The good news for North Texas is that despite three straight losses there is still much to play for in 2016.
The bad news is that chasing after two victories and bowl eligibility will be done without a cornerstone, perhaps two key pieces.
Running back Jeffery Wilson is likely done for the season, except for a potential bowl game, with a knee injury. On Nov. 12, quarterback Mason Fine left with a shoulder injury. Though not ruled out for Saturday’s Conference USA game against Southern Miss, his status is doubtful.
The Mean Green (4-6 overall, 2-4 C-USA) and Golden Eagles (5-5, 3-3) meet at 4:30 p.m. at Apogee Stadium.
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North Texas ended a nine-year bowl drought when the Mean Green defeated UNLV in the 2014 Heart of Dallas Bowl.
“If you would have asked me at the first of the season if we had an opportunity with the last two games to be bowl eligible … ” coach Seth Littrell said before pausing, “I think we’re sitting in a really good spot.
“Our team mission is to win our bowl game. By no means does that mean that we’re happy with the last three weeks, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t gotten better or still on track to do special things.”
Just a little more hard-pressed.
Without Wilson, the Mean Green will go to a committee to fill the position. Willy Ivery, Wilson’s primary backup, will chair the committee as the one expected to receive most of the carries. He has 252 yards and a 4.8 per-carry average. However, Andrew Tucker, who had a 71-yard TD run last week against Western Kentucky, and Anthony Wyche will in all probability be part of a backfield platoon.
I know Willy [Ivery] can lead that running back group, but it can’t just be Willy. It can’t come down to one person or one player. We have to play well together as a group.
UNT coach Seth Littrell
It’s a kinetic chain that starts with the line to the quarterback and extends to the receivers. Playing well as a whole has been an inconsistent concept all season.
It can’t just be Alec Morris, either. Morris, the fifth-year transfer quarterback from Alabama, would be back in the spotlight as Fine’s replacement since losing his starter’s role to the true freshman early in the season. Morris was uneven in making just one start.
“I feel good about Alec,” Littrell said. “He’s been a great teammate. It hasn’t worked out the way he wanted it, but he’s been a great teammate. It’s not easy [losing his job to a freshman]. There’s a lot of people who couldn’t do it. I think he’s been terrific.”
Junior cornerback Eric Jenkins, who along with safety Kishawn McClain is one of the defense’s key playmakers, is expected back after missing a game.
So, it’s onward, one way or another, for North Texas.
North Texas vs. Southern Miss
4:30 p.m. Saturday