MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — North Texas appeared to have reached the conclusion of a long and messy quarterback battle heading into its game at Middle Tennessee on Saturday.
Jason Bean added an unexpected twist during the Mean Green’s 52-35 win at Floyd Stadium.
The sophomore appeared as if he would fade into a backup role after Austin Aune cruised past the 300-yard mark in passing yards in back-to-back games.
Bean got a second chance when Aune struggled against the Blue Raiders. He capitalized, to say the least.
The former Mansfield Lake Ridge rushed for 169 yards and three touchdowns and threw for 181 yards and two more touchdowns while guiding UNT (2-3, 1-2 Conference USA) back from a 14-point deficit.
It was a dramatic turn for Bean, who didn’t play the last two weeks.
“My coaches kept me locked in the whole time,” Bean said. “They told me to be ready every day. My teammates have kept also helped keep my head in it.”
Bean’s performance helped the Mean Green snap a three-game losing streak and pick up their first road win since knocking off UTSA in its final regular season game in 2018.
UNT had lost seven straight games away from Apogee Stadium since, including the New Mexico Bowl in a neutral-site game.
The Mean Green snapped that slide with a solid all-around performance against MTSU (1-5, 1-3).
“We have had some challenging weeks and responded well,” UNT coach Seth Littrell said. “Going on the road and get a win was huge for us. We hadn’t had a road win in a while. We won because of the mentality we came in with this week.”
Littrell said earlier in the week that creating energy and enthusiasm on the road, where the Mean Green wouldn’t have a home crowd behind them, would be the key to breaking through.
UNT met that goal.
“We had more energy today than we have had on the sideline all year for four quarters,” Littrell said. “When adversity hits, it can flatten you out. We didn’t let that happen.”
Bean helped UNT create that energy and revive the Mean Green’s running game. UNT managed just 97 rushing yards last week in a loss to Charlotte. The Mean Green had three players exceed that mark by themselves.
DeAndre Torrey finished with 143 yards and Tre Siggers 101.
UNT’s offense looked completely different with Bean running the offense because of the running threat he presented.
“He did a great job of understanding what we are trying to get accomplished,” Littrell said. “We ran the ball well.”
UNT found itself trying to dig out of a hole after a couple of early mistakes contributed to the Mean Green trailing 28-21 at halftime.
Blue Raiders cornerback Quincy Riley intercepted a pass from Aune in the end zone and returned it 47 yards to the UNT 15.
Running back Chaton Mobley cashed in the turnover on a 3-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Asher O’Hara to give MTSU a 7-0 lead.
Gregory Grate later sacked Aune and forced a fumble he returned for a 20-yard touchdown that put MTSU up 21-7.
UNT went to Bean after Aune threw his second interception of the half. Bean went on to lead the Mean Green to 35 straight points.
MTSU couldn’t keep up on a night when UNT’s defense came to life and made the plays necessary to help spark the comeback.
The Mean Green held MTSU to seven points in the second half, a dramatic improvement for a team that came into the day allowing 46.5 points per game. MTSU’s O’Hara threw for 164 yards and three touchdowns, while Mobley rushed for 156 yards and a touchdown.
MTSU did most of its damage early.
“As a defense we kept our heads high, came back and fought,” UNT safety Makyle Sanders said. “We had some good energy.”
Bean helped provide that energy in his first action in weeks. He opened the season as UNT’s starter before giving way to Aune.
Bean continued to work and was ready when UNT needed him.
“Jason did a great job,” Littrell said. “He got the ball down the field, but also read the run game very well and got on the perimeter. He managed the game very well. We always said be ready when your number is called. He was.”