Conference play opens up this week for North Texas as the Mean Green return home to Denton to face UAB on Saturday. North Texas is looking to snap a two-game losing streak after the 31-14 loss to Iowa, dropping their record to 1-2 on the young season. UAB is 2-1 after a 30-23 win over Coastal Carolina in Birmingham, Alabama.
MOVING ON FROM IOWA: North Texas had a chance at the upset win on the road in Iowa last weekend against the Hawkeyes. However, the Mean Green let a lead slip away in the fourth quarter and the Hawkeyes took control after that in a fairly competitive game that was a lot closer than the score indicated.
“I think going into this season I felt like our team was more confident but there is no moral victories here,” said North Texas head coach Seth Littrell. “They are extremely disappointed that we didn’t win the game. They felt like that was a game that we kind of let get away. That’s when you know your team has become more mature. There are no moral victories when you lose a game you are expected to win.”
Now the focus turns to the Conference USA schedule starting with UAB.
“That’s what those non-conference games are for, to get ready for conference play,” said quarterback Mason Fine. “We learned a lot from those non-conference games. I think we built confidence and now we just got to keep building each week.”
“We are definitely proud of how we played,” added linebacker Brandon Garner. “We played hard. At the end of the day we didn’t get the job done. We went up there to win. That was the goal and we didn’t achieve that goal. Now it’s on to conference.”
FOCUS ON UAB: The Dragons step onto the field for the first C-USA game for the first time since the 2014 season. The football program was shut down after board members and trustees decided the cost of upgrading athletic facilities and covering operating expenses would outweigh the revenue the team actually brings in.
“I think they are going to be a team this year that it won’t be a big surprise to a lot of guys in our conference, in my opinion, on how well they do this season,” Littrell said.
This is just the third meeting between the two schools. UAB won the first two games.
OFFENSIVE ATTACK: The success of the run game early on this season was on display in Iowa. Running back Jeffery Wilson rushed for 95 yards and a touchdown against a very solid Hawkeyes defense. He’s averaging 8.3 yards per carry, which ranks seventh in the nation. Wilson’s five rushing touchdowns has him tied for fifth nationally.
Fine was injured late in the half against Iowa with the Mean Green driving down the field. Backup quarterback Quinn Shanbour came in afterwards and threw a 13-yard TD strike to wide receiver Jalen Guyton. Fine would later return and finish with 167 yards passing.
North Texas leads C-USA with an average of 35.0 points per game and is also averaging 205.3 yards per game, which ranks No. 13 nationally.
CLOSING IN ON 500: A win on Saturday against UAB and the Mean Green will pick up No. 500 in program history. It would also be the second win in front of the home crowd this season.
“We are excited,” Garner said. “We are ready to get our first Conference USA win. It’s at home. Going to have a great crowd. Very excited to play this weekend.”