North Texas Daily

PREVIEW: Football returns home to take on UAB in conference opener

PREVIEW: Football returns home to take on UAB in conference opener

PREVIEW: Football returns home to take on UAB in conference opener
September 17
13:00 2021

North Texas returns to Apogee Stadium to take on the University of Alabama Birmingham in the Conference USA opener.

Both North Texas (1-1, 0-0 C-USA) and UAB (1-1, 0-0 C-USA) are coming off week two losses to Southern Methodist University and the University of Georgia respectively.

“I thought the effort was great [against SMU], especially defensively–gave [North Texas] a chance to win,” head coach Seth Littrell said. “Offensively, I haven’t been a part of many games where you go over 500 yards and only score 12 points.”

The Mean Green defense continued to force turnovers against SMU, bringing their tally to eight through two games in contrast to last season, where North Texas had nine turnovers over 10 games.

“Just trusting our technique, trusting our scheme, being in the right place at the right time,” senior safety Makyle Sanders said about North Texas’ ability to force turnovers. “Just trusting the system of coach [Phil] Bennett, and just trusting teammates to do their job.”

Even with four forced turnovers, last week’s game was a tale of two halves: North Texas only surrendered seven points in the first half, then continued to suffer from the big play ability of SMU, allowing a 28-6 run to end the game.

“In the first half, we started out really fast,” senior linebacker K.D. Davis said. “The second half we gave up too many explosive plays, so we really have to eliminate all the explosive plays.”

North Texas’ offense hit a wall last Saturday, only scoring 12 points versus SMU and struggling to finish drives in the red zone.

“[North Texas] drove the ball up and down the field against [SMU], but we just didn’t finish,” sophomore quarterback Jace Ruder said. “On those third and short, fourth and short situations, we’d get stuffed up the middle.”

Ruder increased his accuracy versus SMU, hitting his receivers for a 32-51 completion rate. The 6’3 quarterback also threw for 366 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions. The two interceptions brought his total on the season to four, compared to two passing touchdowns.

“No excuses, that’s on me,” Ruder said of the interceptions. “Good plays on the defense, hats off to them making great plays, but at the end of the day, I have to take care of the ball.”

UAB was blown out by Georgia last weekend by a score of 56-7. Redshirt senior quarterback Tyler Johnston III struggled greatly in the contest, completing 6 of 14 passes with no touchdowns and three interceptions.

“It’s [going to be] a challenging game,” Littrell said. “We’ve had some battles the last three years, they’re a very physical team, they’re extremely tough, and offensively they’re going to pound the rock.”

UAB are the reigning C-USA champions, something North Texas is keeping in mind. Mean Green players feel like beating the Blazers would make a statement in the conference.

“Having [UAB] as our first conference game is really big,” Sanders said. “Just seeing what we can do, I think we can make a big [statement] in C-USA.”

North Texas versus UAB will kick off at 6:00 PM Saturday and it will be televised on regional network Stadium.

“I’m excited to get back to [Apogee Stadium] this weekend against UAB and see all of our fans there,” Ruder said.

Image source Twitter

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Reed Smith

Reed Smith

Senior Sports Writer.

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