"Marshall, Miami (OH) Win Again to Set Up 'Championship Game'"

RedHawks will host the Herd this Saturday to determine the MAC East Champion



Following wins by both the Marshall Thundering Herd and the Miami (OH) RedHawks, the teams - who sit atop the MAC East with 4-0 records in divisional play - will face off in Oxford, Ohio this Saturday to determine the 2001 East champion.

Kickoff is set for noon; the showdown will be televised locally on the Empire Sports Network.

The East winner will travel to face the West champion in the MAC championship game, but will not be guaranteed a trip to a bowl game. Only the MAC champion is guaranteed a bowl bid, which will be for either the GMAC Bowl or the Motor City Bowl.

The bowl game that does not feature the MAC champion can select any MAC team, not necessarily the runner-up, that is bowl eligible. The GMAC Bowl will have the first selection this season.

Marshall's victory at Kent State and Miami's close win over Bowling Green highlight this week's 'Around the MAC'.

Marshall 42, Kent State 21

The Thundering Herd traveled to Kent State to claim its seventh straight victory on the strength of another colossal passing day for quarterback Byron Leftwich. Leftwich threw for three touchdowns and ran for another as Marshall rejected the Golden Flashes' bid for a fourth straight win.

The Herd took hold of the game via a huge second quarter that included two touchdown passes from Leftwich to Darius Watts and a two-yard Leftwich touchdown run that put them ahead 28-3 at the half.

The Flashes fought hard to stay in the game but were unable to draw momentum from a gutsy performance by quarterback Joshua Cribbs. Cribbs threw for 182 yards and one touchdown while carrying the ball 20 times for 159 yards, his best rushing performance of the season. Unfortunately for Cribbs, Kent State's only two touchdowns came after the contest was already decided.

Miami (OH) 24, Bowling Green 21

Once again, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger turned in an outstanding performance to lead the Miami RedHawks to victory last weekend over the Bowling Green Falcons. The freshman threw for 305 yards and two touchdowns to help Miami improve their overall record to 7-2.

With the game tied at seven, Roethlisberger hit Michael Larkin for an 81-yard touchdown pass that re-established a seven-point lead for the Red Hawks. A 14-yard Steve Little touchdown gave Miami a 21-7 halftime lead.

Robert Redd was able to bring Bowling Green to within seven yet again, on a 61-yard punt return for a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter. But time ran out on the Falcons, who did manage to get into the end zone again with only 0:30 remaining on the clock.

Central Florida 57, Akron 17

Central Florida, who will join the MAC in 2002, sent out a warning shot to the rest of the conference by decimating the Akron Zips on Saturday.

Quarterback Ryan Schneider passed for 273 yards and three touchdowns as his team piled up 537 yards of total offense on the day. Freshman running back Alex Haynes gave future MAC opponents something to worry about; he rushed for 112 yards and three touchdowns on only 14 carries.

Adding Central Florida, the college that produced Minnesota Vikings quarterback Duante Culpepper, will allow the MAC to create two seven-team divisions next season. The Knights will play in the East Division and Bowling Green will move to the west to join local rival Toledo. UCF will take on UB next season; the site of the game has not been officially announced but it has been reported by several sources that it will be played at UB Stadium.

Toledo 41, Western Michigan 35

Chester Taylor ran for 197 yards, scoring one touchdown and catching another, as the Toledo Rockets defeated the Western Michigan Broncos before a national television audience Tuesday night on ESPN.

Broncos' starting quarterback Jeff Welsh was knocked out of the game in the second quarter with a broken collarbone and was replaced by backup Jon Drach. The game was Welsh's first since being sidelined for two weeks with a collapsed lung.

The loss eliminates Western Michigan from the West Division title race. With the win the Rockets keep pace with Ball State, who upset Toledo earlier this year and control their own destiny in their bid for the West Division crown.

Ball State 38, Central Michigan 34

Quarterback Talmadge Hill and running back Marcus Merriweather combined to gain 451 yards of total offense and four touchdowns as the Ball State Cardinals outlasted the Central Michigan Chippewas for their fourth win of the season.

In what turned out to be the weightiest touchdown the seesaw battle, Hill looked deep to find Sean Schembra for a 78-yard touchdown with 7:28 to play in the fourth quarter. Schembra finished the contest with two receptions for 116 yards.

Northern Illinois 40, Eastern Michigan 17

In a game in which their defense forced seven turnovers, the Northern Illinois Huskies defeated Eastern Michigan to bring their record to above the .500 mark for the first time since Sept. 29.

In addition to their stellar defensive performance, the Huskies got great play from quarterback Chris Finlen, who threw for 205 yards and two touchdowns.