ATHENS, Ohio — Darnell Smith had a feeling that he would have a chance to make a big impact for North Texas in its game against Ohio on Saturday night at Peden Stadium.
After what Brelan Chancellor accomplished while rolling up 283 all-purpose yards in the Mean Green’s season-opening win over Idaho, it only made sense.
Ohio tried to take Chancellor away and dared other players to beat them.
Smith nearly helped UNT reach that goal in a 27-21 loss that prevented the Mean Green from moving to 2-0 for the first time since 1994.
The senior who came to UNT as a walk-on finished with a career-high nine receptions for 89 yards and a touchdown in one of the finest nights of his career with the Mean Green.
“I tried to come up big when my name was called,” Smith said. “I was told that the ball was coming to me. I had to make plays for my team.”
Smith made several, including one of the biggest of the night. UNT came all the way back from a 21-7 deficit and tied the game on Smith’s 6-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Derek Thompson.
Thompson went to Smith over and over on the key drive and saw him come up with four catches. Smith also drew a key pass interference penalty on an earlier touchdown drive that saw UNT pull to within 21-14.
“Darnell is determined to be a great player and have a great senior year,” UNT head coach Dan McCarney said. “It comes from within. What a story for a former walk-on to make plays out here to help us win games. They tried to take away Brelan, who is our fastest player.”
Chancellor had just one catch for 33 yards one week after finishing with six for 135 yards against Idaho.
Smith helped fill that void and fuel UNT’s comeback that ultimately came up short.
“I was hoping to get that second win,” Smith said. “I want to make history while I’m here. It’s unfortunate. We have to come back stronger.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 or via Twitter at @brettvito.