veteran group,” Littrell said. “They do a good job mixing up zone and man coverages, and to me, it will probably be one of the best defenses we play this season.”

The 49ers are winless through two games coming off a 21-17 loss against former conference champion Florida Atlantic (1-0, 1-0 C-USA). Charlotte lost their season opener to Appalachian State (2-1, 2-0 Sun Belt Conference) by a score of 35-20

The comeback against North Texas in 2019 was the largest fourth-quarter rally at the FBS level in Charlotte’s history. The football program began in 2013 and became a member of C-USA in 2015. Head coach Will Healy led the 49ers to their first bowl game in 2019 for his first year at the position.

Littrell said the 2019 loss to Charlotte deflated the rest of the season for North Texas.

“We didn’t finish the way we needed to,” Littrell said. “Every loss is tough and if you start getting comfortable with losing then you don’t need to be around here.”

Last season junior quarterback Chris Reynolds utilized his rushing which resulted in 791 yards and six touchdowns which were paired with his program-record 22 passing touchdowns. He has been tamed so far in 2020 with 454 passing yards, two interceptions and one touchdown through two games.

Charlotte’s receiving core is led by junior wide receiver Victor Tucker who had five games in 2019 with over 100 receiving yards. He scored seven touchdowns in 2019, one of them being a game-winner against North Texas.

The Reynolds-Tucker connection was seamless after recording nine receptions for 118 yards last week against Florida Atlantic

As a defensive unit North Texas has moved players in and out of roles due to either injuries or contact tracing-related issues. This has provided younger guys with plenty of opportunities during practice and games. 

Freshman defensive back Upton Stout is fueled by the doubt people have of his play-making abilities due to his small size. Upton stands 5-feet-9 and currently weighs 167 pounds.

“For the longest time people have been telling me I can’t play because I’m too small,” Stout said. “That just puts a fire in me and makes me want to go harder every day.”

Offensively, the Mean Green was off to a slow start after scoring 10 points in the first half in last week’s game against the Golden Eagles. 

Aune was listed as a co-starter against Southern Mississippi but played the entire game and threw for 339 yards and two touchdowns last week. As of Tuesday’s depth chart, Aune has been named the solo starter going into Saturday’s game.

“It’s a good feeling,” Aune said. “Nothing really changes for me on the everyday approach of getting better and getting the ball to our playmakers. I still have to make sure I’m running the offense to a good pace and executing each play.”

Aune said this is the exact opportunity he envisioned when he decided to come back and play football.

Aune spent six seasons in the New York Yankees organization before pursuing a football career at Arkansas and later transferring to North Texas.

Senior tight end Jason Pirtle is confident Aune can get the job done and bring North Texas success.

“He’s always positive, confident and has a great leadership quality about him,” Pirtle said. “He played professional sports so he knows what it’s like to have some bad days and rebound from them.”

The battle kicks off in Denton this Saturday at 7 p.m. for the Mean Green’s fourth consecutive home game.

Featured Image: Redshirt sophomore quarterback Austin Aune waits receive the snap against Southern Mississippi on Oct. 3, 2020. Image by Zachary Thomas

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Jarrett Farley

Jarrett Farley

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