North Texas head coach Dan McCarney has liked the way his running back rotation was set up all the way back to spring practice, when the Mean Green first hatched the idea of splitting time between Brandin Byrd, Antoinne Jimmerson and Jeremy Brown.
McCarney isn’t about to change that approach now, even as Jimmerson continues to emerge as a playmaker for the Mean Green.
Byrd has started every game this season and has played well, with Jimmerson and Brown coming in off the bench to provide a change of pace and to keep fresh players in the game.
That has often left Jimmerson in the role of the closer, or lately a late-game spark plug.
The redshirt freshman continued to be a difference-maker late in games last week when he scored a pair of second half touchdowns in a 38-21 loss to Middle Tennessee.
The former DeSoto standout also had two touchdowns in the second half two weeks ago, when he sparked a come-from-behind win over Louisiana-Lafayette, one he clinched with a 78-yard catch-and-run late in the fourth quarter.
The way Jimmerson has played late has raised the question if getting him the ball more often early in games could help get a struggling UNT offense on track.
The Mean Green is averaging just 21.0 points a game and has often not gotten going until late in games.
“We don’t look at it that way at all,” McCarney said of the rotation affecting UNT’s ability to start quickly. “We think that all three backs are doing a heck of a job. I mentioned last spring to anyone who was interested that we have three running backs that we like and will use. All three of them rushed for at least 50 yards and we rushed for over 200 yards [against MTSU]. It’s not a matter of using this guy earlier in the game or that guy later in the game. We have three backs who are all doing a heck of a job.”
That approach has paid dividends for UNT. Byrd rushed for 87 yards, Jimmerson 85 and Brown 50 against the Blue Raiders.
Byrd has 555 yards on the season and might be the best short-yardage back of the trio. Jimmerson has 487 yards on the year and might be the best all-around player, while Brown has 285 yards and is arguably the fastest.
Brown is averaging 5.5 yards a carry, Jimmerson 5.3 and Byrd 3.9.
UNT ranks second in the Sun Belt with an average of 188.0 rushing yards a game.
Jimmerson has gotten most of his opportunities late in games and helped spark UNT in the second half of its last two games.
He had six carries for 25 yards in the first half against MTSU before tacking on 60 yards and two touchdowns in the second half. All but three of Jimmerson’s 35 rushing yards in UNT’s win over ULL came in the first half, but he caught two passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns in the second half.
QB taking too much blame
UNT quarterback Derek Thompson didn’t have his best performance against MTSU but ended up taking what McCarney felt was too much of the blame after the Mean Green was shut out in the first half of a key Sun Belt game.
UNT had a chance to move to 3-1 in league play, but fell to 3-5 overall and 2-2 in Sun Belt games instead.
Thompson finished 17 of 29 for 221 yards and a touchdown to go along with three interceptions.
“He [Thompson] takes way too much of the blame when we lose as we did Saturday,” McCarney said. “He has thrown for 200 yards in six straight games against some good teams that we have had on our schedule. I have deep, deep respect for him. Head coaches and quarterbacks get to much credit when you win and too much blame when you lose.”
Surgery for Chancellor?
UNT was waiting for final word late Monday on whether or not wide receiver Brelan Chancellor will need surgery to repair the broken collarbone he suffered during the Mean Green’s loss to Middle Tennessee.
Chancellor was knocked out of UNT’s game against the Blue Raiders in the first quarter but still leads the Mean Green in all-purpose yards with an average of 120.8 a game.
“Brelan is a dynamic player,” McCarney said. “We don’t have many of them in our program right now. We will miss him.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .