North Texas Daily

Recap: Jaelon Darden establishes new program records as North Texas edges out win against UTEP

Recap: Jaelon Darden establishes new program records as North Texas edges out win against UTEP

Recap: Jaelon Darden establishes new program records as North Texas edges out win against UTEP
December 12
17:02 2020

Senior wide receiver Jaelon Darden broke the North Texas (4-5, 3-4 Conference USA) all-time career receiving yards and all-time career receptions records in the 45-43 win against UTEP (3-5, 0-4 C-USA). The two offenses combined for 988 total yards of offense on the night.

Darden surpassed Johnny Quinn (2003-06) as the all-time leader for receiving yards after a 50-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter. Needing one reception to break the all-time reception record, sophomore quarterback Austin Aune completed a pass to Darden to surpass Casey Fitzgerald (2005-08) as the all-time reception leader.

“It’s eye-opening to have the school records through all the blood, sweat and tears that came over the years,” Darden said. “I can’t thank [Littrell] enough for the opportunity he gave me letting me come to North Texas.”

Darden in Friday’s game established himself as the triple-crown leader in North Texas receiving program history holding the receiving touchdown record (38), receptions (230), and receiving yards (2,782).

“[Darden] absolutely deserves everything he’s worked for and I’m proud of him,” head coach Seth Littrell said. “You can see the work he puts in every day. He’s a player who doesn’t come around too often and that’s what makes him special.”

The Mean Green defense forced four turnovers on the Miners offense, all coming from interceptions by sophomore quarterback Calvin Brownholtz.

“There were a lot of guys who played extremely hard tonight and as a team, they dug down deep and found a way to win,” Littrell said. “Defensively, I was very proud of the way our guys played creating turnovers and attacking the ball in the air.”

North Texas looked to recover from a two-game skid after consecutive losses to UTSA and Louisiana Tech. The game was originally scheduled to be held in El Paso on Dec. 12 but later moved to Apogee Stadium Friday evening after the North Texas athletics department agreed to pay for UTEP’s travel expenses.

The UTEP defense came away with a turnover stripping the ball from sophomore North Texas quarterback Jason Bean in the Mean Green’s first offensive possession. The Miners drew first blood on a 29-yard rushing touchdown from Brownholtz.

North Texas in their second offensive series trotted out Aune to replace Bean.

Brownholtz, on the next drive, threw an interception falling into the hands of sophomore defensive back DeShawn Gaddie. The Mean Green offense responded with a 46-yard touchdown pass from Aune to sophomore receiver Deonte Simpson, tying the game at seven apiece.

The second quarter had three lead changes, as UTEP freshman running back Deion Hankins put the Miners ahead 14-7 on a two-yard rushing touchdown.

North Texas scored 10 unanswered points from a 75-yard touchdown pass to Darden and a 24-yard field goal by junior placekicker Ethan Mooney, leading 17-14 with 4:43 remaining in the half.

UTEP took the lead going into halftime on a second touchdown run by Hankins, with the Miners up 21-17. Despite two interceptions, the Miners outgained North Texas 242 to 192 in total yards at the halfway mark.

Aune led the charge for North Texas’ offense in the second half. He was involved in four touchdowns (three passing and one rushing). Darden caught his second touchdown pass of the game on a 32-yard touchdown courtesy of Aune. The sophomore signal-caller put North Texas ahead 31-21 on a 4-yard carry to the endzone.

UTEP responded early in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 31-28 on a 28-yard touchdown pass from Brownholtz to sophomore Miners receiver Jacob Cowing.

Aune and Darden connected two more times in the endzone on a 2-yard touchdown pass and a 50-yard touchdown strike, going up 45-28 with 8:40 remaining in the game.

“It was good to see the offense put up 45 points tonight,” Aune said. “Offensively, everyone feels like each week that we’re capable of doing that. It’s our standard to put up a lot of points and each drive you have a goal of scoring.”

UTEP added two touchdowns to inch closer to North Texas, coming on Brownholtz and Cowing’s second connection to the endzone and a 5-yard rushing touchdown for Brownholtz.

Down 45-43 with 0:26 remaining, the Miners attempted an onside kick and failed to recover.

UTEP finished the game with 497 yards of total offense and North Texas had 491 total yards.

Aune finished Friday’s performance completing 16-of-29 passes for 302 yards, six total touchdowns (five passing and one rushing). Darden racked up 173 yards on eight receptions and four touchdowns. Junior running back Tre Siggers led the Mean Green offense with 94 rushing yards.

North Texas awaits their fate in playing in a postseason game within the coming days. Stay tuned with the North Texas Daily for more updates on North Texas football’s season updates.

Featured Image: Senior wide receiver Jaelon Darden and head coach Seth Littrell hug after Darden set the all-time record for career receptions at North Texas against UTEP on Dec. 11, 2020. Image by Zachary Thomas

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Preston Rios

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