Tre Siggers runs the ball

North Texas running back Tre Siggers (15) runs the ball to the end zone for a touchdown, bringing the Mean Green to 21-0 during the second quarter of Saturday’s game against UTSA.

North Texas opened the season as the favorite to win Conference USA’s West Division.

The Mean Green certainly looked the part in their first opportunity in conference play.

Tre Siggers got UNT’s running game rolling and the Mean Green’s defense continued to show signs of improvement in a commanding 45-3 win over UTSA.

The win snapped a rare two-game slide for the Mean Green, who fell at SMU and California in a pair of tough nonconference games the last two weeks.

UNT hadn’t lost two in a row since the end of the 2017 season.

That slide and a season-ending injury to wide receiver Rico Bussey Jr. raised some concerns for UNT heading into a game against UTSA. All but one of the six games in the series had been decided by eight points or less.

The Mean Green (2-2) never left any doubt that they would cruise in what turned out to be the biggest blowout in the history of the series.

Mason Fine threw for 195 yards and two touchdowns before leaving the game in the fourth quarter. Siggers finished with 143 rushing yards and two touchdowns in his second 100-yard game in the last three weeks.

The Mean Green’s defense took care of the rest, holding UTSA (1-3) had just 295 yards.

UNT’s performance marked a dramatic step forward after a tough couple of weeks in nonconference play.

UNT fell at SMU 49-27 in the second week of the season and couldn’t rebound last week at Cal. The Mean Green had a chance to pull off the upset but couldn’t come up with a game-winning drive in the closing seconds of a 23-17 loss.

“I am really excited about the effort out guys came out and played with,” UNT coach Seth Littrell said. “In all three phases, this was by far and away our cleanest game. We had a chip on our shoulder to clean up mistakes from the last two weeks and put it all together.

“It was a great team win.”

UNT’s performance against UTSA was all the more important with a challenging game against Houston looming next week for the Mean Green.

UNT never left any doubt that they would come through against UTSA, a team Littrell and several of his players described as a fierce rival heading into the game.

“It was a great win,” UNT linebacker KD Davis said. “We came out and executed and played for the seniors.”

UNT ran out to a 24-3 lead in the first half.

Siggers scored on runs that covered 1 and 25 yards and rushed for 81 yards in the first half alone. DeAndre Torrey added a 13-yard scoring run.

The Mean Green’s defense took care of the rest while holding UTSA in check. The Roadrunners lost starting quarterback Frank Harris on the second play of the game. The sophomore was stuffed for a 1-yard loss by defensive tackle Dion Novil and linebacker Tyreke Davis on a run up the middle.

Harris left UTSA’s loss to Army last week with an arm injury and appeared to be favoring the same arm as he went to the sideline.

Lowell Narcisse replaced Harris and threw an interception on his first attempt of the game. UNT cornerback Nick Harvey’s first interception in his debut season with the Mean Green helped get the Mean Green rolling.

Siggers scored his first touchdown of the half six plays later.

UNT continued to pile on the rest of the night and got back on track offensively after struggling to find the end zone against Cal.

The 45 points UNT scored were the most the Mean Green had scored since a 51-31 win over Abilene Christian in its season-opener. The performance was all the more impressive considering UNT had lost Bussey for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee against Cal.

UNT rushed for 290 yards.

“The offensive line was a big part of it,” Siggers said. “It was working. We were more physical than them and wanted it more.”

UNT’s defense also got into the act. The Mean Green took a step forward after allowing seven touchdowns in its loss to SMU.

UNT gave up just two touchdowns in its loss to Cal.

UTSA failed to reach the end zone against the Mean Green, who turned back the Roadrunners over and over in commanding performance to open conference play.

“The linebackers and the whole defensive line were filling the gaps,” UNT defensive lineman Dion Novil said. “We were doing our jobs.”

The result was an impressive all-around win to open C-USA play.

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

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