North Texas linebacker Jeremy Phillips knows the situation looks dire for the Mean Green heading into its homecoming game against Arkansas State on Saturday.
UNT set goals back in January to end a string of seven straight losing seasons and get to a bowl game for the first time since 2004.
The Mean Green will have to go on a season-ending run while facing a tough set of circumstances to get there.
The Mean Green (3-5, 2-2 Sun Belt) must win three of its last four games to get to 6-6 and become bowl-eligible. UNT will face arguably the Sun Belt Conference’s top three teams in the final month of the season and must navigate that stretch without star wide receiver Brelan Chancellor.
UNT lost arguably its top all-around player for the season with a broken collarbone
last week in a loss to Middle Tennessee.
“It’s going to be difficult, but we are going to look at it as an opportunity,” Phillips said. “We don’t look at it thinking we are going to lose those games. We go in thinking we are going to win.”
UNT picked up its biggest victory of the season the last time it played at home, knocking off a Louisiana-Lafayette team that was 4-1. That 30-23 win was the Mean Green’s first over a team with a 4-1 or better record since 2001.
UNT will have to replicate that performance consistently down the stretch.
That’s been the problem for UNT, which hasn’t won back-to-back games since 2004 and has lost 21 straight games following a win.
“I have never figured out why stringing two together has been a problem for us,” senior offensive lineman Coleman Feeley said. “I don’t think it’s a lack of focus from week to week or a change in the way we practice. I’m kind of confused by it.”
UNT will have to solve that mystery to reach the six-win mark while facing three teams on a roll.
ASU (5-3, 3-1) has won three straight and has found its form after a slow start. UNT appears as if it will have a good chance to beat Sun Belt newcomer South Alabama at home, but then will close the season on the road against Louisiana-Monroe and Western Kentucky.
Both ULM and WKU are 6-2 and in the Sun Belt title chase, a race UNT likely dropped out of after losing its second league game at MTSU.
Beating those teams will be a challenge without Chancellor, who was leading the Mean Green with an average of 133.4 total yards a game while starting in the slot in addition to returning punts and kicks.
“We can’t sit there and sulk,” UNT quarterback Derek Thompson said. “We need guys to step into that role.”
That’s especially true with UNT facing a tough set of circumstances while trying to keep its goals within reach.
“There are many things that are still alive and there is a month left in the season,” UNT head coach Dan McCarney said. “There is some real urgency.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6880. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .