North Texas coach Dan McCarney announced in the days leading up to the Mean Green’s season-opening game against Idaho that quarterback Derek Thompson would start.
What happened from that point on was something of a mystery.
McCarney spoke openly about using multiple quarterbacks, but ended up sticking with Thompson until UNT had put a 40-6 win over Idaho away on Saturday night at Apogee Stadium.
The way the senior performed was a big reason why.
Thompson threw for a career-high 349 yards and two touchdowns in the best outing of his career, one that likely tightened his tenuous grip on the starting job.
“It’s hard to not be confident after going out and putting up the numbers that we did offensively, but there is a lot we can improve on,” Thompson said. “The offensive line kept me upright. All I had to do was distribute the football.”
That was just what Thompson did, hitting on his first eight pass attempts of the night.
Sophomore Andrew McNulty came into the game for a short time in the first half when Thompson went down with cramps. McNulty threw just one pass that was intercepted.
UNT didn’t pull Thompson until the fourth quarter, when freshman Dajon Williams went in to gain experience.
“Thompson stepped up to the plate and took it as a personal challenge,” UNT wide receiver Brelan Chancellor said of the preseason competition for the starting job.
McCarney credited Thompson’s performance to the way he handled that challenge.
“Derek is our starter and the leader of our offense,” McCarney said. “I thought it was a tremendous performance tonight by him.”
UNT makes key stop early
UNT’s defense came up with a critical stop early in the first quarter after Idaho jumped out to a 6-0 lead.
The Vandals recovered an onside kick and had the ball at the 45-yard line, but went three-and-out. Idaho was called for holding and a delay-of-game penalty on the drive.
“We settled down after that first series,” UNT linebacker Zach Orr said. “It showed the maturity of this team.”
McCoy misses game
Senior defensive end Brandon McCoy missed UNT’s game against Idaho.
McCarney does not disclose the nature of injuries unless they are season-ending, but said in his press conference earlier in the week that McCoy had dealt with a series of minor setbacks during fall camp that prevented him from practicing.
Daryl Mason started in place of McCoy. The junior finished with six tackles in nine games last season.
Mason finished with one tackle against Idaho.
comes up short
UNT squandered a key scoring chance in the first half after driving to the Idaho 32-yard line, where the Mean Green faced a fourth-and-2 situation.
UNT went for the first down and came up short when Antoinne Jimmerson was cut down for a loss of a yard on a shuffle pass from Thompson.