Expect the unexpected. Sure, it's been said many times before, but every once in a great while the old axiom proves to be wise advice. For example, in last Saturday's MAC East Championship contest between the Marshall Thundering Herd and the Miami of Ohio RedHawks, one should have expected it would take a big passing day for one team to win.
Considering that the two teams each have great quarterbacks, it's not exactly a bold prediction. However, nobody could have known that the aerial assault would come from the arm of Marshall running back Brandon Carey, who threw two touchdown passes as the Herd defeated Miami 27-21 to claim their fifth-straight divisional crown.
The common belief was that this game would come down to a match-up between Marshall quarterback Byron Leftwich and Miami signal-caller Ben Roethlisberger. Marshall Head Coach Bob Pruett, however, claimed the RedHawks fierce pass-rush caused them to look toward other passing options.
"Their safeties were playing great all day long. They were rushing and putting great pressure on Byron," Pruett told the Associated Press after the game. "We used Carey on those two passes to [try to] keep them honest and stop the constant rush."
Pruett's plan worked perfectly.
Coming in to the second quarter with a three-point lead, the Herd called Carey's number as he connected with wide receiver Denero Marriott for a 37-yard touchdown strike that gave them a 17-7 advantage at halftime.
Following a Miami touchdown that cut the Herd's lead to three, Marshall turned to Carey for yet another toss to the end-zone. Carey capped an 11-play, 79-yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass to, of all people, quarterback Byron Leftwich.
Leftwich claims the play was one he had practiced but never gotten the opportunity to use.
"I've been asking for that play for a year and a half," he told the AP about the touchdown catch that re-established Marshall's 10-point lead.
Roethlisberger rallied his troops and thrust Miami back into the game by leading a 95-yard touchdown march that closed the gap to six, giving the RedHawks one last shot.
"We were just trying to get down the field as fast as we could," Roethlisberger said. "We were trying to put some points on the board. I thought if we could get the ball back one last time, we could score."
Unfortunately for Roethlisberger, who has set MAC records in passing yards and touchdowns by a freshman, Miami's last possession came up empty and Marshall ran out the remainder of the clock.
As for the much-anticipated match-up between the MAC's top two quarterbacks, Leftwich threw for 285 yards and had a touchdown reception, while Roethlisberger passed for 210 yards, finding nine different targets on the day.
With the win the Thundering Herd earned their place in the MAC Championship Game, to be played at the MAC East winner Nov. 30 on ESPN.
The Kent State Golden Flashes got back to .500 by going into Ball State and defeating the Cardinals on the strength of a great performance from multi-dimensional quarterback Joshua Cribbs.
Cribbs was efficient in his passing effort (95 yards and one touchdown) and dominant on the ground. He amassed 147 of Kent State's whopping 309 rushing yards on the day.
The only bright spot for Ball State was the continued brilliance of running back Marcus Merriweather, who ran for 160 yards and two touchdowns on 35 carries.
Despite the loss, the Cardinals still control their own destiny in the MAC West Division. If Ball State can beat Northern Illinois on the road Saturday they will win the division and host Marshall in the MAC Championship Game.
Backup quarterback Josh Harris got the start for the Bowling Green Falcons and made it count. Harris threw for 156 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 148 yards as the Falcons hung yet another loss on the Ohio Bobcats last weekend.
For the second-straight week the Bobcats failed to score a point (they were blanked in Buffalo last week). Their offense was completely shut down by the Falcons; Ohio gained only 140 total yards.
Central Michigan running back Terrence Jackson took the Chippewas on his shoulders and carried them to a five-point victory over cross-state rival Eastern Michigan in a match-up of teams looking for their third win of the season.
Jackson scorched Eastern Michigan's defense for 207 yards and four touchdowns, carrying the ball 25 times.