North Texas knocked off Middle Tennessee last week without several of its key players in the lineup for most of the night.
UNT didn’t have tackle D’Andre Plantin or running back Tre Siggers. The Mean Green lost running back DeAndre Torrey in the middle of the game.
UNT overcame those absences in a dramatic 33-30 win over the Blue Raiders and will likely need a repeat on Saturday, when the Mean Green travel to Charlotte.
UNT coach Seth Littrell confirmed during his weekly press conference on Tuesday that Plantin won’t be ready to play this week and will likely be out for some time. The status of both Siggers and Torrey will be a game-time decision.
The Mean Green have endured a tough season when it comes to injuries. UNT has already lost elite wide receiver Rico Bussey Jr. for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee.
“It’s that time of the year,” Littrell said. “After the first week of fall camp, I said this would be the healthiest we would be all season, and it’s true. You are going to get banged up and bruised. Guys go down. Others have to step up.”
UNT turned to senior running back Loren Easly in its win over MTSU and saw him respond by rushing for 99 yards. Elex Woodworth shifted from left guard to left tackle. Thomas Preston III started at guard in place of Woodworth.
UNT is expected to use the same lineup along its offensive front this week. The Mean Green will likely turn to Easly and Nic Smith if Siggers and Torrey cannot play Saturday.
Easly has rushed for 221 yards on the season. Littrell has said throughout the season that UNT is deeper at running back than any other position on the roster.
Siggers has rushed for 502 yards in five games, while Torrey has added 292 rushing yards on the season.
UNT rolled up 507 yards in its win over MTSU despite being without several of its key players and will look to build on that performance against Charlotte, a team that has struggled all season defensively.
The 49ers rank last in Conference USA with an average of 39.4 points allowed per game.
UNT aims to turn tide on road
Littrell didn’t have to impress on his players the importance of changing their fortunes on the road this week.
UNT’s leaders took it upon themselves to look at ways they could help the Mean Green turn the tide after losing all three of its road games so far this year.
“I was proud of some of our leaders stepping up this week and talking about bringing our own energy on the road,” Littrell said. “Your fans are not behind you. You don’t have that energy in the stadium for you. You have to feed off the opponent’s crowd and each other.”
UNT has won just one of its last seven games away from Apogee, a slide that can be attributed largely to the level of competition the Mean Green have faced on the road. UNT has fallen at SMU, Cal and Southern Miss.
SMU is unbeaten and ranked No. 16 in the AP Top 25, Cal is a Power Five conference team, while Southern Miss is among the top teams in C-USA.
UNT also lost to No. 23 Utah State and UAB at the end of last season. UAB won the C-USA title, while the Mean Green fell to the Aggies in the New Mexico Bowl.
Win did UNT a whole lot of good
UNT snapped a two-game losing streak with its win over MTSU and came out of that game feeling a whole lot better about where it is as it heads down the stretch.
“We have had a lot of things not go our way,” UNT quarterback Mason Fine said. “That win helped team morale and got the pep back in everyone’s step. We are going to carry that momentum this week into a game against a good Charlotte team.”
UNT had lost two straight to Houston and Southern Miss before snapping its slide against the Blue Raiders.
“Getting that win felt great,” UNT linebacker KD Davis said.
UNT aiming to sharpen focus on early downs
UNT showed dramatic improvement when it came to converting on third down in its win over MTSU.
The Mean Green cashed in six of their 13 opportunities just one week after converting two of 12 in their loss to Southern Miss.
Fine attributed that improvement not so much to what UNT did on third down but to how the Mean Green performed on first and second down.
UNT faced several situations against Southern Miss and Houston the prior week where it needed a significant chunk of yardage to convert on third down. The Mean Green were in much more manageable situations in their win over the Blue Raiders.
“Sometimes we are lackadaisical on first down and are not ready to go,” Fine said. “My thing was to make sure we are ready to go on first down and are not lethargic. That helped us a little bit to stayed out of third and extra long.”