North Texas had a big void to fill in its offense heading into its game against Arkansas State on Saturday at Apogee Stadium.
UNT head coach Dan McCarney wasn’t overly pleased with the way the Mean Green handled the absence of wide receiver Brelan Chancellor overall, but couldn’t have been happier with the play of Darnell Smith.
The former walk-on led UNT with seven receptions for 107 yards in a 37-19 loss to the Red Wolves.
“I’m so proud of him,” McCarney said. “He’s a walk-on that earned a scholarship. He keeps improving, cares and loves football. He appreciates the opportunity we have given him here, but not as much
as I appreciate him. He is doing some real positive things.”
UNT needed Smith to contribute after the Mean Green lost Chancellor to a broken collarbone he suffered in the first quarter of last weekend’s loss to Middle Tennessee.
The junior slot receiver entered that game leading the Mean Green in all-purpose yards with an average of 133.4 a game. Chancellor ranked second on the team in receptions (24) and receiving yards (443) in addition to serving as UNT’s primary kick and punt returner.
“It was my job,” Smith said of helping fill the void. “I felt like I had to step up, make plays when my number was called and win my individual battle.”
Carlos Harris caught four passes for 52 yards, while senior Chris Bynes caught three for 50 yards.
All three players saw their roles expand in UNT’s game against ASU.
Harris and running back Jeremy Brown took over for Chancellor as UNT’s primary punt and kick returners.
“When I look [Smith’s] way, I expect him to make plays, and he did that tonight,” UNT quarterback Derek Thompson said. “The other guys stepped up and made plays as well. Carlos Harris made some plays and Chris Bynes came up when I needed him to.”
UNT just didn’t make enough plays on a night when it let too many opportunities slip away.
“I thought there were some opportunities to make plays that we didn’t make,” McCarney said. “We have to do better and be more consistent.”
Thompson will be OK
UNT lost Thompson briefly in the second quarter when he tried to make a play following a turnover.
ASU defensive back Sterling Young picked up a fumble by Brown and returned it 26 yards to the UNT 31-yard line. Thompson was injured trying to make the tackle.
“I tried to slow him down and got rolled up on,” Thompson said. “I’ll be fine.”
Thompson missed just one series and was replaced by backup Brent Osborn, a junior who will graduate this year and leave UNT with one year of eligibility remaining.
McCarney said this week that Osborn wouldn’t play the rest of the season unless there was an injury situation. That exact scenario unfolded in UNT’s loss to ASU.
Osborn threw two passes and didn’t connect on either.
“Any time your quarterback limps off, your heart is in your throat — coaches, players, fans, all of us,” McCarney said. “It sounds like he will be fine.”
UNT gives up another quarterback scoring run
UNT gave up a rushing touchdown to a quarterback for a third straight game.
ASU quarterback Ryan Aplin scored from 5 yards out in the second quarter to give UNT a 16-9 lead.
Aplin came into the game with three rushing touchdowns and 248 yards on the season.
UNT gave up a 45-yard touchdown to MTSU quarterback Logan Kilgore in a loss to the Blue Raiders last week and surrendered a 75-yard touchdown run to Terrance Broadway in a win over Louisiana-Lafayette on Oct. 16.
UNT fails to force turnover
UNT lost the turnover battle for the second straight week.
The Mean Green was minus-four in turnovers last week in its loss to MTSU and turned the ball over twice without forcing a turnover against ASU.
Thompson threw a fourth-quarter interception to go along with Brown’s fumble.
UNT did not force a turnover for the second straight week. The Mean Green has played only four games in the 21-game McCarney era without forcing a turnover.
“That is really, really disappointing when you go a couple of games in a row without forcing a turnover,” McCarney said. “That is very uncharacteristic of the foundation we have built here with our defense.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.