Prediction: UNT will continue to roll with a win over UTSA

North Texas cornerback Eric Jenkins returns an interception for a touchdown in the Mean Green's win over Army last week. UNT will face UTSA on Saturday in San Antonio. ( Rick Yeatts Photography/Manny Flores)

North Texas cornerback Eric Jenkins returns an interception for a touchdown in the Mean Green’s win over Army last week. UNT will face UTSA on Saturday in San Antonio. ( Rick Yeatts Photography/Manny Flores)

North Texas at UTSA

When: 6 p.m. Saturday, Alamodome

Records: UNT 4-3, 2-1 C-USA; UTSA 3-4, 2-2 C-USA

Last game: UNT 35, Army 18; UTEP 52, UTSA 49 (5OT)

Last meeting: UNT 30, UTSA 23 (2015)

What’s on the line?

UNT is on a roll after knocking off Army 35-18 in a huge upset at West Point. The Mean Green have now won consecutive games and can become bowl-eligible with two wins in their last five games. UNT will play some of the toughest games of the season in that span, including home games against Louisiana Tech and Southern Miss and a trip to Western Kentucky. UNT will finish the season at UTEP. The Mean Green’s game against UTSA is one of the most winnable left on their schedule. A win over the Roadrunners would improve UNT’s bowl hopes significantly.

UTSA’s bowl hopes took a significant hit with their overtime loss to UTEP last week. The Roadrunners still need three more wins. A season-ending game against Charlotte is one UTSA should win, but the Roadrunners’ other games are at Middle Tennessee, Louisiana Tech and Texas A&M. UTSA really needs to beat UNT to improve its postseason hopes.

When UNT has the ball:

UNT has gotten its running game rolling the last few weeks behind Jeffrey Wilson. The junior running back rushed for 160 yards in UNT’s win over Army and tallied 188 yards in the Mean Green’s win over Marshall in its previous game. UNT will lean on Wilson again this week while trying to get its passing game back on track. Mason Fine threw for just 118 yards and tossed just his second interception of the season in UNT’s win over Army.

UTSA is allowing 28.3 points a game. The Roadrunners have struggled to stop opposing teams’ running games and are allowing 180.0 rushing yards a game. UTSA has shown flashes of potential defensively and gave up just 13 points in a win over Rice.

When UTSA has the ball:

UNT is coming off one of its better performances defensively in its win over Army. The Mean Green forced seven turnovers on a cold and rainy day. The Black Knights fumbled the ball seven times.

UTSA features a solid running attack led by Jalen Rhodes and Jarveon Williams, who are averaging 75.0 and 56.7 rushing yards per game, respectively. Quarterback Dalton Sturm is throwing for 199.7 yards a game.

The key to the game could be how UNT’s defense fares against UTSA’s rushing attack.


UNT is on a roll at this point after beating Marshall and Army in back-to-back games. The Mean Green have focused on improving one day and one game at a time, but the focus is quickly turning to reaching a bowl game. UNT needs two more wins to get to six and will get a little closer with a win over UTSA.

UNT 33, UTSA 24

Five things UNT fans should know about UTSA

UTSA quarterback Dalton Sturm looks for running room as UTEP defensive back Devin Cockrell closes in last week in San Antonio. North Texas will face the Roadrunners on Saturday. (San Antonio Express-News/Edward A. Ornelas)

UTSA quarterback Dalton Sturm looks for running room as UTEP defensive back Devin Cockrell closes in last week in San Antonio. North Texas will face the Roadrunners on Saturday. (San Antonio Express-News/Edward A. Ornelas)

North Texas will take on UTSA on Saturday in a showdown of teams that are on their way to exceeding expectations this season. The Mean Green are 4-3 after upsetting Army last weekend. UTSA is 3-4 after falling in five overtimes to UTEP. Here are five things UNT fans should know about the Roadrunners:

1. UTSA is better than its record indicates

UTSA is 3-4, but is a whole lot better than it looks. The Roadrunners nearly upended Arizona State, which snuck by UTSA 32-28. ASU outscored UTSA 17-0 in the fourth quarter.

