DENTON — Four unanswered UH scores to open the second half spoiled the debut of North Texas’ new home field as the Cougars pulled away from the Mean Green for a 48-23 victory.
The Mean Green fed off of the energy of the first crowd at Apogee Stadium in the first half and kept pace with UH as the teams headed to the locker room, but the Cougars dominated after the break.
“We just weren’t clicking,” senior quarterback Case Keenum said. “Finally at half time, we said we’re going to forget about it all and start again.”
The Cougars (2-0) established a rhythm in the second half of scoring quickly, forcing the Mean Green (0-2) to punt, and driving down the field again.
“Our offense likes to score fast,” senior defensive lineman David Hunter said. “It’s always good when you’re able to get the ball back in their hands as soon as possible.”
The Cougars forced the Mean Green to punt on five of its six possessions in the second half, and Keenum and the offense responded. UH churned out 341 yards over four drives in the third quarter as Keenum routinely found senior receivers Justin Johnson and Patrick Edwards for big gains.
Keenum finished 25 for 39 for 460 yards and five touchdowns. Edwards caught a game-high seven balls for 182 yards and a score, while Johnson hauled in two touchdowns to go with four receptions and 88 yards. Senior running back Michael Hayes and junior receiver Isaiah Sweeney were also recipients of Keenum touchdown throws.
Edwards’ rediscovered on-field chemistry with Keenum was one of the many positives that came from the game.
“It kind of felt like the old Case, me and Case hooking up,” Edwards said. “It felt pretty good. We got in a little rhythm.”
Also in rhythm was the Cougars defense led by junior cornerback D.J. Hayden. The Cougars allowed just 111 yards and six points in the second half. Hayden recorded a game-high seven and a half tackles, one for a loss, and also a key interception on UNT’s opening drive.
Keenum thought that UH’s early struggles on both sides of the ball should be looked at as a positive because of the way that he and his teammates responded.
“This was one of the first times we really had to grind out and get some drives going and make some plays,” he said. “I thought it was good. I thought we learned from it. The good thing is we can get better and we have to keep getting better.
“We turned it around in the second half, which was nice. It’s always good to get a win.”
As hinted, sophomore running back Charles Sims did not play again the Mean Green.
Sims carried the ball four times for 20 yards and caught two passes as well against UCLA before sitting out the second half.
Due to his absence, several other backs saw the field towards the end of Saturday’s victory.
Freshman Randall Hollimon also had one carry for no gain.