Austin Aune

UNT QB Austin Aune (2) scrambles for yardage while being chased by SMU’s Chase Cromartie (18) and Chevin Calloway (11) during Saturday's game at Apogee Stadium. 

Bright spots were hard to find for North Texas on Saturday night at Apogee Stadium.

The Mean Green’s defense struggled, and its offense wasn’t much better in the early going of a 65-35 loss.

Fortunately for UNT, quarterback Austin Aune provided a solid half that amounted to a ray of hope on a dismal night.

Aune threw for 276 yards and two touchdowns in just his second game playing a significant role after serving as a backup earlier in his career. All but 46 of those yards came in the second half, when UNT scored 28 points.

“The second half offensively we had the mindset we wouldn’t be stopped, and we were going to play like we know we can,” UNT coach Seth Littrell said. “Our guys started making plays and running the ball well. We hit some explosive plays in the passing game once our quarterback got settled in.”

UNT is hoping a promising second half is a sign of what is to come from an offense that is still making the transition to playing without star quarterback Mason Fine, who graduated after last season.

Aune split time with Jason Bean for the second straight game. Bean threw for 29 yards and a touchdown.

UNT’s problem was that it couldn’t get anything going early. SMU ran out to a 24-0 lead and never looked back.

“We came out hot in the second half,” Aune said. “We got momentum rolling, made plays and kept it going. We wish we could have done that from the start, but I love the way we fought.”

Littrell attributed UNT’s slow start partly to nerves. SMU is the Mean Green’s biggest rival. The game is one UNT’s players, coaches and fans always point to as a key to their season.

“We were anxious early,” Littrell said. “We had a chance to get into a rhythm offensively but didn’t.

“We have to settle in and understand that we can make big plays and be explosive.”

UNT showed that potential in the second half of its loss to SMU. By then it was too late.

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.

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