UTSA had a chance to beat UTEP with a field goal in the fourth overtime of what turned out to be a five-OT marathon, but missed it. The Roadrunners also blew out Conference USA power Southern Miss 55-32.

UTSA could have been 5-2 at this point had it made a few additional plays in a couple of close games.

2. UTSA has a couple of good running backs

UTSA has two running backs who rank among the top 15 rushers in Conference USA. Jalen Rhodes is averaging 75.0 rushing yards a game, while Jarveon Williams is adding 56.7 rushing yards a game. Both have big play potential. Williams has scored on a 92-yard run, while Rhodes has an 80-yard touchdown run.

3. UTSA’s best defensive player is a former Lake Dallas standout

Former Lake Dallas standout Josiah Tauaefa is having a terrific year for UTSA. The redshirt freshman linebacker leads the Roadrunners with 75 tackles to go along with six quarterback hurries and three sacks. Tauaefa is a big reason UTSA has played well at times defensively. The Roadrunners held Rice to 13 points in a win over the Owls and limited Colorado State to 23 points.

4. UTSA has come out fast and finished slow this season

UTSA has been terrific early in games, but has often finished with a thud. The Roadrunners have outscored their opponents 76-46 in the first quarter, but have been outscored 46-12 in the fourth quarter.

5.Dalton Sturm has come on at quarterback for UTSA

There was some question heading into the season how UTSA’s quarterback battle would play out between Dalton Sturm and Sam Houston graduate transfer Jared Johnson. Sturm hung on to the job and has played well while throwing fo 1,398 yards and 13 touchdowns with just four interceptions.

Tony Krasniqi commits to UNT

North Texas is one of several schools that have jumped into the race to sign Sachse defensive tackle Tony Krasniqi.

North Texas picked up a commitment from Sachse defensive lineman Tony Krasniqi today.

North Texas picked up a commitment today from Sachse defensive lineman Tony Krasniqi.

Krasniqi was one of the prospects we talked to for our UNT recruiting target series over the summer. Here’s a link back to our original story on him.

Kraniqi was a second-team All-District 11-6A selection as a junior, when he posted six sacks in a single game against Plano West. He finished with 90 tackles, including 17 for loss, nine sacks and 29 quarterback hurries last season.

UNT co-defensive coordinator Troy Reffett recruited Kraniqi. Here are his Hudl highlights.

“I like the energetic mood of the coaches and players and also the education UNT can provide,” Kraniqi wrote in a message to the Denton Record-Chronicle earlier this summer.

I have a message out to Krasniqi. Check back, I should have more later.



Seth Littrell press conference news and notes



North Texas coach Seth Littrell held his weekly press conference today in advance of the Mean Green’s game at UTSA on Saturday.

There were not any huge news items to come out of this week’s rundown of where the Mean Green stand. The discussion centered on where UNT stands after improving to 4-3 and inching closer to becoming bowl-eligible.

The Mean Green took a big step in the right direction with a 35-18 win over Army.

Littrell attributed that win largely to the way the Mean Green prepared through a bye week and were ready to play on Saturday.

“Last week we took another step toward being able to prepare better,” Littrell said. “Last week was our best week of practice. It carried over into the game. We played well together. We didn’t play great in all three phases, but we did enough for us to be successful and come out of there with a win against a quality opponent in Army that is extremely difficult to get ready for.”

UNT played one of its more complete games in its win over Army and will now turn its attention to the Roadrunners. UTSA lost an epic five overtime game to UTEP last week.

Littrell said UNT and UTSA are in similar positions in terms of their programs as they settle in under new coaching staffs. Frank Wilson is in his first season at the school.

And in other news and notes …

– Littrell said he didn’t see anything on tape when reviewing the Army game that explained why UNT didn’t throw the ball particularly well in its win over the Black Knights. UNT had receivers open. Mason Fine was a bit off and threw for 118 yards.

– Eric Jenkins was named the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Week after returning an interception for a touchdown and picking off another pass during UNT’s win over Army.

– Containing UTSA’s running game will be key. The Roadrunners are averaging 161 rushing yards a game.

– UNT should be a little healthier this week after getting through the Army game in pretty good shape.

