North Texas against Utah State

North Texas head coach Seth Littrell talks to his players before a game at the end of the 2018 season.

North Texas coach Seth Littrell and his players held their weekly press conference today.

The Mean Green will host bitter rival SMU on Saturday at Apogee Stadium.

UNT beat Houston Baptist 57-31 in its opener and was off last week. SMU is also 1-0 after knocking off Texas State 31-24 and is also coming off a bye.

Here's our weekly press conference notebook. 

And as always, here are five takeaways from today's event.

1. Seth Littrell is taking on a ton of responsibility

UNT coach Seth Littrell has a void on his staff following the departure of quarterbacks coach Tate Wallis.

There really weren't a whole lot of options out there for Littrell since the season has already started, so he did what he has done numerous times since the end of last season. He put it on himself.

Littrell will coach Jason Bean and Austin Aune with the help of graduate assistant and former UNT backup quarterback Quinn Shanbour.

Littrell had already taken over as UNT's play-caller in the offseason. He has two co-offensive coordinators who are helping out, but he is essentially the Mean Green's offensive coordinator at this point. 

To review: Littrell is UNT's head coach, play-calller and quarterbacks coach.

That's a whole lot of balls to keep in the air. Fortunately for UNT, Littrell seems like the kind of coach who can handle it.

2. The return of Ethan Mooney is huge

UNT will get one of its best players back this week in kicker Ethan Mooney.

There is no underestimating how important that is.

Mooney is a preseason All-Conference USA selection and nearly automatic on any kick inside of 40 yards. Zach Williams filled in admirably last week, but UNT really needs Mooney as it heads into the part of its schedule where games will be decided by much tighter margins than the 26 points it won by in its season opener.

3. UNT's coaches and players know how big this game is

There is no game that is more important to UNT's fans and boosters than its annual showdown with SMU.

The Mean Green faithful have long felt like SMU fans look down on them, UNT as an institution and its programs.

Littrell and his players understand that.

"It's absolutely important to our fans, our coaches and players," Littrell said. "It's important in all the battles we have. It's a school that's right down the road. We recruit against each other."

4. UNT has a lot of respect for SMU, particularly Shane Buechele

UNT had a golden opportunity to win consecutive games against the Mustangs last fall.

The Mean Green hammered SMU 46-23 in Denton in 2018.

The Mustangs completely flipped the script last fall, blowing out UNT 49-27 in Dallas. One of the big differences in those two games was the arrival of Shane Buechele, who transferred from Texas.

Buchele threw for 292 yards and three touchdowns and threw in a key 28-yard run.

"Shane does a great job managing that system, getting the ball to his playmakers' hands and is smart about how he does it," Littrell said.

5. The off week came at a good time for time

UNT played just one game before an unexpected bye last week. The Mean Green's game at Texas A&M was called off when the SEC when to a 10-game conference-only schedule.

The extra week came at a good time for UNT.

The Mean Green had an extra week to prepare for their game against SMU and also had a chance to recover physically after a long preseason that began with the NCAA's return-to-play period this summer.

"We made sure we focused in on nutrition and our health as well," Littrell said. "Overall, it's been really, really good."

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

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