MONROE, La. (11/8/03) -- It wasn't easy and it wasn't pretty, but North Texas held off every threat Louisiana-Monroe could muster to post a hard-fought 28-26 win over the Indians on Saturday to clinch a Sun Belt Conference co-championship.
The win, North Texas' sixth this season and its 16th consecutive victory in Sun Belt play, sets up a key game next Saturday at home for the Mean Green (7-3, 5-0). North Texas can claim the outright Sun Belt Conference championship and berth in the 2003 New Orleans Bowl with a win over Arkansas State. Game time will be 3:05 p.m. at Fouts Field.
Twice in the first half the Indians (1-9, 1-4) posted leads over the Mean Green. And after North Texas moved in front, 14-10, late in the second quarter, UL Monroe continually answered with points to keep the pressure on the Mean Green. ULM cut the margin to one point in the third quarter, pulled to within two points 28 seconds into the fourth quarter and, finally, cut the NT lead to its final two-point different midway through the final quarter.
But the Mean Green defense stopped the Indians on a fourth-down conversion try with less than a minute remaining to secure the win.
"We came into a hornet's nest tonight," said North Texas head coach Darrell Dickey. "Monroe played well and we've got a beat up football team. But I'm proud of the team for coming over here, playing hard, battling and overcoming adversity. I'm very proud of the players for hanging in there and playing well enough to win. That's all that matters."
Junior quarterback Scott Hall passed for two touchdowns and sophomore running back Patrick Cobbs enjoyed a record-setting game while playing a role in two other touchdowns to spark the Mean Green.
Hall engineered an 85-yard scoring drive on NT's first possession of the second quarter, finishing it with a 37-yard TD pass play with sophomore wide receiver Joel Nwigwe that tied the game at 7-7. Then with 10:53 left in the game, Hall hooked up with junior Andy Blount for a 34-yard touchdown play that widened the Mean Green's lead to 28-19.
Cobbs, meanwhile, established two new school records: rushing for more than 100 yards for a sixth straight game and notching this 13th rushing touchdown this season. It didn't come easy against the Indians, though, as Cobbs carried 36 times for his 107 yards. His four-yard TD run late in the third quarter capped a six-play, 65-yard drive that widened NT's lead to 21-13 late in the third quarter.
In addition to his running, Cobbs also contributed to the win with his arm, throwing a 10-yard halfback pass to senior tight end Randy Gardner for a touchdown with 5:36 left in the second quarter that erased ULM's second lead and gave NT a 14-10 halftime edge.
Besides coming up big to stop ULM's final drive, the Mean Green defense also recorded an interception (by Chris Hurd) and recovered a fumble on a punt return by the Indians.