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RedHawks win first MAC Championship since 2003

By JM Rieger
On December 5, 2010

  • Head Coach Michael Haywood and the RedHawks hoist the MAC championship trophy after their win at Ford Field. MICHAEL GRIGGS | The Miami Student
  • Running back Thomas Merriweather scores his second touchdown of the night. MICHAEL GRIGGS | The Miami Student
  • Miami students make the trip to Detroit to support the football team on its way to its first MAC title in seven years. SCOTT ALLISON | The Miami Student
  • Miami students make the trip to Detroit to support the football team on its way to its first MAC title in seven years. SCOTT ALLISON | The Miami Student

With the Mid-American Conference (MAC) title on the line, redshirt freshman quarterback Austin Boucher completed the biggest pass of his career to redshirt junior wide receiver Chris Givens, keeping the final drive alive for the Miami University RedHawks.

The fourth and 20 conversion from their own 38 yardline set up the game-winning score two plays later when Boucher connected with senior wide out Armand Robinson with only 33 seconds remaining in regulation. The 33-yard touchdown pass marked Robinson's 14th reception of the game, tying the Miami school record.

"They started to blitz a lot in the fourth quarter," Robinson said. "The guy that was on me blitzed, so I changed it to a slant route and Austin put it right where it needed it to be. It was an unbelievable play and I still can't believe it happened."

The win marked Miami's first MAC title since the 2003 season and only the third time in MAC history a school has gone from "worst to first." The Red and White have now won their fifth straight game dating back to their Oct. 30 win at The University at Buffalo and improved to 9-4 on the season, while the Northern Illinois University (NIU) Huskies fell to 10-3.

"What an outstanding accomplishment by these young men to overcome the adversity in which they were involved from going 1-11 to being 9-4 and winning a MAC championship," Head Coach Michael Haywood said. "I'm so happy for them and all the adversity they have overcome and all the hard work they have done."

After trailing 14-13 at the half, the RedHawks responded in the third quarter when senior running back Thomas Merriweather pounded his way into the endzone for his second touchdown of the game. Merriweather had another outstanding game, carrying the ball 11 times for 85 yards. Much of the senior tailback's recent success can be attributed to a healthy offensive line, which has been impressive over the past few games for the 'Hawks.

Miami led by six entering the fourth quarter due to a failed fake field goal attempt from the five yardline with just more than seven minutes remaining in the third quarter. Had the RedHawks attempted the field goal, they could have gone up by nine even though an extra point attempt and a field goal had already been blocked earlier in the game.

A 39-yard touchdown pass gave the Huskies the 21-20 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter, and the score would remain that way until Miami's final drive of the game.

NIU had one more chance to down the RedHawks with 26 seconds remaining in the game, but sophomore defensive lineman Austin Brown sacked Husky

quarterback Chandler Harnish on the final play of the game to seal the victory for Miami.

Boucher had a career game, going 29-46 for 333 yards and a touchdown. Haywood said he managed the game extremely well in only his third start for the RedHawks.

"Austin did a really good job," Haywood said. "Anytime you run an offense and you don't turn the football over, I think you do a tremendous job as a quarterback."

Meanwhile, the 'Hawks' defense shut down a Husky squad that had been averaging 279 rushing yards per game, limiting them to just 92 yards in the biggest game of the season. Redshirt junior linebacker Jerrell Wedge led the team with nine tackles, while sophomore safety Pat Hinkel had eight, including seven solo tackles.

Up next for the Red and White will be the Bowl Jan. 6 in Mobile, Ala. The RedHawks will take on Middle Tennessee State University from the Sun Belt Conference. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

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