Houston Baptist Huskies (0-0, FCS Southland) North Texas Mean Green (0-0, Conference USA)
Date/Time: Saturday, September 5th, 6:30 PM CST
TV: ESPN 3 (Play-By-Play: Dave Barnett & Analyst: Hank Dickenson)
Radio: Mean Green Sports Network Learfield IMG — KHYI 95.3 FM, KGAF 1580 AM KNTU 88.1 FM Dallas/Fort Worth/Denton
Location: Apogee Stadium, Denton, TX
Betting Line: O/U 65.5 UNT -24.5
Attendance Policy: Attendance limited to 25% in bowl, 50% in suites — social distancing guidelines strictly enforced and face coverings are required — tailgating is prohibited.
Seemingly, there are more unknowns than sure things regarding North Texas entering the 2020 season. Most notably, who will have the task of filling the massive shoes left behind by quarterback Mason Fine, who rewrote the passing record book during his four seasons in Denton.
Redshirt sophomore Jason Bean saw the bulk of the playing time when Fine went down with an injury last season, while 26-year-old Austin Aune attempted five passes in 2019 as the third-stringer. Aune, a former minor-leaguer in the New York Yankees system, returned to football after six seasons in the minors.
Head coach Seth Littrell has intimated that both will see playing time until he feels comfortable with either.
Some of the known commodities coming into the season are the skill position players for the Mean Green. Running back Tre Siggers had an excellent season with almost 900 yards on the ground, while receiver Jaelon Darden and tight end Jason Pirtle are considered among the top at their respective position in Conference USA.
Defensively, the Mean Green has to improve substantially following a disappointing 2019 that saw fourth-year defensive coordinator Troy Reffett dismissed and Clint Bowen come over from Kansas to assume the duties. UNT has arguably the top interior defensive lineman among the C-USA ranks in defensive tackle Dion Novil. The 6-4, 335-pound senior racked up 61 tackles, including 13 tackles-for-loss in 2019.
Houston Baptist Preview
There’s no denying that it’s been tough sledding for Houston Baptist since the football program’s inception in 2013. The Huskies haven’t finished higher than seventh in the Southland Conference and have an overall record of 18-56 in seven seasons of play. However, last season’s 5-7 record may be the building block that head coach Vic Shealy has been looking for.
The five wins set a program-record for victories in a season and Shealy, the only coach the program has known, has an excellent quarterback that’s garnering NFL buzz in senior Bailey Zappe. The three-year starter has thrown for 8,171 yards and 63 touchdowns in his three years at HBU.
If the Huskies are going to earn their first winning season, it will depend on the arm of Zappe. Alongside him are running back Ean Beek, who finished among the top-10 players in all-purpose yards in the SLC and linebacker Brennan Young, who led the conference in tackles with 124.
Houston Baptist began last season by pushing a C-USA opponent in UTEP for the better part of the game before the Miners rallied for a two-point victory in El Paso. This year, they take on a Mean Green team that’s not quite in full rebuild mode but does have some question marks. While this screams of a “trap game” for Litrell’s team, they have enough firepower returning to get the job done.
Final Score: North Texas 45, Houston Baptist 28