– UNT is seeing some benefits from a good start to the season in terms of its reception from high school players and coaches.

Another sign of Baker’s impact — UNT adds track assistant



Earlier this fall, we mentioned that North Texas had hired Fleur Benatar as an assistant coach for its women’s soccer team. Adding Benatar gave UNT a third full-time assistant for the first time.

Now another team on campus is getting a boost as well. UNT announced today that it had added former UTSA standout and assistant coach David Burnett to its staff.

Head coach Carl Sheffield confirmed that Burnett is filling a new position and is not a replacement for a coach leaving the staff.

UNT was getting by with four coaches in track and field when the limit is six.

Burnett will be the fifth coach on staff and work with UNT’s sprinters, long jumpers and triple jumpers.

The bigger point here is that UNT is making additions to its staff to bolster its successful Olympic sports teams under new athletic director Wren Baker. Those teams have historically been some of the school’s more productive programs.

Benatar played at UNT, was an assistant coach under John Hedlund, was the head coach at TWU and came back as UNT’s director of operations before being promoted back to her former role as an assistant.

Those small moves and extra people can make a big difference, especially in spots where UNT had been cutting corners.

Baker appears putting those key people in place a priority.

What we learned — UNT has something special going in the run game

North Texas running back Willy Ivery hurdles a defender during the Mean Green's win over Army at Michie Stadium on Saturday.  (Josh Conklin/For The Times Herald-Record)

North Texas running back Willy Ivery hurdles a defender during the Mean Green’s win over Army at Michie Stadium on Saturday. (Josh Conklin/For The Times Herald-Record)

North Texas knocked off Army 35-18 on Saturday in New York to get to 4-3 on the season. The Mean Green are still 2-1 in Conference USA play and are now a half game back of streaking Louisiana Tech, which has won four straight and is 3-1 in conference play.

The most encouraging aspect of what transpired in the Mean Green’s win over the Black Knights was how UNT ran the ball against the Black Knights, which leads this week’s edition of “what we learned.”

It’s apparent at this point that the Mean Green have finally figured out what issues are in terms of getting its ground game on track.

UNT was all over the map earlier in the year. The Mean Green lost 13 yards in the running game in a loss to Florida and managed just five yards in a loss to Middle Tennessee. UNT balanced those performances out with good days running the ball in wins over Bethune-Cookman and Rice.

It wasn’t until UNT’s last two outings in wins over Marshall and Army that the Mean Green were consistent from one game to the next. UNT rushed for 252 yards in its win over the Thundering Herd and 202 against a stout Army defense that was allowing just 84.2 yards on the ground.

UNT has shuffled its offensive line a bit and seems to have found the right formula with Elex Woodworth and T.J. Henson in the starting lineup. Starting center Creighton Barr was out of the starting lineup in UNT’s win over Army, but UNT was able to compensate.

UNT thought their best bet against Army was to throw the ball, but made the adjustment after struggling early and got the ball to Jeffrey Wilson. The junior rushed for 160 yards and three touchdowns against Army and posted 188 yards and two touchdowns against Marshall.

That’s two good games in a row running the ball for UNT, which is a really good sign.

It’s also worth noting …

– Turner Smiley quietly had one of his better games in some time in UNT’s win over Army. He caught a team-high three passes for 27 yards and continues to do a solid job returning punts. He has gradually come back from some offseason problems.

– UNT has now won two road games this year after pretty much being toast away from Apogee the last several years.

– UNT showed some flexibility in terms of its offensive play calling after Mason Fine struggled a bit in the first half against Army. Instead of pounding a square peg into a round hole, the Mean Green turned to their running game. UNT has shown a willingness to go with what is working.

The Sunday leftovers

It’s Sunday night and time for the leftovers, where we pick back through the events of the weekend, reheat the good stuff — and some of the bad — while hopefully putting it all in perspective.

The big news of the weekend was UNT’s win over Army. We covered that story extensively late last night. Check back on the blog.

Before we get some additional football thoughts, I wanted to mention a couple of other key developments in the land of the Mean and the Green.

