4:05 PM ET, November 15, 2003
DENTON, Texas (AP) -- The Sun Belt Conference bullies flexed their muscles once again.
Patrick Cobbs rushed for 228 yards and scored four touchdowns as North Texas beat Arkansas State 58-14 on Saturday to win the conference title and a New Orleans Bowl berth for the third straight year.
Scott Hall also threw three touchdown passes as the Mean Green (8-3, 6-0) won its 17th straight conference game, the longest streak in Division 1-A. The Mean Green will face a Conference USA team in the Dec. 16 New Orleans Bowl.
The last time North Texas won three consecutive conference crowns was from 1950-1952 in the Gulf Coast Conference.
"It's hard because everyone is gunning for you every game," North Texas defensive tackle Brandon Kennedy said. "We've tried to keep it simple and prepare for each game as it comes."
Cobbs, who entered the game as the nation's leading rusher at 140.8 yards per game, went over 100 yards for the seventh straight game. He had TD runs of 28, 1 and 35 yards and caught a 24-yard touchdown pass.
"He had that look in his eye before the game," North Texas coach Darrell Dickey said. "You could tell he was ready to play."
The Mean Green had 522 yards of offense and scored on its first three possessions to jump to a 21-0 lead. Arkansas State (5-6, 3-3) had 190 yards of offense and turned the ball over four times.
The Indians came in averaging 187 rushing yards per contest, but were held to 41.
"We came out wanting to shut down their running game," Dickey said. "That really set the tone."
Hall, who passed for 185 yards, found Andy Blount on a 28-yard touchdown pass just two minutes into the game. On the Mean Green's next offensive play, Hall hit Blount on a 48-yard TD pass. Blount had five receptions for 104 yards and two touchdowns.
Arkansas State appeared to catch a break when Cobbs fumbled at the Arkansas State 8-yard line, but North Texas' Randy Gardner picked up the loose ball in the end zone for a TD.
"That easily could have gone the other way," Cobbs said. "The ball just bounced our way."
"They hit us early," Arkansas State's Casey Venters said. "Getting down 21 points is always tough, but it is even worse on the road. It is very hard to regroup after getting down by that much so early on."
The teams combined for 287 penalty yards
North Texas, who was flagged 17 times for 183 yards, received three 15-yard penalties on one play in the fourth quarter.
Jeremy Pearl's 36-yard interception return for a touchdown was called back because of taunting during the return. North Texas was also flagged for orchestrating a touchdown celebration and unsportsmanlike conduct.
The Mean Green scored two plays later on Kevin Moore's 58-yard TD run.