North Texas pulls away in high power offensive output on opening night

Article Originally Published by Preston Rios on North Texas Daily

The Mean Green football’s (1-0, 0-0 Conference USA) opening night against Houston Baptist (0-1, Southland 0-0) was highlighted by a school record of 721 total yards offensively on a 57-31 win. With the win, North Texas accomplished a new record by rushing for 300-plus yards and passing in a game by going for 360 yards on the ground and 361 yards in the air.

“I think tonight was a solid start but we missed some things in all three phases that we need to clean up,” head coach Seth Littrell said. “I told the guys I’m never not going to be grateful and excited about a win, this is something I’ll never take for granted again. Having been through the things we’ve gone through I’m grateful for the win and a lot of guys getting to play.”

While Littrell was undecided on who would be the starting quarterback for game one, sophomore Jason Bean took the snaps to begin the game.

“Going into the game, we knew they’d both play,” Littrell said. “I have a lot of confidence in both of them. They both deserve to play. Their teammates respect them and they’ve been great in practices. Both of those guys know, once a guy gets hot, I’m not gonna pull him. And I’m not going to if he just makes one mistake.”

North Texas opened up their first possession on a 33-yard pass by Bean to senior captain and wide receiver Jaelon Darden.

Houston Baptist drove all the way down to North Texas’ own 5-yard line before being stopped on fourth and goal by junior linebacker KD Davis.

On the ensuing drive for North Texas taking over, Bean threw his second touchdown pass in the first quarter on a 33-yard completion to junior wide receiver Greg White going up 14-0 through the first quarter.

North Texas held Houston Baptist scoreless through the Huskies’ first three possessions, while the Mean Green cashed in on their opportunities in the end zone in their first three possessions.

Bean threw his third touchdown pass of the first half on a 19-yard completion to Darden early in the second quarter to push a 20-0 lead.

However, the Huskies picked off Bean in North Texas’ territory at the 29-yard line, where Houston Baptist reached the board on senior quarterback Bailey Zappe’s first touchdown pass to Josh Alfaro.

Sophomore quarterback Austin Aune entered the game in the middle of the second quarter, where he completed a 49-yard pass to junior wide receiver Jyaire Shorter.

Houston Baptist closed the first half on sophomore kicker Gino Garcia’s successful 50-yard field goal attempt to narrow the score to 23-10.

North Texas scored touchdowns on the first five possessions in the second half, the first two coming from a 37-yard carry by Bean and a 35-yard carry by freshman running back Oscar Adaway.

Aune, when re-entering in the third quarter at quarterback, tossed a 6-yard touchdown to Darden for his third touchdown reception on the night. Making it the third time in Darden’s career he has 3 touchdowns in a single game.

“[Darden] is going to give us a tremendous amount of confidence knowing he is going to get open in any type of coverage the defense has,” Bean said.

The Huskies offense through the first three quarters totaled 397 yards (337 from passing) but was held to 17 points by the North Texas defense. Although, Houston Baptist did not go quietly after trailing 43-17 heading into the fourth quarter.

Zappe reached out to his leading receiver from 2019 in Ben Ratzlaff for 71 yards for a touchdown to make it a 57-24 contest.

In Houston Baptist’s next possession, Zappe connected to freshman receiver Josh Sterns for 38 yards for a touchdown.

North Texas reached a milestone in the fourth quarter on a 5-yard pass by sophomore Kason Martin to freshman receiver Kaelon Johnson to break the school record of most yards of total offense in a single game at 668 in 2017 against Lamar.

Leaders for the Mean Green offensively include Bean throwing for three touchdowns, 217 yards on 11-for-18 attempts. Adaway rushed for 118 yards on five carries with two touchdowns, including senior running back Deandre Torrey with 85 yards on 11 carries.

“I think our running backs are really deep and we have some really good receivers,” Littrell said. “Our skill groups are very deep, I think. Everybody’s hungry. They all talk about they want to eat, well, everyone’s hungry, so let’s feed everyone.”

Darden led North Texas in receiving on the night with five receptions, 71 yards and three touchdowns.

Houston Baptist was led by Zappe under center throwing for 480 yards, three touchdowns on 39-62 attempts. Junior running back Ean Week rushed for 48 yards on 12 attempts.

Ratzlaff led the Huskies in receiving with 106 yards on six receptions and a touchdown. Junior receiver Jerreth Sterns recorded 93 yards on 11 receptions.

Defensively North Texas was led by Davis with nine total tackles (seven solo tackles), one sack and one tackle-for-loss.

The Huskies defense was highlighted by senior linebacker Caleb Johnson who tallied 12 tackles (four solo tackles) and senior safety Patrick Wolfe with one interception and four tackles.

UP NEXT: North Texas will have a bye-week for the weekend of Sept. 12, and will play Southern Methodist on Sept. 19 at home.

Featured Image: Redshirt freshman running back Oscar Adaway III runs past defenders to score a touchdown against Houston Baptist on Sept. 5, 2020. Image by Zachary Thomas

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Source: North Texas Daily