Despite not facing Arkansas since Seth Littrell took over as head coach, North Texas still has familiarity with the new-look Razorbacks.
First-year head coach Chad Morris is new around Fayetteville, Arkansas, but he’s infamous around Denton. Morris coached Mean Green rival SMU the past three seasons, beating UNT every year, including his last two contests in 2016 and ‘17 with Littrell on the other sideline.
“Coach Morris does an unbelievable job,” Littrell said. “Them and their staff, we’re very familiar with each other having played against them. He does a tremendous job so there’s no doubt in my mind he’ll have them well prepared this week and playing with a lot of energy, and again, it’ll be a very challenging task for us. But again, that’s why you come to play. You look forward to games like this and have the opportunity to compete.”
UNT quarterback Mason Fine made his collegiate debut as a freshman when the Mean Green lost to SMU in 2016. Fine found individual success in that game, marching the offense down the field for a touchdown in his first drive, but the Mean Green still suffered a 34-21 deficit. Fine started the next time the two met, but UNT fell again, 54-32. By the time UNT beat SMU this season with Littrell calling shots and Fine at quarterback, Morris was already long gone.
“Coach Morris had our number the last couple of years being at SMU,” Fine said. “He knows us well, but we know him and his tendencies. But offensively, their defensive coordinator comes from (Texas) A&M. That coordinator’s gonna have his own tendencies and stuff like that, so we just gotta watch film, learn from film, and just kinda go in there and reset; try not to look too much at past history, just try to look at what’s on film, see what we can take away.”
Saturday will be the third game in a row that Littrell has coached against a familiar foe. Week 1 against SMU, he beat longtime friend and colleague Sonny Dykes, who is in his first season at SMU. Last week, UNT thumped Incarnate Word, which Eric Morris just took over. Morris played receiver at Texas Tech while Littrell was the running backs coach there.
“Every year you’re having to face the same opponents within your conference, a rivalry,” Littrell said. “Just because you know them a little bit better, I mean you’re always gonna have different wrinkles here and there, different strengths and weaknesses year in and year out. I think it helps at times to be familiar, but at the same time, both of us are familiar with each other. To me, it’s more about making sure we go out and execute in all three phases. The team that executes the best will probably have the success.”