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NCAA's last 2 leading rushers in UNT backfield


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NCAA’s last two leading rushers both in UNT backfield

By Matthew V. Roberson

Sun staff writer

NEW ORLEANS — There simply aren’t enough footballs to go around this year at North Texas.

This season the Mean Green has a dilemma like no other school in the history of college football. Who does UNT coach Darrell Dickey decide to give the football to?

It’s a choice most schools would relish the opportunity to have to make. With senior Patrick Cobbs and sophomore Jamario Thomas in the North Texas backfield, it’s a choice that can’t go wrong.

Cobbs and Thomas are the only pair of teammates in college football history to lead the NCAA in rushing in back-to-back seasons. Cobbs ran for 1,680 yards in 2003, while Thomas followed up with 1,801 yards last season.

This season, they’ll be side by side as North Texas attempts to win the Sun Belt Conference a fifth straight time. While Dickey has said the pair will split the ball-carrying duties, neither player seems to mind the change in workload.

“We’ll both get about 20 carries instead of 30,” Cobbs said Tuesday at the SBC Media Days. “I think it will keep us both fresh and I don’t think our yards will decrease because of that.”

Now that’s a scary thought.

Cobbs averaged nearly 153 yards a game and scored 19 touchdowns two seasons ago. He topped 100 yards in nine games and broke the 200-yard mark four times.

Thomas was even better in 2004.

As a freshman, Thomas barreled through opposing defenses to average 180 yards a game on the ground last fall. His best effort came in a 51-29 victory over Idaho when he rushed for 291 yards and scored four touchdowns. For the season, Thomas scored 17 TDs and surpassed 200 yards rushing on six different occasions.

So is Thomas worried about not getting as many carries with Cobbs back in the backfield after he missed most of last year with a knee injury?

“I’m really not even concerned about that,” Thomas said. “We’ll both get plenty of carries and I think we’ll both stay fresh. I just want to go out and give it my best and get back to the New Orleans Bowl.”

And while it might seem an awkward situation for the two North Texas running backs, the pair insist they’re fine with it.

Dickey said he’s not worried about a potential problem developing.

“The biggest thing about them is they’re both unselfish,” Dickey said. “I would be worried going into this season if one of them was all about himself. But they are both looking forward to being in the backfield together.”

Cobbs originally helped recruit Thomas to North Texas, showing him around campus and accommodating him on his visit to the school. Now the pair are roommates and share a friendship that goes beyond the football field.

“We’ve always been close,” Cobbs said.

“Pat’s a good guy and I know he can handle the job as well as I can,” Thomas added.

Were it not for their jersey numbers, opponents might confuse Cobbs and Thomas for one another. Both players have similar size, speed and moves.

Cobbs is 5-9 and 198 pounds, while Thomas is 5-11 and 195. Each runs the 40 in 4.5 seconds.

Both players also contribute on special teams in punt and kickoff coverage.

“They are very similar,” Dickey said. “They are both very strong inside runners. They have great vision, outstanding quickness and speed.”

Cobbs played in just two games last season before enduring a partial tear of his MCL against Florida Atlantic. Although the knee injury did not require surgery, he was unable to return and received a medical redshirt from the NCAA.

He said the knee feels as strong as ever now.

“It’s completely healed,” Cobbs said. “I went through spring and took hits and it felt great. I maxed out in the spring on my knee squatting and did 650 (pounds) on it. So my knee feels good.”

No matter who gets the most carries, scores the most touchdowns or piles up the most yards, both just want to help each other and the Mean Green succeed.

“We’re really two unselfish people,” Cobbs said. “I mean, whatever we have to do to get a win, that’s it. Whatever it takes to get a win, we’ll both be happy with. That’s what it’s all about.”


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