North Texas took a hard look at the approach it was taking offensively following a loss to Ohio last week.
The adjustments UNT made transformed the Mean Green’s offense into one that was a little more dynamic and a lot more effective in a 34-27 win over Ball State on Saturday at Apogee Stadium.
UNT came out throwing early and often and saw the approach pay off on a day the Mean Green rolled up 505 yards of offense and improved to 2-1 on the season.
Senior quarterback Derek Thompson had one of his more effective nights, throwing for 274 yards to go along with 72 rushing yards.
Thompson did most of his damage in the first half, when he threw for 196 yards and established that UNT was getting away from an approach the Mean Green showed against Ohio — running the ball on 15 of its first 21 plays.
The Mean Green fell to the Bobcats 27-21.
“We wanted to spread them out and play fast,” Thompson said. “We didn’t throw a lot of long passes, but we were efficient. Those short passes opened up the running game.”
Thompson threw 30 passes on UNT’s 43 plays in the first half.
Ball State eventually adjusted, which opened up the running game and gave the Mean Green the offensive balance it was looking for in the first place.
UNT ended up with 231 rushing yards behind Brandin Byrd and Reggie Pegram. Byrd finished with 79 yards, while Pegram added 65. Thompson also was a threat in the running game.
UNT coach Dan McCarney said he believes the Mean Green is at its best when it runs the ball effectively and was pleased with where his team ended up. UNT was held to 104 rushing yards by Ohio last week.
“There was a conscious effort to open it up,” McCarney said. “We had to open it up more. We had a better feel in everything we did offensively.”
UNT loses Dunham to injury
UNT deep snapper Blake Dunham missed the Mean Green’s game against Ball State with a foot injury he suffered in the loss to Ohio.
Redshirt freshman Tony Johnson replaced Dunham, who could be out for an extended period.
Dunham is the second key player UNT has lost to a serious injury, joining sophomore safety Freddie Warner, who broke his arm in practice before the Mean Green’s season-opening win over Idaho.
UNT did not have any problems with its field goal or punt teams. Zach Paul hit four field goals, which tied for the third-highest total in school history.
Paul hit from 48, 47, 22 and 19 yards. Zach Olen, who handles kickoffs and long field goals, missed from 54 yards.
Miller gets TEs on board
Drew Miller caught two passes for 10 yards, the first catches of the year for a UNT tight end.
The Mean Green’s tight ends have been a key part of the team’s offense and continued to contribute as blockers in the first two games of the season but did not have a catch.
Miller caught a two-point conversion pass from Thompson in the third quarter.
UNT is 7-0 under McCarney when scoring 30 points. … Kenny Buyers recovered a fumble and had a career-high nine tackles in his first start. … Brelan Chancellor’s nine receptions were a career high. Darnell Smith tied a career high with nine catches.
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 or via Twitter at @brettvito.