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Friday, October 23, 1998
Houston, Texas
Volume 64, Issue 44


About the Cougar

Cougars and 'Mean Green' to lock horns in Denton

By Anna Sivadasan
Daily Cougar Staff 

After a well-timed and much-needed bye week, the Houston Cougars (1-5) will play their final nonconference opponent of the season Saturday in Denton.

Although the University of North Texas football team (2-4) isn't the same caliber as UCLA's or Tennessee's (UH's other nonconference opponents this year), Cougar head coach Kim Helton said the Mean Green is not to be taken lightly.

"They look like they've improved," he said. "They don't get the amount of respect they probably should. They're a very well-coached, determined football team."

Both teams could use a win Saturday. The Cougars are coming off a disappointing, if not frustrating, loss to Army two weekends ago. UNT, on the other hand, will try to add to its two-game winning streak. The Mean Green looks to win its third consecutive game, a feat it has not accomplished since 1994. After starting the season at 0-4, the Mean Green has won its last two Big West Conference games against Boise State and Nevada.

"I think our football team can still do better," UNT head coach Darell Dickey said. "We are playing a very talented football team. They really haven't put it together yet, but if they come out ready to play, and we don't take care of business, they could score a lot of points."

But the game will probably turn out to be low-scoring, as both teams' strength lies in their defense. Field position, turnovers and each team's running game should decide the contest. After allowing 64 points in the second half in its first four games, the Mean Green defensive unit has gradually improved, giving up only seven points after halftime in its last two games.

"Their defense has been extremely dominant in the second half of football games," Helton said. "They're a good, solid defensive team, and they don't give up many big plays."

The major weakness of the UNT defense has been its inability to stop the run. UH tailbacks should be able to run on a North Texas unit that has allowed 215 yards per game on the ground.

On the other side, the Cougar defense, which has been solid all year, is coming off its worst outing of the season in the loss to Army. Something has to give Saturday. The UH run defense allowed 300-plus yards on the ground to the Cadets' wishbone offense. In last Saturday's game against Nevada, three Mean Green running backs combined to rush for a season-high 286 yards.

Pete Medrano/
The Daily Cougar

Cougar running back Ketric sanford avoids a would-be Army tackler in Houston's 38-28 loss to the Army Cadets two weeks ago. The Cougars face the University of North Texas Saturday in Denton.

But the Cougars have proven that defensive performances, like the one against Army, are the exception rather than the rule. The Mean Green has not been able to pass the ball with any amount of consistency. For the most part, UH has stopped the run all season and will need to do so again with North Texas.

On the special teams front, All-American punter John Baker has a strong leg and usually pins Mean Green opponents deep in their own territory, forcing them to drive the length of the field for points. In addition, return man Broderick McGrew is as dangerous a returner as anyone the Cougars will face all season. UNT has also done a good job of protecting the football, totaling only nine turnovers in six games.

In addition to winning the game, Dickey said there's another reason for the Mean Green to beat the Cougars.

"We need to focus on Houston," he said. "It's a big game for us because it's a school in our state. It's a place where we are going to spend a lot of time recruiting, so it's a chance for us to get some exposure down there."

Kickoff at Denton's Fouts Field is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Saturday.

Reach Sivadasan at

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