Monday, December 6, 2010

Miami University - 2010 MAC champions

Inevitably as a sports fan you sometimes might wonder why you care. Why do you follow these teams? It might be during a boring Sunday game where your *team's quarterback throws his 3rd interception and officially ends any chance of making the playoffs. It might be during a heartbreaking national title game where your **team gives up more goals in the last minute then they did in the previous 59 minutes. I would imagine even the most optimistic fans have those moments of doubt.

*The Dolphins Chad Henne.

However, there are those other moments that make it all worth the time, effort and money you invest into something as seemingly insignificant as sports. Now I know most of you probably don't care about the MAC championship. Also, I know most of *you probably don't care that much about sports. I care about both and as far as MAC championships go this past Friday's game between Miami University and Northern Illinois was pretty sweet.

*Next post will be non-sports...I promise.

Let's set up the game real quick with a few facts:
  • Miami University won the 2003 MAC championship when I was a junior. Ben Roethlisberger was the QB and he led a 13-1 team to the 10th overall ranking in the final poll. They were dominating.
  • After Roethlisberger the program started declining. They went from 13 wins to 8 wins to 7 wins to 2 wins to 6 wins to 2 wins to 1 win. You don't need to graph those out to know that would be a declining trend.
  • Miami wasn't expected to do much this year. The first line in their Blue Ribbon preview was "When accessing Miami's talent this season, don't start with the returning starters. There's a good chance they won't start this fall. Year One of the Michael Haywood era was ugly." They were projected to finish 3-9 and 5th in the MAC East division.
Somehow they were 8-4 going in to the title game. That turnaround had secured the MAC coach of the year for Coach Haywood. However, that was were the fun was supposed to stop as Northern Illinois was a 17.5 point favorite over Miami. The Huskies had a great year and won their past three games 65-30, 59-21 and 71-3. Miami on the the hand had won their last three games 24-21 (against a BGSU team that won only 2 games all year), 19-14 (against an Akron team that won only 1 game all year) and 23-3. They were by no stretch a dominant or even maybe a good team. If anything they were a lucky team, who now had to rely on their freshmen backup quarterback.

I hope I painted a pretty clear picture that Miami was not supposed to win this game. I was planning on going out with friends and didn't want to miss the first quarter because I thought there was a chance Northern Illinois was going to destroy Miami very quickly.

Well Miami scored the first touchdown and in a sign of missed opportunities to come they missed the extra point. Northern Illinois then returned a little sanity to Ford Field when they scored less than 2 minutes later to go ahead 7-6. At that point you had to wonder if the underdog took their shot and now the real game/blowout was going to start.

However, it wasn't going to be that type of game. Miami scored again (pictured below...also all pictures are from to take the lead, which was then followed by a Northern Illinois touchdown to regain the lead.

It almost seemed like Northern Illinois could do what they want and Miami was just holding on. Don't get me wrong the freshmen QB Austin Boucher (pictured below) was playing well and the rushing game wasn't struggling. It was going well, but I knew the odds were against Miami winning.

Well Miami scored again and took a 6 point lead. Then they caused a turnover and had a chance to kick a field goal for a two possession lead. They called a beautiful fake that was surprisingly aggressive for Coach Haywood. Well that is probably the last time he calls that since the offensive lineman completely whiffed on a block that would have let the holder walk into the end zone. Northern Illinois scored a td to take a 21-20 lead and as the 4th quarter ticked away ESPN kept showing the missed opportunities for the Redhawks. You could almost see the media already writing their story about Northern Illinois surviving a surprisingly close game to beat Miami.

Miami got the ball back with 2:48, one timeout and 52 yards away from the end zone. An incompletion, sack, and another incompletion led to a 4th and 20. This is one of those moments where you know the game is about to end, but you are holding out hope for a minor miracle. Boucher rolled out and threw a terrible pass that was heading towards three Northern Illinois players. In a split second it was tipped and caught by a Miami player who was 5 yards downfield from where the pass was thrown. Like Miami's season it was lucky, but give them credit for at least creating the opportunity where luck might go there way.

Still they were 31 yards away and with the kicker already missing a 42 yard field goal and an extra point there was no guarantee. Also, Miami didn't have any timeouts. Northern Illinois promptly sacked Boucher for a 2 yard loss. As the clock ticked Coach Kill of Northern Illinois (who is now going to the University of Minnesota) went for the kill with an all out blitz. Boucher stood there and threw an easy pass to Senior Armand Robinson. It seemed easy because Boucher and Robinson knew what to do and didn't hesitate. Robinson was 33 yards away from having a season win total (9) that matched his previous three years with Miami combined. He raced into the end zone with 33 seconds left putting Miami up 26-21.

At this point it was looking like Northern Illinois wouldn't have time to answer. They moved the ball down the field, but fell short when the Northern Illinois QB was tackled on the final play of the game. Miami celebrated. I celebrated. Miami won the MAC title 26-21.

There was an announced attendance of 12,031 and I can't imagine many people watched on TV. The win did nothing to shake up the bowl picture (Miami was going to Mobile regardless of the title game). The game won't be forgotten by most people because you can't forget something you never knew. However, for those players on the field and for the Miami fans watching in person or on TV it was a great win. They won their conference championship in dramatic fashion against a team that was supposed to smoke them. Congratulations to Miami for winning the 2010 MAC championship.

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