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Football hopes to wrangle Thundering Herd at home Friday night

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Article Originally Published by Reed Smith on North Texas Daily

Article Originally Published by Reed Smith on North Texas Daily

North Texas football returns home to play Marshall University in a Friday night showdown. Coming off four straight losses, the Mean Green hopes to improve their record following a tough string of games.

“It takes everybody pulling the rope in the same direction,” head coach Seth Littrell said. “Got to have short memories whether it’s a win or a loss.”

North Texas (1-4, 0-2 Conference USA) fell 48-35 to the University of Missouri last Saturday. The loss was the second in a row that the team nearly staged a comeback in the second half, as the deficit was 31-7 going into halftime. The Mean Green would outscore Missouri 28-17 following the break.

Sophomore quarterback Austin Aune played a big role in the more positive second half as the 6’2 righty threw for 305 yards and four touchdowns on the day. The Missouri game was Aune’s first start of the season after subbing in for sophomore quarterback Jace Ruder against Louisiana Tech the week prior. Before the Louisiana Tech game, Aune had only come in for short stints against Northwestern State on Sept. 4 and versus the University of Alabama-Birmingham on Sept. 18. 

“Obviously the more you play, the more the game’s going to slow down for you,” Aune said. “The more playing time is great, so seeing the defense and knowing what our offense is doing, and trying to get on the same page.”

The North Texas defense has the tendency to start slow this season, especially in the last two games against Louisiana Tech and Missouri. During the first half of both contests, the opposing team scored 55 points on the Mean Green contrasting to the 14 North Texas scored. The second half has been a completely different story, with the defense only surrendering 10 points total to the two opposing offenses–shutting out Louisiana Tech and allowing only 10 points in the fourth quarter to Missouri. 

“I feel like we just got to lock in and do a little better,” junior defensive back John Davis Jr. said of the defense’s slow starts. “Once we do that, I feel like we can beat every team in the conference.”

Marshall (3-3, 1-1 C-USA) comes into Denton following a close 20-13 overtime victory versus Old Dominion University last week. The win came after three straight losses for the Thundering Herd. 

Redshirt freshman Rasheen Ali has broken onto the scene of the Marshall offense this season, coming into Friday with 566 yards and 11 touchdowns on the season. Davis Jr. emphasized how Ali’s physicality and elusiveness could present a problem to North Texas’ defense

“[Ali] runs hard, he’s tough,” Davis Jr. said. “He’s a physical back, he’s shifty…he’s a great back and [will] [bring] some challenge.”

The Thundering Herd have issues turning over the ball this season. Redshirt freshman quarterback Grant Wells has thrown nine interceptions on the season, which is one more than the number of touchdowns the West Virginian has scored. North Texas’ defense is hoping to exploit this weakness Friday.

“Just for ourselves, we need to create more turnovers,” Davis Jr. said. “Marshall’s a good team, but we need to create more turnovers…strip the ball, get interceptions, do everything we can to get the offense back on the field.”

Friday will be the first time Marshall and North Texas face each other since Oct. 8, 2016, a game the Mean Green won 38-21. Former North Texas running back and current San Francisco 49er, Jeffrey Wilson was the standout player of the game, as he rushed for 188 yards and scored twice. 

Littrell emphasized the phrase “get a day better” Tuesday afternoon, as he takes his team into Friday’s matchup–one that could potentially be their fifth loss in a row. 

“[During the] football season, there’s a lot of ups and downs, but at the end of the day we still have seven games, we got a lot of football in front of us.”

Featured Image: Mean Green head coach Seth Littrell looks at the scoreboard during a game against the University of Alabama at Birmingham on Sept. 18, 2021. Photo by Zachary Thomas

Source: North Texas Daily

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