Antoinne Jimmerson showed signs of emerging as North Texas go-to player in the running game, and maybe its best offensive weapon in the late stages of the Mean Green’s season.
The way UNT’s 24-14 win over South Alabama played out on Saturday night at Apogee Stadium showed just how valuable it can be for a team to have a couple other running backs it can depend on.
Jimmerson carried the ball just three times before suffering a shoulder injury that knocked him out for the rest of the night.
After the game, UNT head coach Dan McCarney said
the team wouldn’t know Jimmerson’s status for the rest of the year until today at the earliest.
Losing Jimmerson didn’t turn out to be a problem for the Mean Green, which turned to Brandin Byrd and Jeremy Brown, who made the plays UNT needed to knock off the Jaguars.
Byrd rushed for a career-high 109 yards and Brown added 61 on a night when the Mean Green rolled up 197 rushing yards.
“Our wide receivers, our offensive line, our quarterback, everything was clicking today,” Brown said. “The holes opened up, we read the blocks and we were able to run it.”
A big chunk of the yards both Byrd and Brown posted came on long touchdown runs that were key points in the game.
UNT trailed 7-0 when Brown broke free for a 51-yard touchdown run. While Brown got UNT back even, it was Byrd who put the Mean Green up for good in the third quarter, when he broke off an 85-yard touchdown run.
Byrd’s previous long run of the season covered 20 yards.
UNT posted just 84 rushing yards last week in a loss to Arkansas State.
Byrd became just the second running back to post 100 yards in a game this season, joining Jimmerson, who rushed for 139 yards in a win over Texas Southern in the second week of the season.
“We focused on getting better in the running game since we didn’t do very well last week,” Byrd said. “We came to work today and it showed.”
Thompson’s streak ends
UNT relied heavily on its running game after Thompson struggled and saw his streak of consecutive games with at least 200 passing yards end at seven.
Thompson completed just 12 of his 28 attempts for 106 yards and threw one interception, although he did connect with Drew Miller on a 2-yard touchdown strike.
The junior, who threw for 316 yards last week in a loss to Arkansas State, did move into sixth place on UNT’s career passing yardage list while pushing his career total to 4,062.
Olen misses from 54
UNT elected to try a long field goal in the second quarter and nearly saw the gamble pay off.
The Mean Green took over at the USA 42-yard line after a short punt, but couldn’t pick up a first down and was left facing a fourth-and-5 situation at the Jaguars 37.
Zach Olen tried a 54-yard field goal and had the distance, only to see it slide wide left. Olen came into the game having made six straight field goals.
Olen’s season long is a 48-yard field goal. He had hit all three of his field goal attempts from at least 50 yards in his career, including his career long of 53 yards.
“We have a kicker with a lot of confidence and he had a wind that was gusting 30 to 35 miles an hour behind him,” McCarney said. “He just missed it, but he hit the heck out of it. I thought it was a great attempt.”
Robertson serves as honorary captain
Former UNT standout and current Cleveland Browns linebacker Craig Robertson served as the Mean Green’s honorary captain.
Robertson led UNT with 133 tackles in 2010, when he was a first-team All-Sun Belt selection.
He has posted 50 tackles and intercepted two passes this season for the Browns, who have a bye this week.
Robertson’s former UNT teammate Lance Dunbar is currently on the Cowboys’ active roster.
Boutwell misses second consecutive game
UNT defensive tackle Ryan Boutwell missed his second straight game with a knee injury.
Boutwell has 10 tackles in eight games in addition to two quarterback hurries.
Senior Tevinn Cantly replaced Boutwell in UNT’s lineup.
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is email@example.com.