North Texas coach Seth Littrell and his players held their final press conference of a disappointing campaign on Tuesday in advance of their season finale on Saturday at home against UAB.
The Mean Green were eliminated from bowl contention last week in a 20-14 loss to Rice that dropped UNT to 4-7 overall and 3-4 in Conference USA play.
UAB is in a three-way tie for the lead in C-USA's West Division with Louisiana Tech and Southern Miss at 5-2. The Blazers are the defending conference champion and could end up back in the title game, depending on the way the final week of the regular season plays out.
Here are five takeaways from today's event:
1. Littrell acknowledged he has some thinking to do
Littrell acknowledged he is preparing to spend a whole lot of time evaluating what went wrong this season for UNT.
The Mean Green came into the season off back-to-back nine-win campaigns and were picked to win C-USA's West Division. UNT came up well short of expectations.
"Right now, we are still in the emotional part of the season and the grind," Littrell said. "As you finish out, you have to step back and evaluate your whole program.
"I have to start with myself and different things I could have done better and ways I need to improve going forward. Then we have to evaluate our whole program."
Littrell spent time last week talking things over with former Kansas coach Mark Mangino, who gave him his first job in coaching. Mangino was at UNT's loss to Rice.
Littrell declined to address the status of his coaching staff. UNT has dealt with some level of turnover in each season of his tenure.
That is typical for Group of Five programs and college staffs in general.
2. Bussey's status moving forward is up in the air
One of the lingering questions late in the season for UNT is if Rico Bussey Jr. will return next season.
The Mean Green lost their star receiver to a torn ACL in a loss to Cal in the third week of the season.
Bussey is a senior, has NFL potential and a ton of options. He could apply for a medical redshirt and return, try his luck in terms of latching on with an NFL or XFL team or move on from football.
Littrell provided little insight.
"We are not sure what he is going to do," Littrell said.
UNT is going to be hit hard by graduation. Getting Bussey back would help the Mean Green significantly. He's UNT's career leader in receiving yards (1,941) and receiving touchdowns (21) despite playing in just three games this season.
3. Littrell attributes struggles to UNT's mentality
Littrell acknowledged UNT has struggled with its mentality this year.
UNT came out flat last week at Rice and fell behind 20-0. Our column in Monday's paper attributed the Mean Green's struggles to a baffling lack of chemistry and the "it" factor that all good teams have.
Littrell had a similar take and attributed those struggles to UNT's mentality.
"At times this season mentally, we have had some highs and lows," Littrell said. "We can’t have that as a program. We have to have the right mindset and the right mentality to go out there, compete and give it everything you have each and every snap, be positive, feed off each other and overcome adversity.
"In the past, we have been able to do that and will ourselves to wins in tight games. This year, we couldn’t."
4. UNT's senior class is special to Littrell
Every senior class in college football is unique.
With that being said, this season's group holds a special place for Littrell. Several members of the group were part of his first class after taking over UNT's program.
"The seniors helped us create a culture and foundation for our program," Littrell said. "They have given it their all and put a lot of sacrifice and energy into our program. They have accomplished a lot. I am proud of them."
5. Finishing out on a high note will be tough
UNT doesn't have a lot to play for this week other than pride.
UAB is in a far different boat. The Blazers can win the C-USA West Division if everything falls in place.
"There is a reason why they are in contention to play for a championship," Littrell said.
Littrell said UAB has the best defense the Mean Green will face this season.
Winning on senior day won't be easy for UNT.