TULSA, Okla. — North Texas coach Dan McCarney paused for a moment to gather his emotions so that he could deliver an opinion on just how much Brandin Byrd has meant to the Mean Green over the years.
McCarney pointed out that far too often in Byrd’s career people haven’t appreciated him for what he is while thinking too much about what he isn’t.
The senior might not be the quickest or fastest running back in Conference USA. Byrd is just solid and completely dependable — traits McCarney values that showed up again in the Mean Green’s 42-10 win over Tulsa in its regular-season finale Saturday on Skelly Field at H.A. Chapman Stadium.
Byrd rushed for a career-high 251 yards while also showing plenty of burst on arguably the best night of his time at UNT.
“Brandin is consistent and tough,” McCarney said. “He’s productive and has as much character as anyone in this program. I have respect for the kind of player he is. Like a lot of seniors, I am glad I had a chance to coach him.”
UNT certainly was happy to have him there to power its offense on a day the Mean Green ground out 377 rushing yards, a marked improvement over last week in a game against Texas-San Antonio. The Roadrunners held the Mean Green to 105 rushing yards.
“I’m pretty happy with the way I played,” Byrd said. “We came in hungry after last week and came together.”
Byrd nearly exceeded UNT’s rushing total from its entire game against UTSA on one 91-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. The former Copperas Cove standout took a handoff and burst through the middle of Tulsa’s defense for his second of three touchdowns on the day.
“The line was blocking today and was opening holes for anyone who was running the ball,” Byrd said.
UNT averaged 7.5 yards per carry and picked up an average of 9.7 yards every time it handed the ball to Byrd.
UNT’s starting running back pushed his season rushing total to 1,023 yards and became just the 10th back in program history to post a 1,000-yard season.
Byrd also moved into eighth place on UNT’s career rushing list with 2,150 yards, an impressive milestone considering the program produced players like Pro Football Hall of Famer Abner Haynes of the Kansas City Chiefs, Cowboys running back Lance Dunbar and former NFL running back Patrick Cobbs.
“He made the best handoff quarterback in Conference USA today,” UNT quarterback Derek Thompson said. “When you hand the ball to him, you know good things are going to happen. He is the most unselfish player I have ever been around. He does his job, gets back up and gets ready for the next play.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870.