Friday, December 19, 2003

GMAC Bowl: Miami whips Louisville 49-28


A big ending for Big Ben

By John Erardi
The Cincinnati Enquirer

PHOTO GALLERY

Photos of Thursday's game
MOBILE, Ala. - Let the coronation begin. Bring out the purple robe, the golden crown, the diamond-studden scepter.

King Ben - Miami U quarterback Ben Roethlisberger - had another big game on a big stage as Miami ripped Louisville 49-28 in the GMAC Bowl on ESPN2 Thursday night.

The greatest football player in Miami history - only a junior -- announced after the game he was declaring for the NFL draft. He will be a pro next year.

He gathered 10 teammates around him and made the announcement. He had to compose himself, and then read from a statement.

"After thorough discussion with my family and coach, and a great deal of deliberation, I've decided to make myself eligible for the 2004 NFL draft," he said. "The unbelievable team success fulfilled so many of my collegiate football goals, I feel it's time to embark on the next challenge."

He embraced his dad, Ken, mom, Brenda, and MU coach Terry Hoeppner.

Roethlisberger was magnificent in this game. He threw four first-half touchdowns.

"We'd been getting out out on top all year, so it was good to do it again," said Roethlisberger. "We did well. We eliminated turnovers. It was keepaway after that."

Miami had a four-TD lead (35-7) with only six minutes left in the first half - it scored touchdown the first five times it had the ball -- but it had to fight off a feisty Louisville team.

UL scored two TD late in the second quarter,the second of those with only two seconds left on the clock, a 2-yard pass to make it 35-21.

UL really made it a game late in the third quarter.

UL QB Stefan LeFors converted a 3rd-and-8 pass to the Cardinals' 37-yard line, and then UL kept ripping off solid gainers with its big backs and scored on a left-corner loft pass to make it 35-28 with only 36 seconds left in the third quarter.

"We weren't too worried," said MU defensive back Darrell Hunter, who had an interception. "We knew we'd made some mistakes and we felt we could build the lead back up."

Miami answered UL with a 31-yard scamper by Cal Murray and sweet 38-yard catch of a pass (and run) by Ryne Robinson to UL's 3-yard line.

"That was a huge play," Miami coach Terry Hoeppner said. "There are always four or five big plays in a game, and that was one of them. Ben made the throw and Ryne took care of the rest of it."

Mike Smith took it in from there and MU had a little breathing room, 41-28 with 13:08 to go. Tale of the tape: Six plays, 78 yards in two minutes, 21 seconds.

In the first half, Roethlisberger was 16-of-20 for 291 yards and no interceptions. The big recipients were Martin Nance (8 catches for 163 yards and 1 TD) and St. Xavier's Michael Larkin (5 for 88 yards and 2 TD). Matt Brandt had one catch, good for a TD.

"He puts the ball right there," Larkin said. "When he scrambles, you 'mirror' the scramble and things usually come out all right."

Roethlisberger was doing it all: escaping the rush, throwing on the run, zipping button-hook passes like he invented them. He throws like a pitcher, painting corners and avoiding bats, or, in this case, bat-downs.

He was toying with UL: the Cardinals couldn't tackle him, couldn't guard Miami's receivers and had no idea what play was coming. At one point, Big Ben even ran and option right and pitched off for a nice gain.

"He's the greatest," Hoeppner said.

---

E-mail jerardi@enquirer.com

Miami 2114014-49
Louisville02170-28
First Quarter

Mia-Larkin 28 pass from Roethlisberger (Parseghian kick), 12:04

Mia-Murray 2 run (Parseghian kick), 9:07

Mia-Nance 12 pass from Roethlisberger (Parseghian kick), 3:22.

Second Quarter

Lou-Gates 1 run (Smith kick), 14:15

Mia-Brandt 16 pass from Roethlisberger (Parseghian kick), 10:26

Mia-Larkin 26 pass from Roethlisberger (Parseghian kick), 6:51

Lou-Russell 31 pass from Bush (Smith kick), 5:27

Lou-Russell 2 pass from LeFors (Smith kick), :00

Third Quarter

Lou-Russell 24 pass from LeFors (Smith kick), :36

Fourth Quarter

Mia-Smith 2 run (Parseghian kick), 13:08

Mia-Pusateri 35 interception return (Parseghian kick), 7:57

A-40,620.

MiaLou
First downs2820
Rushes-yards33-22138-237
Passing376255
Comp-Att-Int21-33-018-27-3
Return Yards53110
Punts-Avg.4-30.04-42.2
Fumbles-Lost2-01-0
Penalties-Yards8-735-58
Time of Possession30:5229:08

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING-Miami, Murray 15-142, Smith 12-82, Roethlisberger 6-(minus 3). Louisville, Gates 12-128, LeFors 8-49, Shelton 8-34, Bush 9-33, Haskins 1-(minus 7).

PASSING-Miami, Roethlisberger 21-33-0-376. Louisville, LeFors 17-26-3-224, Bush 1-1-0-31.

RECEIVING-Miami, Nance 9-169, Larkin 5-88, Tyler 2-43, Robinson 2-41, Busing 1-17, Brandt 1-16, Corbin 1-2. Louisville, Russell 7-144, Tinch 4-36, Gates 3-24, Ghent 2-45, Smith 1-5, Clark 1-1.




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