– First off, the UNT women’s soccer team is on the verge of winning another title, which should come as a surprise to no one. UNT beat Old Dominion today behind goals from Marchelle Davis and Hailey Sutton. UNT has won three straight and is in a tie atop the Conference USA standings with Rice and Western Kentucky at 21 points.

The Mean Green have two games left, while WKU and Rice have one. All UNT has to do is come away with a win and a draw and it wraps up another championship. UNT has Louisiana Tech and Florida International left. One has to like the spot UNT is in.

– The UNT volleyball team also won its match today, rolling past a mediocre Charlotte team 3-0. UNT is 5-3 in C-USA play.

As far as football goes, this is UTSA week.

The Roadrunners have quickly developed into one of UNT’s biggest rivals. UTSA somehow managed to fall to UTEP in five overtimes on Saturday and at 3-4 might have blown its bowl hopes in the process.

UNT is sitting pretty at this point at 4-3 with a season-ending game against UTEP in addition to its game against UTSA. The Mean Green’s games against Louisiana Tech, Western Kentucky and Southern Miss will be tough, but UNT has a lot of confidence at this point after upsetting Army in a game pretty much no one expected the Mean Green to win.

Five thoughts on UNT’s win over Army

North Texas running back Jeffrey Wilson scored three touchdowns in the Mean Green's 35-18 win over Army. (Josh Conklin/For The Times Herald-Record)

North Texas running back Jeffrey Wilson scored three touchdowns in the Mean Green’s 35-18 win over Army. (Josh Conklin/For The Times Herald-Record)



North Texas picked up its second straight win, and it was a big one. The Mean Green came to West Point and beat a pretty good Army team 35-18 at Michie Stadium. Here are five thoughts on the Mean Green’s win.

1. UNT is really in business now when it comes to getting to a bowl

UNT coach Seth Littrell didn’t want to get too far a head of himself, or his team, for that matter, but the Mean Green’s bowl hopes got a whole lot better with a win over Army. The Mean Green are now 4-3 and need two more wins to become bowl-eligible. UNT closes the season with a game against a struggling UTEP team and has four games before that, including a showdown with rival UTSA. The Mean Green certainly look capable of finding two more wins somewhere along the line.

2. The way UNT adjusted is encouraging

UNT couldn’t get the running game going in the first half, largely because the Mean Green didn’t run the ball enough. UNT coach Seth Littrell thought the passing game was his team’s best best against a stout Army front seven. When UNT struggled in the first half, Littrell changed it up and saw Jeffrey Wilson score three second half touchdowns while rolling up 157 yards on the ground. That’s a smart adjustment and an encouraging sign.

3. UNT’s offensive line has come a long way

There was a time earlier this season that UNT’s offensive line was one of its biggest question marks. The Mean Green struggled to find their form in new system early on. Those times appear to be behind UNT. The Mean Green were forced to adjust when Creighton Barr was limited by an ankle injury and still played well. UNT rushed for 202 yards and gave up just two sacks.

4. Jeffrey Wilson is really coming on

UNT’s on-again, off-again running game got rolling for a second straight game behind Wilson, who is starting to look like an All-Conference USA back. Wilson rushed for 160 yards and three touchdowns. He finished with 188 yards and two touchdowns in UNT’s last game against Marshall.

5. UNT’s defense had a great day

The Mean Green held Army in check all night and forced a whopping seven turnovers. UNT made an effort to rip the ball away from Army’s ball-carriers every chance they got. The Mean Green really seem to be catching on to what coordinators Mike Ekeler and Troy Reffett are teaching.

UNT-Army running blog

North Texas will take on Army today at West Point here in New York. It has been raining most of the morning, but has cleared up a bit over the last hour or so.

This is a big game for UNT in its pursuit of reaching the six-win mark to become bowl-eligible. The Mean Green are 3-3 and are coming off a bye week that followed a big win over Marshall.

UNT has never beaten Army, losing all four games in the series. This is one of the better Army teams the Mean Green have faced. The Black Knights are 4-2 and are also at a key point in their season.

Army has games against Air Force, Navy and Notre Dame coming up. The Black Knights bowl hopes would get a significant boost with a win today.

