7:30 PM ET, November 30, 2006
Ford Field, DETROIT, MI
DETROIT (AP) -- Football coaches always talk about winning games with big plays.
The Mid-American Conference championship game was a perfect example.
Central Michigan had eight plays of 20-plus yards, held Ohio to zero and walked away with a 31-10 victory Thursday night for its first conference title since 1994.
"It's all about making plays," said Brian Kelly, who kept his team focused in a week that saw him linked to jobs at Michigan State and Iowa State. "Our quarterback made some great throws and his receivers made some great catches."
"It's fun when you've got four all-conference linemen in front of you and four or five targets on every play," LeFevour said. "That makes my life a lot easier."
Linson broke the title-game record of 179 yards set by Marshall's Denero Marriott in 2001. Randy Moss had 170 yards for Marshall in 1997.
"Coach told me that I was going to have a lot of chances to make plays today, and I wanted to make all of them," he said. "In a big venue like this, everyone wants to be a hero."
Chippewas tailback Ontario Sneed had two fourth-quarter touchdowns, including a 96-yard run that broke Chester Taylor's title-game record run by 31 yards. In all, Central Michigan outgained Ohio 457-224 and forced three turnovers while only committing one.
"We played a very good football team that was on the top of their game," Bobcats coach Frank Solich said. "We knew, to beat them, we had to limit their big plays and not turn the ball over. We didn't do either of those things."
Both teams were making their first appearance in the championship game, which started in 1997. Central Michigan (9-4) last won the conference title in 1994, while Ohio has not won the championship since 1968.
"We've known since August that we were going to be here," said defensive end Mike Ogle, who intercepted one pass and nearly had another. "It still feels great to actually finish this off."
Two plays after McRae's touchdown, Linson got behind the Bobcats' defense and scored on a 71-yard pass play from LeFevour for a 14-7 lead.
After an Ohio fumble, Rick Albreski kicked a 27-yard field goal to put Central Michigan up 17-7.
The Chippewas had another scoring chance late in the half when LeFevour hit Linson for 36 yards to the Bobcats 7, but a penalty and two sacks left them with 4th-and-goal from the 28 and Albreski's field-goal attempt hit the right upright.
The Bobcats started the second half with a 16-play drive, but had to settle for Matt Lasher's 33-yard field goal.
"We put some drives together, but we couldn't finish a thing," Ohio quarterback Brad Bower said. "You can't walk away from an eight-minute drive with three points. That has to be seven."
After losing starting quarterback Austen Everson when he aggravated an ankle injury in the first quarter, Bower missed two second-half series with leg cramps. That left Ohio's offense in the hands of freshman Josh Febus.
"Obviously, it's tough when you have to use three quarterbacks," Solich said. "Austen's been playing banged up, and he had to take himself out because he couldn't plant or cut, and then Brad had to leave and Josh didn't play as well as he would have hoped."
Linson and LeFevour teamed up again early in the fourth, a 24-yard pass to the Bobcats 4, setting up a 4-yard screen pass to Sneed for a 24-10 lead. On Central Michigan's next play from scrimmage, after an Ohio punt, Sneed broke around right end and raced down the sidelines for the clinching touchdown.
"Their quarterback was making some great throws, and there's not a lot we could have done about that," Ohio defensive end Jameson Hartke said. "But we made some big mistakes on defense."
The Chippewas will return to Ford Field for the Dec. 26 Motor City Bowl, their first bowl game since the 1994 Las Vegas Bowl.
"We love Detroit," Kelly said. "Playing in a great venue like this gets the kids excited, and they made plays tonight. We'll be happy to spend Christmas here."
Ohio will be in the Jan. 7 GMAC Bowl, breaking a streak that had lasted since the 1968 Tangerine Bowl.
"Everyone involved with Ohio football is down right now," Solich said. "But at least this isn't the end of the season. We get one more game."
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||2-9||5-15|
|4th Down Conversions||0-0||1-1|
|TD||7:10||OBED CETOUTE 6 YD PASS FROM DAN LEFEVOUR (RICK ALBRESKI KICK)|
Drive info: 7 plays, 89 yards.
|TD||11:10||KALVIN MCRAE 2 YD RUN (MATT LASHER KICK)|
Drive info: 5 plays, 32 yards.
|TD||9:56||DAMIEN LINSON 71 YD PASS FROM DAN LEFEVOUR (RICK ALBRESKI KICK)|
Drive info: 2 plays, 80 yards.
|FG||3:04||RICK ALBRESKI 27 YD FG|
Drive info: 7 plays, 37 yards.
|FG||7:36||MATT LASHER 33 YD FG|
Drive info: 16 plays, 76 yards.
|TD||13:03||ONTARIO SNEED 4 YD PASS FROM DAN LEFEVOUR (RICK ALBRESKI KICK)|
Drive info: 5 plays, 50 yards.
|TD||6:07||ONTARIO SNEED 96 YD RUN (RICK ALBRESKI KICK)|
Drive info: 1 plays, 96 yards.