UNT-FIU Q&A

North Texas running back Isaiah Johnson bowls over UTEP safety Tyson Williams during the Mean Green's win over the Miners last week at Apogee Stadium.

North Texas will look to extend a three-game winning streak on Saturday when it takes on Florida International in Miami.

The Mean Green are 4-6 on the season and 3-3 in Conference USA play. FIU is 1-9 and 0-6.

We are fortunate today to welcome in Eric Henry of Underdog Dynasty to discuss the game. Eric covers FIU and Conference USA for SB Nation.

One can find his work on the FIU section of the Underdog Dynasty website and can also catch up with him on Twitter at @EricCHenry_.

Here is what Eric had to say about tomorrow's game.

1. FIU is in the midst of a tough season. Briefly, how did the Panthers get here?

When a team is 1-9, there isn’t just one or two issues that land them at that point.

For FIU, it’s been a litany of things. It starts with the play up front on both sides of the ball.

Offensively, the Panthers’ line has allowed 34 sacks, second worst in C-USA. Some of that stems from quarterbacks hanging on to the ball, but the offensive line has struggled opening up holes in the run game, especially on early downs. That’s resulted in plenty of third-and-long situations and sacks have followed.

FIU’s defense only has 14 sacks, with only eight coming from the line. That lack of pass rush has affected the secondary and the defense as a whole has struggled stopping the run, allowing 203.2 yards per contest.

2. Do you expect this team to rally after Butch Davis announced he is stepping down?

Butch Davis produced the most successful three-year stretch in FIU history, with the program reaching three consecutive bowls from 2017-2019.

Several starters on this year’s team were part of that success. Undoubtedly, those players will want to rally for Butch and have been vocal online about their appreciation for him.

With that being said, the team is playing between “15-18 freshmen and walk-on players” due to injuries and general lack of depth. They will try and come together over these final two weeks, but it may not be enough to produce a win.

3. UNT coach Seth Littrell spoke highly of FIU quarterback Max Bortenschlager. What have you seen from him this year?

The stats don’t quite tell the entire story for Max this season. When given time in the pocket, Bortenschlager does have the arm to make all of the throws and a solid deep ball that FIU wideouts have been able to haul in.

However, consistency has been an issue throughout the season. Bortenschlager is completing just 52.4% of his passes and six times this year, he’s completed 50% or less of his balls.

His best trait may be his toughness and resiliency. He’s been sacked a ton this year and hurried throughout the season. When he has time, expect him to look for wideouts Tyrese Chambers and Bryce Singleton. Both are among the top-20 in the nation in yards per catch.

4. What is the strength of FIU’s team?

When FIU has been successful this year, it’s started with a steady ground game which is a staple of a Butch Davis team. While D’Vonte Price numbers have slowed in recent weeks, he’s one of the most talented backs in the nation, as evidenced by his senior bowl invite and ranking on Mel Kiper’s list of draft-eligible running backs.

He left the ODU game two weeks ago with a shin injury and hasn’t played since, so that will be worth watching. If he doesn’t go, it will be up to Lexington Joseph and Eric Wilson Jr. to put the offense in manageable down-and-distance situations.

When that’s happened, Bortenschlager has been able to connect with Chambers and Singleton.

5. How do you see this game playing out?

I genuinely believe that FIU will try and come out playing aggressively, spurred by the events of the week. However, North Texas’ run game has been steady throughout the year and the Panthers’ defense hasn’t shown an ability to stop the run against FBS competition.

FIU can hang tough for a half, but as has been the case throughout the year, opponents have been able to pull away and UNT is the deeper and better team this year.

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

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