North Texas Daily

PREVIEW: Football opens at home versus rival SMU

PREVIEW: Football opens at home versus rival SMU

PREVIEW: Football opens at home versus rival SMU
September 03
13:25 2022

Football is coming home for the first time tonight as the team faces metroplex rival, Southern Methodist University.

North Texas (1-0, 1-0 Conference USA) comes into the contest following a 31-13 victory over the University of Texas-El Paso in its week zero opening game. Junior quarterback Austin Aune said that the win in El Paso gave the team some traction heading into their home opener.

“It’s good momentum for us,” Aune said. “Each week we try and go 1-0. On the road, conference game, that was a big win for us – extremely excited about that, but got to move on to the next opponent and work towards that 1-0 goal this week.”

Following injuries, the Mean Green looked to backups to fill in roles. Among them were redshirt freshman right guard Febechi Nwaiwu and sophomore cornerback Ridge Texada.

“Defensively, [Texada] did a great job. When [John Davis Jr.] went down out there on the perimeter, Ridge came in and was focused, locked in,” head coach Seth Littrell said. “That’s what you have to do. Guy goes down, the next guys have to step up, and you got to overcome it as a team.”

Texada filled in for junior starting cornerback Davis, who exited in the first half against the Miners. Nwaiwu replaced junior right guard Daizion Carroll.

“[Nwaiwu] did a great job against one of the more talented group[s] you’ll see in our conference,” Littrell said. “[Texas-El Paso] is a very physical team, they’ve got a great [defensive] line. Obviously, there’s room for improvement for every position and himself, but I thought nothing was too big for him.”

Littrell made similar comments about the Mean Green’s opponent this week, Southern Methodist, calling them “very physical up front.” The Mustangs held North Texas to three yards-per-carry, compared to Southern Methodist’s 7.3. Then-sophomore running back Ulysses Bentley’s 141 rushing yards and senior quarterback Tanner Mordecai’s 311 passing yards were too much for the Mean Green, who lost 35-12.

Mordecai tied Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartman for fifth most touchdowns in FBS last season with 39. He also tied with Utah State’s Logan Bonner for twelfth-most passing yards and notched a completion percentage of 67.8.

“He’s a really good football player, obviously understands their systems,” Littrell said.  “[Head coach Rhett Lashlee] has been there in the past, and he’s played a lot of football under a couple of different staffs. He’s an experienced guy who has a lot of talent around him, he has weapons.”

Lashlee came back to Southern Methodist this year as their new head coach after serving as their offensive coordinator for 2019 and 2020. The Mustangs also brought in Scott Symons, who served as defensive coordinator for Liberty University in the last three seasons.

“We’re all familiar with each other in a sense, but again, opening game, you never know the wrinkles people are going to throw out there,” Littrell said. “As we get in there, we’re going to have to do a good job of game planning and we’re going to have to make adjustments throughout the game like any team.”

This game marks the 100th anniversary of North Texas versus Southern Methodist. North Texas has a 6-34-1 record against the Mustangs but is 4-2 at home. Without a win versus the Mustangs since 2018, Littrell said that tonight is important.

“I know the importance of this game to our players, our fans, our coaching staff,” Littrell said. “Obviously, it’s a team right down the road, a rival, and so it’s a big game.”

Image source: Mean Green Sports

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James Carroll

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