A senior laden University of North Texas football team went out as winners and delivered the school's first bowl win in nine years as the Mean Green defeated the UNLV Rebels 36-14 in front of 38,380 fans in the historic Cotton Bowl.

In the 4th annual Heart Of Dallas Bowl, the Mean Green used a bowl record 22 fourth quarter points to improve UNT's overall bowl record to 3-5 and put the first blemish on the Rebels post-season record at 3-1.

Under new coach Dan McCarney, the Mean Green finished 2013 with more wins (9-4) than the last five years combined. McCarney thinks that people will start to notice this team.

"We sent a message that this is a program on the rise," said McCarney, a 36-year veteran coach. "I think we're a good example for other football teams that if you do things the right way, it can pay off."

Derek Thompson #7 of the North Texas Mean Green looks to pass against the UNLV Rebels during the Heart of Dallas Bowl at Cotton Bowl Stadium on January 1, 2014 in Dallas, Texas. (Getty Images, Sarah Glenn)

UNT quarterback and game MVP Derek Thompson finished 21/30 for 256 yards and 2 TDs. Brelan Chancellor was an effective weapon for UNT with 121 total yards - 74 receiving and 47 rushing - including two rushing touchdowns. Even though these numbers are impressive, the majority of offense for UNT came after halftime.

"We're a second-half football team," Thompson said. "We've been that all year. We knew if we picked up the tempo that we could do some things and move the football."

The UNT defense was dominant, forcing seven straight scoreless Rebel drives and sacking UNLV QB Caleb Herring five times. The Rebels finish with a record of 7-6.