Houston starts strong, beats UNT 46-25

Photos by Dominic Ceraldi

An early hole for North Texas and a second-half special teams surge by Houston led the visiting Cougars to a 46-25 win over North Texas on Saturday night at Apogee Stadium, in front of a record crowd of 30,123.
Houston jumped out to a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter before North Texas used two Ethan Mooney field goals to close to within 17-6 at halftime, and Houston notched two special teams touchdowns in the second half to pull away.
 
“We had way too many catastrophic plays in all three phases, whether it was offense getting behind the chains when we got something going, or defensively, giving up way too many explosive plays,” UNT head coach Seth Littrell said. “Once (the defense) settled in, we battled, but then special teams took their turn.”
 
After a Tre Siggers touchdown run pulled UNT (2-3) to within 24-12 with 7:12 left in the third quarter, Marquez Stevenson returned the ensuing kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown. Then, after Mason Fine found Jyaire Shorter for a 33-yard touchdown to pull the Mean Green to within 31-18 with 4:13 left in the third quarter, Houston’s special teams struck again.
 
Less than 90 seconds into the fourth quarter, Bryson Smith returned an Alvin Kenworthy punt 60 yards to the end zone to put Houston (2-3) up 39-18 with 13:35 to play in the game.
 
“We have a lot of things to clean up after tonight,” Littrell said, as his team prepares to enter a bye week before traveling to Southern Mississippi on Oct. 12. “I wasn’t pleased with any of the phases. There’s a lot of things we have to get better at, and I have to get better, too – all the coaches.”
 
Houston, which was without star quarterback D’Eriq King after he announced Monday he would redshirt this season and miss the remainder of the year, turned to sophomore Clayton Tune, who threw for 124 yards and a score on 16-of-20 passing in his first start for the Cougars.Tune also rushed for 100 yards on nine carries, adding to the rushing pace set by his teammate, running back Patrick Carr, who rushed 16 times for 139 yards and three touchdowns. The tandem was the first to rush for 100 yards apiece against UNT since Nov. 18, 2017, when Army’s Ahmad Bradshaw and Darnell Woolfolk each eclipsed the 100-yard mark.
 
“He’s a really good quarterback,” Littrell said of Tune. “We recruited him out of high school, and he’s very talented. They’re an explosive team with a lot of weapons. We knew it was gonna be a battle. We just have to clean things up. We can’t have that many catastrophic plays that hurt us.”
 
Senior quarterback Mason Fine set a new career record with 55 pass attempts and ended his night midway through the fourth quarter with 353 passing yards and two touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Michael Lawrence had nine catches for a career-high 120 yards on 15 targets.
 
Meanwhile, the Mean Green rushed for 96 yards after entering the game averaging 203.5 yards per game on the ground. North Texas went 8-for-22 on third down conversions.
 
“Mike played good,” Littrell said. “He goes out there and battles, and when it’s his time step up he always does. Mason was solid. We just have to get our run game better. They were more physical up front than we were, and when you can’t get your run game going it makes it harder when you have to drop back and pass so much.”

Courtesy; UNT Football