North Texas Daily

‘The guys are ready for a break’: Football takes win into bye week

‘The guys are ready for a break’: Football takes win into bye week

‘The guys are ready for a break’: Football takes win into bye week
October 07
12:00 2022

With Saturday’s win over Florida Atlantic University, football finds itself at an even 3-3 mark at the halfway point of the season. 

After an opening win at the University of Texas-El Paso, North Texas began its four-game non-conference slate. Starting with a 48-10 loss to Southern Methodist University, the Mean Green lost two of their next three to come in 2-3 versus the Owls.

“There’s obviously things we need to clean up,” head coach Seth Littrell said. “It’s awesome to be going into an off week with a win, [but] there’s a lot of things we can continually work on.”

A .500 winning percentage is a familiar place for North Texas. The end of the 2021 regular season saw the team sitting at 6-6 after winning its final five games of the season. Between their last nine regular season games, the Mean Green are 9-9. 

Junior quarterback Austin Aune is having a career year passing the ball. Across six games this season, Aune has surpassed his career-high in passing touchdowns with 15. The junior is also under 500 passing yards away from recording his best career mark. 

“The deep ball has been great for us, we’re working in practice and connecting in games,” Aune said. “Our confidence is going up [and] we’ll continue to grow off of that.”

Aune is in his fifth and final year with North Texas. 2022 has afforded the junior a chance to start a season for the first time in his career. In 2021, Aune did not start until the fifth game of the season. Since that point, he has not relinquished the starting spot. 

Aligning with Aune’s tenure as the Mean Green’s starter, North Texas has won seven Conference USA games in a row dating back to Oct. 31, 2021. A 2-0 conference record places the Mean Green at an uncontested first place in C-USA after week five. 

“Last year we got on a roll, we got confidence,” Littrell said. “Opening this year 2-0 has helped that momentum, but you’re going to play great opponents each week, you better be prepared to play, you better be up for every game, because in this conference anybody beats you.”

The return of 2019 standout receiver junior Jyaire Shorter has been a boost for North Texas. Since his return versus Southern Methodist in week one, Shorter has recorded 13 receptions for 241 yards and five touchdowns. The fifth-year player scored three of his touchdowns versus the Owls. 

“Throwing to [Shorter] is great,” Aune said. “We have confidence that he can go up against anybody, so we’re going to give him a chance.”

Shorter played a brief stint in 2021 before reaggravating a previous injury and missing the final 10 games of the season. His current run of five games in a row started is the most Shorter has seen on the field in three years. The fifth-year player said he feels better about his health. 

“I’m in the training room a lot more,” Shorter said. “I feel like my body is pretty good and where I want to be.”

As for the Mean Green defense, a string of two weeks giving up 40-plus points has led into a more positive streak. In North Texas’ last two games, it has surrendered 21 points in both contests. 

Three interceptions — one against the University of Memphis and two versus the Owls — have been a change of pace for the defense. In the previous four games in 2022, the unit had not picked off the ball. 

“We always emphasize on making plays, creating turnovers,” sophomore defensive back Ridge Texada said. “We know the first few games, we didn’t make that many plays — we knew that.”

Texada recorded two interceptions — including a pick-six — in the Florida Atlantic win. Both of his interceptions resulted in North Texas touchdowns.

With a bye week on Oct. 8, the Mean Green get their first break of the season after six-straight contests. North Texas has the chance to extend its C-USA lead and achieve a winning record when it returns versus Louisiana Tech University on Oct. 15. Aune said the week-long interlude is a much-needed hiatus. 

“[The bye week] will be good for us,” Aune said. “I think the guys are ready for a break — we’ve been playing super hard and we’ll try to get rested up and continue to play good football [while] keeping it rolling in conference.”

Featured image: Leaping into the air, defensive back Ridge Texada swats the ball away to save a touchdown on Oct. 1st, 2022. Photo by Mark Regalado

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Reed Smith

Reed Smith

sports editor

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