NEW ORLEANS (Ticker) -- Memphis made its first bowl appearance in 32 years a successful one.
Danny Wimprine passed and rushed for touchdowns in a near flawless first half as the Tigers posted a 27-17 victory over North Texas in the New Orleans Bowl.
Wimprine completed 10-of-11 passes for 162 yards in the opening half. He rushed for a seven-yard touchdown and tossed a 10-yard TD strike to Chris Kelly, helping Memphis (9-4) build a 17-3 lead.
The Tigers, who tied for third in Conference USA, posted their first bowl victory since defeating San Jose State, 28-9, in the 1971 Pasadena Bowl.
"It's been a long time coming for this university," said Wimprine, a New Orleans native who finished 17-of-23 for 254 yards. "We took care of two goals this year - to get to a bowl and win it."
Memphis burned North Texas with big plays in the first half as a 63-yard completion to Darren Garcia and a 50-yard strike to Mario Pratcher set up the scores.
Kevin Moore elected to return the ensuing kickoff from seven yards deep in the end zone, and the move backfired as he fumbled at the 10-yard line. Cato Mott recovered for Memphis, and Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 21-yard field goal to make it 17-3.
"Our guys got a taste of success and I think they like it," Memphis coach Tommy West said. "Now, we've got to learn how to handle success but I don't think that will be a problem."
Patrick Cobbs, the nation's leading rusher, came alive in the second half, scoring two touchdowns for North Texas (9-4) and finishing with 107 yards - 50 below his average.
But the turning point came early in the fourth quarter. With North Texas trailing, 17-10, Cobbs' 46-yard run was called back because of a holding penalty. It would have given the Mean Green a first down at the Memphis 13-yard line.
"It hurts, especially when it (the penalty) doesn't like look it's there," Cobbs said. "But it's football. The referees are not going to get every one of them right."
Penalties also hurt North Texas as the Mean Green were called for a 15-yard face mask after stopping Memphis on third down on the ensuing possession. The penalty gave the Tigers a first down at the North Texas 21, and they took advantage, grabbing a 24-10 lead on Lakendus Cole's five-yard TD run with 9:08 remaining.
"They outplayed us in virtually every phase," North Texas coach Darrell Dickey said. "They deserved to win the game. They made more plays than we did and got a few breaks."
North Texas' Adam Hall overthrew his receivers all night, completing just 9-of-21 passes for 152 yards.
"We just killed ourselves tonight and they're ain't any excuses for it," Hall said.