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Notebook: UNT quickly turning attention to Troy, bowl game

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Brett Vito, Staff Writer

North Texas quickly focused its attention on the New Orleans Bowl this week and a showdown with Troy following the end of a highly successful regular season.

UNT returned to workouts early this week following a loss to Florida Atlantic in the Conference USA title game and held its weekly press conference Thursday, when coach Seth Littrell spoke highly of the the Trojans and their coaching staff.

The Mean Green will face Troy on Dec. 16 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

"They are a very good football team that is competing for conference championships and is winning 10 games a year," Littrell said. "They have beaten great opponents. The one that comes to mind is LSU, which is a very good football team."

The Trojans edged the Tigers 24-21 at Tiger Stadium in one of the biggest upsets of the year in college football behind coach Neal Brown. The Tigers were No. 22 at the time.

Troy enters its showdown with UNT at 10-2 and features one of the nation's best defenses. The Trojans rank 11th at 17.5 points per game under coordinator Vic Koenning. 

Littrell spoke highly of Brown and Koenning, whom he worked with at North Carolina. Littrell was the Tar Heels' offensive coordinator while Koenning was the defensive coordinator.

"Their defense is very multiple and is good up front," Littrell said. "They mix things up very well. They are very competitive in the back end and pose a great challenge for us. There is a reason they are ranked 11th in the country. Vic does a great job of putting those guys in position to be successful."

Troy's defense also caught the attention of UNT quarterback Mason Fine.

"They are good up front and have physical players," Fine said. "They play some funky coverages at times. They are a great football team. It will be a great matchup and challenge for us."

Wilson, English doubtful for bowl game

Littrell expects UNT to be without running back Jeffery Wilson and defensive tackle Bryce English for the New Orleans Bowl.

Wilson went down with a foot injury in a win over Army on Nov. 18 and has not played since. English broke his foot in preseason practice.

UNT was holding out hope that English could return at some point and that its bowl game might be played late enough that Wilson would have a chance to recover and play.

Those scenarios seem unlikely.

"I have said my piece on Wilson and English," Littrell said. "Both are doubtful. I wouldn't expect them to play. I would love it if they could, but at this point of the year that is where it is at."

Wilson rushed for 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns in his senior season despite playing in just 11 games. He finishes his career ranked third in UNT history in rushing touchdowns (32) and fourth in rushing yards (3,205). 

Littrell pleased with early bowl practices

Littrell has been pleased with the way his players have performed in practice in preparation for the New Orleans Bowl.

The Mean Green suffered a tough 41-17 loss to Florida Atlantic in the Conference USA title game Saturday but have quickly put that loss behind them.

The Mean Green's bowl game will be played on the first day of bowl season. UNT gave its players a few days to recover from their loss to FAU, both physically and mentally.

"Bowl prep has been great," Littrell said. "The guys are excited to get back out on the field. You always want to get that out of the way and get back out there working hard. The energy was great today."

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.