IOWA CITY, Iowa — North Texas running back Jeffery Wilson returned to form after a rare off game Saturday in the Mean Green's loss to Iowa at Kinnick Stadium.
Wilson piled up 95 rushing yards on just 12 carries and broke free for a 41-yard touchdown run that was one of the few offensive highlights for the Mean Green in their 31-14 loss to the Hawkeyes.
The senior's performance was a marked improvement over last week, when SMU limited him to 36 yards on 13 carries.
"We focused in and set a goal to dominate a Big Ten team and show that we mean business, because we didn't play like we wanted to last week," Wilson said.
The Mean Green didn't dominate, but they held their own against a stout Iowa run defense. The Hawkeyes were allowing just 89.5 rushing yards per game going into the weekend.
Wilson upped his career rushing total to 2,297 yards and moved into sixth place on UNT's career rushing list. He moved past Bernard Jackson, who piled up 2,256 yards from 1978-80.
He is quickly closing in on Kevin Galbreath, who ranks fifth with 2,417 yards.
"Jeff ran the ball hard," UNT coach Seth Littrell said. "He did some really good things. It's a little different style of defense this week. They are big up front and believe in those guys. We were more effective running the ball."
UNT's offensive line played a key role and held up well both in the running game and in pass protection.
Iowa managed just one sack.
Littrell proud of Shanbour
Quarterback Quinn Shanbour came into his junior season as a largely unproven player.
He'd thrown just one pass in his career heading into the season, but is quickly proving his value for the Mean Green.
He went in late in the first half when starter Mason Fine went down with a sprained knee and led UNT on a touchdown drive, one he capped with a 13-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jalen Guyton.
It was the first touchdown of Shanbour's career. Fine returned after halftime.
Shanbour completed both of his pass attempts for 26 yards and also rushed for 12 on his only carry.
"Quinn is a great teammate and is a good football player," Littrell said. "It is a long season. I feel comfortable with two guys and know he is going to be prepared. He understands what the game plan is and is locked in. It was great for him to come in and make a couple of nice throws and a nice run. I can't say enough about Quinn."
UNT's offensive burst ends
UNT entered its game against Iowa on a roll offensively, especially when it came to moving the ball. The Mean Green were averaging 580.5 yards per game, a total that ranked ninth among Football Bowl Subdivision teams.
UNT didn't have nearly as much success moving the ball against the Hawkeyes. Iowa limited the Mean Green to 305 yards and was particularly tough in the second half, when UNT failed to score.
UNT rolled up a school-record 668 yards of offense in a season-opening win over Lamar and followed that performance up by piling up 493 yards in a loss to SMU.
-- UNT led 14-10 at halftime, which was a milestone for the Mean Green. UNT had not led a game against a Power Five opponent at halftime since grabbing a 21-0 lead against Indiana in the 2011 season. UNT went on to beat the Hoosiers 24-21.
-- Iowa killed a scoring opportunity for UNT in the second quarter when Trevor Moore lined up for a 40-yard field goal. Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson came off the edge and blocked Moore's attempt.
-- UNT was without defensive end Tillman Johnson for its game against Iowa.
Johnson started against Lamar. A school spokesman said Johnson has been banged up in the early portion of the season. He did not make the trip to Iowa.
-- UNT safety Khairi Muhammad played the best game of his career. The sophomore finished with 13 tackles, nearly doubling his previous career high of seven set against Lamar.
-- Iowa made a key mistake in the first quarter after it appeared to tie the game at 7. The Hawkeyes faced a third-and-9 situation at their 26-yard line when Nate Stanley found running back Akrum Wadley on the sideline. Wadley turned on the jets and pulled away for what would have been a 74-yard touchdown run, but he danced into the end zone.
Officials flagged Wadley for unsportsmanlike conduct, negating the touchdown.
The penalty pushed Iowa back to UNT's 20. Iowa converted on fourth-and-1 following the penalty on a 2-yard run by James Butler and later scored on an 8-yard pass from Stanley to tight end T.J. Hockenson.
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.
Featured photo: North Texas running back Jeffery Wilson runs from Iowa defensive back Miles Taylor (19) during a 41-yard touchdown run during the Mean Green's loss to Iowa.