Tuesday, November 4, 2003

Big MAC battle goes primetime


Tuesday night lights: Miami vs. Bowling Green

By Mark Schmetzer
Enquirer contributor

It's only appropriate that tonight's monster MAC matchup between Miami and Bowling Green is on national television. The magnitude of the game almost demands it.

Both teams are 7-1 and 4-0 in the Mid-American Conference. Both teams feature explosive QBs: Ben Roethlisberger for Miami; Josh Harris for Bowling Green. The Falcons are 16th in the most recent Bowl Championship Series standings. The RedHawks are 21st.

And both teams are coming off inspiring victories. The Falcons dominated Northern Illinois, the pre-season MAC West favorite, 34-18 two weeks ago.

That same weekend, the RedHawks beat Kent State 38-30, a game in which Miami trailed for the first time since its season-opening 21-3 loss at Iowa.

So as tonight's 7:30 p.m. kickoff nears, it's perhaps not surprising that both coaches feel confident.

"I really liked the climate on the sidelines when we were (losing at Kent)," Miami coach Terry Hoeppner said. "I didn't have much to do. I had one conversation with No. 7 (junior quarterback Roethlisberger). He had a grin and a wink, and he said something profound, like 'Watch this.' It was great to see our players, when they had to make plays on both sides of the ball, make those plays."

The Falcons' 2003 track record includes a 27-26 win at Purdue, which currently is ranked 16th in Associated Press Top 25, and 14th in the BCS. And Ohio State fans will remember the Buckeyes' narrow, 24-17 win over Bowling Green before a crowd of 104,358 in Columbus.

"I think our kids have experienced just about everything there is to experience in college football," first-year coach Gregg Brandon said. "We've been on the road, in a hostile environment and won. We've played in front of (104,000) and barely lost. We played at home (against NIU), and I couldn't hear. I don't think there's much that will surprise our guys right now."

It's also a very public homecoming for several Falcons, including defensive tackle Mike Thaler.

"I've already been asked for 20-some tickets," said the third-year sophomore and first-year starter from La Salle.

But the real focus will ultimately fall on the quarterbacks, Harris and Roethlisberger.

In the MAC, Roethlisberger is second to the Bowling Green senior in total offense rankings, and that's not the only area in which the two schools are 1-2.

They also fill the top two spots in team passing offense, scoring defense, and total defense, with the Falcons ranked No. 1 in all four areas. Bowling Green is No. 1 in rushing offense; Miami leads in rushing defense.

"It's our version of Monday Night Football," Hoeppner said. "I think it should be the biggest game ever played in this stadium."

Tonight's QB comparison

Tonight's nationally televised game between Bowling Green and Miami features two of the nation's best quarterbacks in the Falcons' Josh Harris and the RedHawks' Ben Roethlisberger: A look:

Cat.Ben Harris
Comp. 215 177
Att. 313 272
Yds 2,537 2,285
TDs: 18 13
Int. 8 9
Rush yds. 84 471

Bowling Green at Miami

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m., Yager Stadium (30,012), Oxford.

Records: Bowling Green (7-1, 4-0 Mid-American Conference), Miami (7-1, 4-0 MAC).

TV: ESPN2.

Radio: WCKY-AM (1360), WMOH-AM (1450).

Series: Miami leads, 36-18-5.

Line: Miami by 7 1/2.

What to watch: Miami's conference-best rushing defense will be tested by Bowling Green sophomore tailback P.J. Pope, a Wyoming graduate. Pope was ranked fourth in the MAC in rushing with an average of 84.9 yards per game. He's the most productive running back Miami will have faced in MAC play this season.

BGTeam statsMIAMI
529.5Offense avg.490.1
201.8Avg. by rush164.9
327.8Avg. by pass325.2
305.4Defense avg.323.6
114.6Avg. by rush95.8
190.8Avg. by pass227.9
36.4Avg. points for40.1
16Avg. pts. against18.6

MAC standings

East

Conf.Overall
WLWL
Miami 4071
Marshall4163
Akron3355
Kent St.2336
UCF2336
Ohio1326
Buffalo1519

West

Bowling Green4071
N. Illinois4181
Toledo4163
Ball St.3245
W. Michigan2336
Cent. Michigan1536
E. Michigan0518




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