UNT-UAB takeaways

North Texas safety Tyreke Davis and defensive tackle T.J. Tauaalo combine to stop UAB running back Lucious Stanley during the Blazers win over the Mean Green in 2018 at Legion Field in Birmingham. Davis will be back to help lead the Mean Green's defense on Saturday when the teams meet at Apogee Stadium.

North Texas coach Seth Littrell and his players held their weekly press conference Tuesday in advance of their Conference USA opener on Saturday at home against UAB.

Here's our weekly press conference notebook.

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

1. UAB's physical style has UNT's attention

UAB has long been one of the top defensive teams in Conference USA and gave up just 21.4 points per game last season, when the Blazers ranked third in the league with 200 rushing yards per game.

"They're a very physical team and extremely tough," Littrell said.

That approach has helped the Blazers win the conference title in two of the last three seasons.

2. Bennett's impact seen in turnover total

UNT heads into conference play having forced eight turnovers, just one off its total from all of last season.

The Mean Green's coaches and players attributed that improvement to a host of factors, including the arrival of coordinator Phil Bennett. 

UNT's players say that Bennett is putting them in better position to make plays and has them motivated to make them when the opportunity is there.

3. UNT examining short-yardage issues

UNT failed to convert on a couple of key short-yardage situations in its loss to SMU last week.

Running back Isaiah Johnson being stuffed on fourth-and-1 from the SMU 14 in the fourth quarter was a killer. Ulysses Bentley IV scored on an 85-yard run on the next play to give the Mustangs a 35-12 lead.

Littrell said there is plenty of blame to go around. He said UNT's offensive line has to do a better job of coming off the ball and that players need to handle their assignments. 

He also said the coaches have a role.

"We have to do better as coaches," Littrell said. "When we are not successful, especially in those critical situations, it's not just on the players. We have to do better as coaches."

4. UNT's players believe C-USA slate will be tough

C-USA teams have posted a couple of impressive wins so far this season. Charlotte beat Duke and UTSA beat Illinois.

The Mean Green were picked to finish sixth out of seven teams in C-USA's West Division in the league's preseason coaches' poll.

From what they have seen so far, Littrell and his players believe the league will be a challenge.

"I've always said there's a lot of great teams, great coaches and great players in this league," Littrell said.

5. UNT's focus is on finishing offensively

Littrell thought back this week and isn't sure if he's ever been a part of a game quite like UNT's loss to SMU.

The Mean Green rolled up 506 yards but only managed 12 points.

"We drove the ball up and down the field on them but didn't finish," UNT quarterback Jace Ruder said. "It comes down to a mentality. After watching film, we drove it but got stuffed on third and short and fourth and short."

UNT will look to rectify those issues this week.

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

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