Miami rules MAC

Posted: Friday, December 05, 2003

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio (AP) Ben Roethlisberger threw touchdown passes to four receivers Thursday night, leading No. 14 Miami of Ohio to a 49-27 victory over 20th-ranked Bowling Green in the Mid-American Conference championship.

Roethlisberger set a title game record with 440 passing yards and became just the second MAC quarterback to go over 4,000 yards in a season.

He led Miami (12-1, 9-0 MAC) to scores on the their first four possessions of the second half.

Roethlisberger, a semifinalist for the Davey O'Brien Award, given to the nation's top quarterback, sealed the victory with a 55-yard scoring pass to Calvin Murray, who found a seam along the sideline.

That put the RedHawks up 42-20 with 17 seconds left in the third quarter in only the third meeting between two MAC teams ranked in the Top 25.

It's the first MAC title since 1986 for the RedHawks, who haven't lost since the season opener at Iowa. The last team to win all of its MAC games was Marshall in 1999.

Miami will play Louisville in the GMAC Bowl on Dec. 18.

After the game, it was announced that Bowling Green (10-3, 7-2 MAC) accepted a bid to play in the Motor City Bowl in Detroit on Dec. 26.

The Falcons trailed 21-17 at the half, despite being outgained 306 to 172 yards.

But P.J. Pope fumbled on the first two possessions of the second half, giving the RedHawks the ball inside the Falcons' territory each time. And Miami took advantage.

Murray scored on a 1-yard plunge and Mike Smith ran 13 yards for the first of his two touchdowns, giving the Redhawks a 35-17 lead with 4:57 left in the third quarter.

Roethlisberger, the conference's player of the year, threw four touchdown passes for the third straight game and completed 26 of 35 passes.

Roethlisberger, a junior, now has 4,110 passing yards this year. Marshall's Byron Leftwich surpassed 4,000 twice in 2001 and 2002.

Roethlisberger also broke Leftwich's MAC title game record of 421 yards set in 2001.

Miami's defense took away Bowling Green's short passing game and harassed quarterback Josh Harris throughout.

Harris, a running and passing threat, finished with 260 passing yards. He was far from sharp much of the game, completing 30 of 49 passes.

Bowling Green had no answer for Roethlisberger, who picked the defense apart with short throws and then went deep when the Falcons played tighter coverage on the receivers.

Miami didn't take the lead until late in the second quarter.

Roethlisberger sidestepped a blitzing defender and then rolled to his left before finding Mike Larkin in the back of the end zone for a 16-yard scoring strike that put the Redhawks ahead 21-14 with 4:36 left in the half.

It was Roethlisberger's third touchdown pass of the half.

Bowling Green twice jumped ahead by a touchdown earlier in the half.

T.J. Carswell blocked Mike Wafzig's punt, and the Falcons recovered at the Miami 33, setting up its first score.

After moving to the 6-yard line, Harris took the snap and ran untouched into the end zone to put Bowling Green up 7-0 with 11:46 left in the first quarter.

Miami answered five plays later, when Roethlisberger found Ryne Robinson with a 53-yard touchdown pass.

Both Miami and Bowling Green were playing in the championship game for the first time.

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