North Texas isnt wearing out any panic buttons while riding a two-game losing streak heading into Saturdays Conference USA contest at home with Middle Tennessee State.Coach Dan McCarney said his staff encourages a sense of urgency for every game, though theres not much question the Mean Green needs a victory Saturday to even its conference record at 1-1 and overall to 3-3. The key to doing that, McCarney said, is a better, more consistent running game, and though not panicked, there was obvious concern this week about that phase of the game.The running attack of Brandin Byrd, Reggie Pegram and Antoinne Jimmerson underwhelmed for a third time this season in last weeks C-USA loss to Tulane, rushing for only 34 yards.We were nonexistent running the ball last week, said McCarney. Some of that had to do with Tulane, but we have to play better. Our offensive line got whipped up front. Too many guys didnt sustain blocks. We have to do a much better job this week.It would seem especially crucial that North Texas need to establish a balance offensively against a veteran Middle Tennessee State team that returns much of the same squad that handled the Mean Green easily a season ago, winning 38-21.The Blue Raiders lead C-USA in sacks with 16. North Texas is among the tops in sacks allowed, only five on the season.Not helping the Mean Green cause are injuries to tackles Antonio Johnson and LaChris Anyiam, who both underwent arthroscopic knee surgery during the teams off week two weeks ago.Neither practiced in pads leading up to the Tulane game, yet both played.McCarney expected both to return to full activities this week.It speaks well to those young men and what they give to our program, McCarney said. Byrd leads his teammates statistically but averages only 37.2 yards per game for a team that averages about 112 rushing yards a game.Theres no secret we want to run the football, McCarney said. One guy doesnt do what hes supposed to do. They knock us in the head, stone us at the line of scrimmage the inconsistency is something thats disappointing.McCarney reminded his audience this week that, in his words, God didnt bring him back from a stroke and open-heart surgery in the spring to get our tails kicked.And, hes not panicking yet, not with a team with a new maturity, he said. North Texas schedule this season has been against teams who are a combined 17-5.Weve played some pretty good football teams, he said. Weve had some challenges out there. We have to keep growing. Wed love to be 1-0 in CUSA, but theres still so much football to be played.Whistling the whistlesNorth Texas staff sent a number of plays to the C-USA offices asking for interpretation on a number of calls made by officials last week against Tulane, Dan McCarney said.The Mean Green leads the conference in penalties, uncharacteristic of McCarney-coached teams.Iowa State was routinely the least-penalized team in the Big 12 under McCarney, and North Texas was the least penalized last season in the Sun Belt.I turned in more plays to C-USA than I ever have as a head coach, McCarney said. I think we have very good officials. I want them to give us some sort of feedback on some of them.Some are no question legitimate. Those things we have to clean up. We have to do better as coaches.
Middle Tennessee at North Texas6 p.m. Saturday Records: Middle Tennessee, 3-3, 1-1 in C-USA; UNT, 2-3, 0-1 Radio: KNTU/88.1 FM, KHYI/95.3 FMHead to head