Dan McCarney didn't think about sitting running back Lance Dunbar after his early fumbling woes Saturday night.
Dunbar repaid his coach's trust with one of the biggest games of his career.
After a pair of fumbles in the first quarter, Dunbar amassed 279 all-purpose yards to help McCarney pick up his first win at North Texas as the Mean Green beat Indiana 24-21.
"He had a couple of problems early," McCarney said. "I still had faith and trust in him. He sure made the most of the opportunities he had after that."
Dunbar, North Texas' leading rusher the past two seasons, had a career-high 152 yards receiving and added 127 more rushing. After losing fumbles on consecutive drives in the opening quarter, Dunbar caught an 83-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter that gave North Texas (1-3) its first score.
"I knew I had to make up for those fumbles, so I just kept asking to get the ball," said Dunbar, who had a career-best 305 all-purpose yards last season against Kansas State.
Indiana (1-3) trailed 24-0 before storming back in the fourth quarter. Backup Dusty Kiel threw two touchdown passes in the final 6 minutes, including a 67-yarder to Kofi Hughes that made it 24-21.
North Texas recovered the ensuing onside kick with 1:05 left to secure McCarney's first victory since coaching Iowa State in 2006. The Mean Green's last win over a school from a BCS automatic qualifying conference was in 2003 against Baylor.
"This win is so meaningful to many people," McCarney said. "It is reward for the hard work done by a lot of people."
The Hoosiers played without leading receiver Damarlo Belcher, who did not make the trip because of an undisclosed injury. The senior came into the game with 14 catches for 190 yards.
The Hoosiers open Big Ten Conference play next weekend against Penn State.
"We're still a work in progress," Indiana coach Kevin Wilson said.
After a mistake-filled first quarter that included a botched snap and Dunbar's two fumbles, North Texas blew the game open by scoring on all three of its drives in the second quarter.
Dunbar made up for his miscues on his 83-yard touchdown reception. The senior running back caught a swing pass at the 20, slipped a tackle and raced past the Indiana defense for his 39th career touchdown. That set the North Texas school record for career touchdowns.
Dunbar was held to 16 yards on 17 carries in a 41-0 loss to No. 3 Alabama last week and only had 121 yards on the ground in North Texas' first three games.
"We killed ourselves on drives in the first half," Dunbar said. "We thought we could keep moving it on them all game."
Derek Thompson, who passed for 201 yards and three touchdowns, added a 17-yard touchdown pass to Chris Bynes and a 32-yarder to Michael Outlaw in the back of the end zone that gave North Texas a 21-0 advantage with 55 seconds left in the first half.
Indiana, which piled up 557 yards of offense last week against South Carolina State, struggled to move the ball against a North Texas unit which came into the game ranked last nationally in total defense and had allowed at least 41 points in every game this season.
Indiana safety Mark Murphy returned an interception 31 yards for a touchdown, and Edward Baker-Wright passed for 209 yards before Kiel entered the game in the fourth quarter.
"We have to refocus and get ready for this Big Ten season." Indiana safety Chris Adkins said.