Thompson’s big day sparks North Texas romp

Posted Sunday, Sep. 01, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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North Texas football officially turned 100 on Saturday, but the players merely took the field to prove they are a better team than the four-win outfit that represented the school’s green and white in Year No. 99.

So far, so good, thanks to an offensive output that ranks among the best of them all and helped the Mean Green overcome an imperfect start to win only its third season opener in the past 17 years.

Quarterback Derek Thompson was borderline brilliant in passing for 349 yards, completing 23 of 27 attempts with two touchdowns, including an 85-yarder to Brelan Chancellor for the Mean Green, which produced the third-best offensive game in school history in a 40-6 victory against Idaho at Apogee Stadium.

North Texas racked up 591 totals yards, including a career high-matching 135 on six catches by Chancellor.

Brandin Byrd led North Texas’ three-headed running back rotation with 57 yards on seven carries and two touchdowns.

“I struggled last year at home, for whatever reason,” said Thompson, a fifth-year senior bugged by interceptions a year ago. “I’m excited about this season.

“There is a lot to be optimistic about.”

And still much to work on, Thompson said.

Such as an opportunistic defense that got off on the wrong foot by giving up a big passing play to start the game but rebounded to shut out the Vandals the rest of the way and collect three fumbles.

That opening sequence could have changed the direction of the game.

Two plays after a 70-yard gain on a pass and catch between quarterback Chad Chalich and Michael LaGrone, Jake Manley hooked up with Chalich on a 6-yard touchdown passing play that gave Idaho an early lead.

Instead of kicking off deep, the Vandals caught the Mean Green back on its heels with an onside kick that Idaho recovered.

North Texas’ defense responded by forcing the Vandals to punt, and Thompson and the offense got started.

“We settled down and played good, solid defense,” said coach Dan McCarney. “Any time you let the other team have a big play it sickens me, but I like the way we rebounded.”

There were other reasons to believe that the Mean Green will be better than the 4-8 team that finished among the bottom half of the Sun Belt Conference.

North Texas, among the worst in third-down efficiency in 2012, was 8 for 14 on Saturday.

Part of that is a reflection of the improved receiving corps at Thompson’s disposal.

In addition to Chancellor, six others had at least two receptions, including Darnell Smith, who had four for 79 yards.

“He’s the guy,” Thompson said of Chancellor. “The more he gets the football, the more better things will happen for us.

“But there are other who have stepped up. Darnell Smith is a big target. Carlos Harris is another slot guy I know I can depend on.”

Chancellor, too, breathed some life into the return game with three punt returns for 111 yards.

The senior’s 48-yard punt return in the first quarter was 31 yards more than all of last year and more than three of the past five years.

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