DENTON, Texas - A veteran presence at quarterback can often be the difference in college football. Just ask the Mean Green, who have started nine different QBs since the graduation of Scott Hall in 2004 - and not one of them started consecutive season openers.
Enter Derek Thompson. The incumbent completed 57.7 percent of his passes for 1,759 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2011, and is slated to curb North Texas' recent trend of rookie signal callers.
One thing Thompson already changed was the start time of Saturday's scrimmage. Thompson, along with fellow junior Ryan Boutwell, walked across the graduation stage Saturday morning to pick up their diplomas a year early.
"Going into high school, my mother told me that taking classes for college credit would pay off for me some day," Thompson said. "She was right. I was nearly a sophomore when I got to North Texas, and I busted my butt throughout college and was able to finish in three years. This is a very big honor for me, and the thought of going to grad school with two years of eligibility left is a huge deal for my family. That takes a huge burden off them, and I owe it to them."
And Thompson must have been eager to make up for the time-change inconvenience. The Glen Rose, Texas native completed his first three passes, and was 13-of-24 for 202 yards and three touchdowns in the scrimmage. Most importantly, Thompson managed to not throw a pick against a stingy defense.
His favorite target on Saturday, Chris Bynes, caught four passes for 58 yards and a score. Ivan Delgado and Thompson hooked up on a 37-yard deep route to open the scoring midway through the scrimmage.
On the defensive side of the ball, freshman defensive back Jamal Marshall came up with his first interception.