In a highly anticipated cross-DFW metroplex matchup between Southern Methodist (2-0, 0-0 American Athletic Conference) and North Texas (1-1, 0-0 Conference USA), the Mustang’s early offensive production proved to be the decisive blow against the Mean Green in a 65-35 contest.
Southern Methodist scored on their first four possessions to take a 24-0 lead, three touchdowns came in the air courtesy of senior quarterback Shane Buechele.
The North Texas defense allowed 244 yards in the first quarter where new roles were expected to be filled in the absence of linebackers KD Davis and Tyreke Davis. The two were sidelined for Saturday’s matchup due to medical reasons, according to a source within the team.
“It certainly doesn’t help to miss your two best players on defense,” head coach Seth Littrell said. “But we’re not making excuses. You just have to get better. I believe in [defensive coordinator Clint Bowen] and our staff. I believe they’ll make the corrections. I believe in our kids, we just have to settle into our system and figure out what we’re good at and not good at.”
The North Texas offense failed to score in the first quarter, where the exact same scenario took place in last season’s meeting between the two teams. Midway through the second quarter, North Texas reached the board on a 12-yard pass by sophomore quarterback Jason Bean to senior wide receiver Jaelon Darden.
Bean and sophomore quarterback Austin Aune split time in the first half, where the coaching staff stuck with Aune the majority of the second half trailing 34-7 at halftime.
Aune finished the night completing 13-of-25 passes with 276 yards and three total touchdowns (two passing and one rushing). Bean completed 4-of-9 passes with 29 yards and a touchdown.
“In the second half, we just came out hot,” Aune said. “We made some plays and kept it going. We wish we could’ve done it from the start, it was a little too late but I told our guys we were going to score and they continued to fight.”
North Texas committed 13 penalties totaling to 97 yards on the night, giving Southern Methodist chances to cash in on the Mean Green’s defensive mistakes.
The Mustangs resorted to the ground game after taking a significant lead in the second half. Freshman running back Ulysses Bentley IV broke out for an 84-yard touchdown carry in the fourth quarter. He rushed for 227 yards on 17 carries and three touchdowns on the night.
“There were a lot of self-inflicted wounds,” senior linebacker Kyleb Howell said. “A lot of gaps that should’ve been filled that weren’t filled. A lot of calls we didn’t get and some confusion in coverage. That’s not an excuse because we have to get our calls. They’re a good team, but I don’t think we were overwhelmed. We have to get our run fits together and our coverages worked out.”
Aune connected to Darden and sophomore wide receiver Deontay Simpson in the fourth quarter to get the offense in rhythm. Littrell said the performance by Aune will boost his confidence in leading the offense, where Bean took most of the snaps in the opening game against Houston Baptist.
“It was great to see [Aune’s performance],” Littrell said. “You can see it in practice with both [Aune and Bean], I think they’ve both had a really good two weeks, so I was surprised with the uneasiness early. They’re only going to gain confidence as it goes. Last week it was Bean, and this week it was Aune. If they come out and start the way they finished, we’ll be fine.”
UP NEXT: North Texas takes on Houston next Saturday in the Cougar’s season-opening game. Houston’s previous scheduled games were postponed in relation to COVID-19 related issues.
Featured Image: Redshirt sophomore safety Jaxon Gibbs and sophomore defensive back DeShawn Gaddie tackles SMU offensive player on Sept. 19, 2020. Image by Zachary Thomas