UNT has remained pretty healthy throughout the year, but will be without two key players today in addition to offensive lineman Garrett Gunter, who has been out for some time. UNT will also be without linebacker Fred Scott and defensive tackle Sid Moore.

Brandon Garner did a great job of filling in for Scott last week, but it would help UNT to have another of its key linebackers for a game against an option team.

The other key change is on UNT’s offensive line. Center Creighton Barr injured his ankle in the Mean Green’s win over Marshall. He is dressed out today, but will not start.

UNT will shift Sam Rice to  center and move Jordan Murray in at guard.

Rice has struggled at times with snapping. That will merit watching on a cold and rainy day.

Army is also terrific against the run, allowing just 84 yards a game.

Stay tuned. I will update the blog all day.

Kickoff — Army’s players came in behind a motorcycle. This is actually a pretty beautiful place to see a game. The leaves are turning colors this time of the year. Army will receive to open the game. UNT won the toss and deferred.

15:00 — Army will start at its 25.

13:22 — Army had a drive going, but fumbled. UNT recovered, but turned the ball right back over when Mason Fine threw an interception.

7:38 — Army cashed in UNT’s turnover by driving 58 yards in 11 plays. Darrnell Woolfolk scored from 9 yards out to put the Black Knights up 7-0.

7:37 — UNT has the ball back at its 24.

5:38 — UNT has tied the game up at 7-7 on a 34-yard touchdown pass from Masonn Fine to Terian Goree. UNT went 76 yards in seven plays.

4:57 — UNT just went up 14-7 after Eric Jenkins intercepted a high pass from Ahmad Bradshaw that was tipped near the sideline. Jenkins returned it for a touchdown. It’s his second straight week with an interception return for a touchdown.

End of the first quarter — UNT is up 14-7 at the end of the first quarter. Army had give 14 points in the first quarter all season. The Black Knights are driving and have the ball at the UNT 28-yard line. Army held the ball for pretty much the whole quarter.

13:28 — Army has come back to tack on a field goal at the end of a 14-play drive. UNT is still up 14-10. Army had the ball for 12:19 in the first quarter and had a 142-62 edge in yards, but UNT came up with the big plays.

11:43 — UNT had to punt the ball away on its last drive after going three-and-out. Army has the ball back at its 28. UNT has struggled to stop the Black Knights so far when they haven’t turned the ball over.

8:06 — UNT just caught a huge break when a bad snap nearly sailed over the head of Army’s punter. He managed to get the ball back, but UNT hauled him down at the Army 32-yard line. The Mean Green have good field position and are already up 14-10.

7:10 — Army just came up with a huge stand in its own end, holding UNT to a field goal attempt that bounced off the cross bar and away. The Mean Green are still up 14-10. Army has the ball back at its 20. The Black Knights will be looking to build some momentum off that stand.

3:27 — UNT has the ball back at its 25 making a key stop deep in its own end of the field.

2:30 — UNT went three-and-out. Army has the ball back at the UNT 47

1:13 — Army didn’t do anything on its last possession and punted. The Mean Green threw what looked like an incomplete swing pass. Army is challenging that it was a lateral and a fumble that Army recovered.

UNT won that challenge.

Halftime — UNT is up 14-10 after running out the clock. There wasn’t a whole lot of offense in that half, but UNT came up with the big play defensively, an interception that Eric Jenkins returned for a touchdown. UNT will get the ball to open the second half.

15:00 — UNT has the ball at its 32 to start the second half.

13:28 — UNT has extended its lead to 21-10 on a 41-yard touchdown run by Jeffrey Wilson. The Mean Green scored on their third play of the second half.

10:36 — UNT just came up with a huge fourth-down stop at midfield.

12:41 — UNT linebacker Brandon Garner is down. He is walking off now.

7:33 — UNT cashed in after that defensive stop with a Jeffrey Wilson 1-yard touchdown run. Tyler Wilson caught a 25-yard pass on third-and-16 that an Army defender didn’t knock down, even though he was right there. That was a good job of concentration by Wilson.

1:51 — UNT appears to have come up with a game-icing stop. Army had the ball inside the Mean Green’s 20. UNT forced a fumble and recovered it. The play is being reviewed.

