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North Texas defensive back Tyreke Davis (5) takes down the UTEP ball carrier during their game Saturday at Apogee Stadium in Denton.

Linebacker Tyreke Davis said North Texas had two choices following a disheartening loss to Charlotte a week ago that left the Mean Green in a tough spot in terms of reaching a bowl game.

“We can keep going or lay down,” Davis said.

Mason Fine made sure UNT did the former and fought with everything it had on Saturday in its homecoming game against UTEP.

The senior quarterback came into the day on a tear and didn’t show any signs of slowing down in a 52-26 win at Apogee Stadium in front of a crowd of 22,548.

Fine threw a career-high five touchdowns passes last week against Charlotte. That wasn’t enough to give UNT a win in a game it lost on a touchdown pass in the closing seconds.

The Mean Green (4-5, 3-2 Conference USA) came back with a vengeance against UTEP (1-7, 0-5) behind Fine, who threw seven touchdown passes to bolster UNT’s postseason hopes.

“Anytime you have some disappointments and some results not go your way, it can take a toll on you mentally and physically,” UNT coach Seth Littrell said. “I’m proud of the way they have persevered this past week and taken ownership, each individual player and side of the ball — coaches and players alike. I know the hard work and mental toughness you have to overcome that.”

UNT came into the day needing to win three of its last four games to have a chance to play in a bowl for the fourth straight season. That seemed like an awfully long road to travel, considering the Mean Green had lost five of their last seven games.

UNT’s players and coaches said they had confidence in their ability to pull through.

Finding that confidence is a whole lot easier with a player like Fine in your corner. The Oklahoma native came into the day as the leading active passer in college football and showed why while helping his team take a significant step toward meeting its postseason goals.

The senior threw for 332 yards and pushed his career passing total to 12,026 yards.

Fine now ranks 36th on the NCAA’s career passing leaders list after passing Russell Wilson and Drew Brees, a pair of NFL legends.

Fine’s performance is all the more impressive when one considers he lost one of his top receivers to graduation after last season in Jalen Guyton and another to a season-ending injury earlier this season when Rico Bussey Jr. tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee.

“We are starting to get the chemistry down with the young receivers,” Fine said.

That connection is most evident between Fine and Jaelon Darden.

The junior came into the day with five touchdown catches in UNT’s last three games. He finished with three against UTEP alone.

That was exactly the type of performance UNT needed after a tough loss a week ago.

The question now is if the Mean Green can build on that performance in what looks like a tough stretch the rest of the way.

UNT will face Louisiana Tech next week and also has a game at Rice before it closes the season at home against UAB.

Louisiana Tech has won seven straight since opening the season with a loss to Texas and had a bye this week to prepare for its home game against UNT. UAB was 6-1 heading into a game on Saturday at Tennessee.

UNT still has some work to do but feels a whole lot better about its prospects after it jumped all over UTEP early and cruised the rest of the way.

“We are very confident right now with where we are in the passing game. Coach Littrell and coach [Bodie] Reeder are doing a great job of helping us make plays and do what is the best for the team,” Darden said while giving credit to UNT’s first-year offensive coordinator.

Fine and UNT needed less than 30 seconds to jump all over UTEP in the first half.

Deion Hair-Griffin returned the opening kickoff 63 yards to set UNT up deep in UTEP territory

Fine capitalized when he hit Deonte Simpson for a 33-yard touchdown on the Mean Green’s first play from scrimmage.

UNT linebacker Hayden Harrison clobbered UTEP return man Walter Dawn Jr. on the ensuing kickoff, forcing a fumble that Kevin Wood pounced on at the Miners’ 17.

Fine found tight end Jason Pirtle wide open over the middle for a 17-yard touchdown on the next play.

“It was all about preparation,” Fine said. “The juice was there on the sideline. We started fast. It went from there.”

That performance helped UNT recover from a tough loss to Charlotte and gave the Mean Green momentum heading into a game against Louisiana Tech that will also be critical to their hopes of making a late run at a bowl.

“There are a lot of things we have to clean up before we go on the road against the top team in our conference,” Littrell said. “I like where the mindset is at.”

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

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