North Texas linebacker Gabriel Murphy

North Texas linebacker Gabriel Murphy celebrates after sacking Middle Tennessee quarterback Asher O’Hara on Saturday at Floyd Stadium in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — North Texas entered its game against Middle Tennessee on Saturday looking for a way to turn the tide defensively.

The Mean Green felt like their performance in the second half of a 52-35 win over the Blue Raiders might be just what they needed.

UNT’s defense allowed just seven points after halftime and played a key role in the Mean Green coming back from a 14-point deficit to snap a three-game losing streak.

The performance marked a dramatic turn for UNT, which came into the day allowing 46.5 points per game.

“We saw some growth out there,” UNT coach Seth Littrell said. “They grew up tonight. We need to continue to grow and build. This is a good starting point.”

UNT appeared as if it might be in for a long night after MTSU jumped out to a 21-7 lead after the first quarter.

The Mean Green were in a hole partly because of a few mistakes offensively. UNT continued to fight through that adversity and came up with a series of big plays.

Cornerback Cam Johnson came up with the first interception of his career and UNT finished with five sacks.

The way UNT defense played gave the Mean Green a chance to rally behind Jason Bean. The sophomore came on and helped bring UNT back after it trailed by 14 point twice with the second time coming after MTSU grabbed a 28-14 lead late in the second quarter.

Safety Makyle Sanders and linebacker KD Davis each finished with 11 tackles to lead the Mean Green. Defensive tackle Dion Novil posted two tackles for loss.

UNT coach Seth Littrell said UNT had better energy than it had all season on the sideline.

The Mean Green’s defense capitalized on the energy that continued to build after UNT made a quarterback switch. Austin Aune started before Jason Bean came on and rallied the Mean Green.

“Seeing Jason go out and do what he does was good for the defense,” Sanders said.

UNT’s defense took care of the rest in one of its best all-around halves of the season.

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.

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