1:14 — The review on Ahmad Bradshaw’s carry determined that he was down. Army scored on a Bradshaw run and then picked up the 2-point conversion on another Bradshaw run. It’s 28-18 UNT.

12:54 — UNT had a chance to ice the game when it drove deep into Army territory, but Trevor Moore’s 44-yard field goal was just short. It’s still 28-18 UNT.

9:34 — UNT might have just iced this game. Army completed a long pass to Dalton Mendenhall, who had the ball inside the Mean Green 20 before UNT ripped the ball out. Gray fell on the ball at the 12. Things would have gotten tight had Army scored on that possession.

5:58 — UNT has pretty much iced this game. Jeffrey Wilson broke off a 67-yard run and then scored from a yard out to go up 35-18.

3:21 — James Gray just came up with another interception for UNT. This one is over. It’s 35-18 UNT. There are cheers of “North … Texas” coming from the stands. There are a few UNT fans here.

I have to head down now. I will be back with five thoughts later.

Friday Q&A with Sal Interdonato

Army running back Darnell Woolfolk steps into the end zone past UTEP's Devin Cockrell in the Black Knights' win earlier this season. North Texas will face Army on Saturday,  (El Paso Times/Mark Lambie) Army running back Darnell Woolfolk steps into the end zone past UTEP's Devin Cockrell in the Black Knights' win earlier this season. North Texas will face Army on Saturday, (El Paso Times/Mark Lambie)

Army running back Darnell Woolfolk steps into the end zone past UTEP’s Devin Cockrell in the Black Knights’ win earlier this season. North Texas will face Army on Saturday, (El Paso Times/Mark Lambie)

North Texas will take on Army tomorrow in a key nonconference game for the Mean Green.

This week we welcome in Sal Interdonato for our Friday Q&A with a writer who covers UNT’s opponent to preview the game. Sal works for the Times Herald-Record in and has covered Army since 2007. One can find his work on the Herald-Record’s Army section of its website, his Army blog and can also catch up with him on Twitter at @salinterdonato.

Here is what Sal had to say about tomorrow’s game:

1. Army appears to have improved dramatically since last season. What is the difference with this year’s team?

Army’s biggest difference and improvement is in ball security. The Black Knights have zero turnovers in their four wins. Army’s triple option can be a high-risk offense with its decision-making and pitches. For the most part, quarterbacks Ahmad Bradshaw and Chris Carter have operated the offense smoothly.

2. Army has been terrific defensively. What is the strength of this team’s defense?

No doubt, Army’s linebackers corps. Andrew King is playing at an all-American level. King and Timpf are seniors, captains and three-year starters on the inside. They both have more than 200 tackles in their career. Junior Alex Aukerman, Army’s most improved defender, can play outside linebacker, rush end or even 3-technique. Sophomore outside linebacker Kenneth Brinson may be the most athletic and talented of the four. Brinson chose Army over Stanford, Utah and Boston College among others. The foursome has combined for 24.5 tackles for loss, 12 sacks and three interceptions.

3. Quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw is having a good season. Talk about what he brings to the table.

Bradshaw is a strong runner in between the tackles and has the quickness to break off a big run like his 60-yard touchdown against Lafayette last week. The junior’s leadership has been key to the offense this season. He’s operating the triple option with confidence and making the right decisions.

4. How has Army fared against spread teams like UNT?

Army doesn’t think North Texas’ offense is that much different than Rice and UTEP.  The Black Knights held both of those teams to 14 points.

5. How do you see this game going?

Don’t see North Texas scoring many points against Army’s defense. The Black Knights have held five of six opponents to 14 points or less and are ranked No. 2 in the country in total defense and rush defense. Think Army’s offense, which leads the nation in rushing, will move the ball effectively against the Mean Green spreading the ball out among its fullbacks, slotbacks including Jordan Asberry and Tyler Campbell and quarterbacks. North Texas can’t completely sell out on the run. The Black Knights don’t throw much but they gained some confidence in the air with three touchdowns last week. Final score: Army 28, North Texas 14.