North Texas fell to 1-4 on the season on Saturday, when the Mean Green lost to Missouri 48-35 in Columbia.

UNT has dropped four straight games since opening the season with a win over Northwestern State. UNT has a short week to prepare for a Friday night showdown with Marshall in the Mean Green’s first conference game since a loss to Louisiana Tech back on Sept. 25.

Before we turn our attention to UNT’s showdown with the Herd, it’s time for this week’s edition of What We Learned, a look back at the weekend for the Mean Green and Conference USA.

1. This sure looks like Austin Aune’s team at the moment

One has to admire the perseverance UNT quarterback Austin Aune has shown throughout his athletic career.

Aune spent six seasons playing minor league baseball without getting a whole lot of traction, spent a short time at Arkansas and then landed at UNT. He was beaten out for the starting job by Jason Bean last season and ended up as a backup yet again when North Carolina transfer Jace Ruder won the job in the offseason.

Aune came off the bench in the first four games of the season before finally getting a chance to start against Missouri.

The former Argyle standout was far from perfect. He threw an interception on UNT’s first possession and had another pick returned for a touchdown.

Aune still managed to throw for 305 yards and four touchdowns.

“The starting job is what you want as a quarterback,” Aune said after the game. “To start against an SEC opponent is awesome. They had something to prove and so did we. It was a great experience.”

UNT had failed to throw for 100 yards in consecutive games before Aune’s start, dropping the bar to a remarkably low level when it comes to the Mean Green’s quarterback play.

Aune cleared it, and made an impression on his teammates.

“The leadership that Aune brings is great,” linebacker KD Davis said. “He keeps us up and helps us fight adversity. He’s going to give it his all no matter what. To have a guy like him in the program helps us a lot.”

2. UNT has a glaring problem getting out of the gates

UNT has a ton of problems to address. The biggest is getting off to terrible starts.

That issue has killed the Mean Green in each of their last three games.

Missouri ran out to a 31-7 halftime lead on Saturday. UNT trailed at Louisiana Tech 24-0 and UAB 33-0.

Aune took some of the blame after tossing his early interception.

“It’s a killer to dig a hole like that,” Aune said. “I screwed that up with the interception. I have to throw the ball out of bounds. You have to play clean against an SEC team.”

UNT’s issues early went well beyond that one interception. Missouri scored on five straight possessions in the first half.

“We dug ourselves in a hole again,” UNT coach Seth Littrell said after the game. “We had an early turnover we could have avoided. Defense played hard but made a couple of errors.”

UNT has to find a way to get off to better starts if it is to turn its season around.

3. C-USA has some surprise teams already

UTEP is just one win away from becoming bowl eligible already. The Miners’ quick run to a 5-1 record is just one of the surprising twists in the league so far.

Charlotte is 4-2 on the year and like UTEP is 2-0 in league play. The Miners were picked to finish last in C-USA’s West Division in the league’s preseason poll. Charlotte was picked to finish fourth in the East Division.

Marshall was projected to win the East, but heads into its game at UNT 3-3 on the year and 1-1 in conference play after dropping a league game to Middle Tennessee.

UTSA was picked to finish second in the West and is off to a 6-0 start. The Roadrunners were expected to be one of the better teams in the division, but few expected them to be on the verge of cracking The Associated Press Top 25 poll.

UTSA received the fourth-highest point total in this week’s poll among teams that received votes without landing in the Top 25.

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

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