NEW ORLEANS, Dec. 17 (UPI) -- Kevin Galbreath rushed for 131 yards and a touchdown Tuesday night and North Texas came up with five interceptions to down the Cincinnati Bearcats in the New Orleans Bowl, 24-19.
It was the first bowl victory for North Texas in 56 years.
The Mean Green (8-5), who closed their season with seven straight victories and claimed the Sun Belt Conference title, converted four first-half interceptions of Gino Guidugli into 17 points to take a 10-point advantage into the break.
But after Galbreath scored on a 35-yard run 2:02 into the second half to give the Mean Green a 24-7 advantage, the Bearcats (7-7) chipped away.
Cincinnati climbed within 24-19 on two third-quarter field goals by Jonathan Ruffin and a 43-yard fumble return by safety Franklin Callicott with 5:15 to play. Callicott stripped Patrick Cobb of the football and sprinted toward the end zone.
LaDaris Vann dropped Guidugli's ensuing two-point conversion pass, however, and Galbreath picked up two key first downs down the stretch to help the Mean Green run out the clock.
It was the first bowl victory by North Texas since it captured the defunct Optimist Bowl in 1946. The Mean Green improved to 2-3 all-time in bowl contests while Cincinnati fell to 3-4.
The opening bowl game of the postseason was one of only two non-BCS contests that brought together conference champions.
Cincinnati was co-champion of Conference USA. Texas Christian, which shared the league title with Cincinnati, will meet Mountain West Conference champion Colorado State in the Liberty Bowl on New Year's Eve.