MAC Champion Marshall to Play Cincinnati in Motor City Bowl

Updated 1/1/1947
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    Mid-American Conference champion Marshall takes on a challenge from Conference USA runner-up Cincinnati in the 2000 Motor City Bowl to be played Dec. 27 at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Mich. Game time is 4 p.m. (ET) with ESPN televising the game.

    Wednesday, Dec. 27 at 4 p.m. (ET) - Motor City Bowl

    Marshall Thundering Herd (7-5 overall, 5-3 MAC overall, 5-1 MAC East) vs. Cincinnati Bearcats (7-4 overall, 5-2 Conference USA)

    Pontiac Silverdome (80,311/artificial turf) Pontiac, Mich.
    The Coaches: Marshall-Bob Pruett (Marshall 1965) 57-9/fifth year; Cincinnati-Rick Minter (Henderson State 1977) 34-43-1/seventh season. The Series: UC leads 5-2-1
    Television: ESPN

    Game Notes:
    Marshall will be appearing in its fourth consecutive Motor City Bowl game and fifth bowl game in school history ... UC will be in its first-ever MCB game and fifth bowl game in school history ... Marshall won five of its last six games, including a MAC Championship contest, 19-14, over Western Michigan ... the Bearcats finished the season by capturing their last four games and five of the last six ... after each team lost on Oct. 14, their respective records were 2-4 for Marshall and 3-4 for UC ... Marshall features the MAC's top passing offense, led by QB Byron Leftwich ... the sophomore paced the MAC in nearly every major statistical category - ranking first in attempts (457), completions (279), passing yards (3,358), touchdowns (21) and efficiency rating (134.0) and second in completion percentage (61.1%) ... UC signalcaller Deontey Kenner (137-265, 51.7%, 1,717 yds., 10 TD in 9 games) does not have the numbers as Leftwich does, but has the experience factor in his favor as he led UC to a 1997 Humanitarian Bowl win over Utah State, 35-19, by completing 10-of-16 passes for 124 yards and a touchdown ... in common opponents, both teams defeated Miami University at home - UC by a 45-15 count on Oct. 28 and Marshall 51-31 on Nov. 11 ... UC also features the 2000 Lou Groza Award winner as the top placekicker in the nation in Jonathan Ruffin (26-29 FG, 26-27 PAT, 104 points) ... in games decided by seven or less points this season, Marshall was 3-1, UC was 4-2 ... the game may come down to Marshall's passing attack, the best in the MAC, against the nation's fourth-leading defense in takeaways with 34 (19 interceptions, 15 fumble recoveries) ... Marshall's running game, averaging 113 yards per game, features just one back with as many as 500 total rushing yards in Franklin Wallace with 555 ... UC counters with Ray Jackson (808) and DeMarco McCleskey (500) in its rushing attack ... on the receiving end, Marshall's strength features Nate Poole (70 rec., 818 yds., 4 TD), David Foye (53-549-3), Lanier Washington (40-511-2), John Cooper (37-477-4) and Darius Watts (36-616-6) ... UC's top targets are Antonio Chatman (46-609-2), Tye Keith (32-452-2) and Jason Collins-Baker (32-306-2) but also keep an eye on Ray Jackson out of the backfield (7-127-2).

    MAC Championship Review:
    Marshall University became the first school in MAC history to win four consecutive league championships with its 19-14 win over West Division champion Western Michigan in the MAC title game on Dec. 2 played at Marshall Stadium. The Thundering Herd took the early lead thanks to a field goal by J.R. Jenkins from 20 (9:41, 1st quarter) and 30 (4:51, 2nd) yards. The first touchdown came just 97 seconds prior to intermission when Marshall QB Byron Leftwich found an open Darius Watts, who then scampered 44 yards into the end zone and a 13-0 Marshall lead at the half. WMU, which went into the game averaging 31 points a game, did not score until 47 seconds were left in the third quarter. MAC all-time receiving leader Steve Neal hauled in a 22-yard touchdown pass from Jeff Welsh and Brad Selent's PAT made it 13-7. The Broncos went ahead on their next possession when Welsh hooked up with Josh Bush from 41 yards and Selent's PAT made it 14-13, Broncos. Marshall's winning points came on an 8-play, 80-yard drive engineered by Leftwich (6-7 passing, 72 yards) and culminating in a 39-yard TD pass to John Cooper. The two-point PAT try failed but Marshall led 19-14. WMU drove to the Herd's 27-yard line before tuning the ball over on downs. The Bronco defense stopped Marshall and gave its offense one last chance, however Danny Derricott had other ideas and the Marshall DB intercepted Welsh's first pass attempt to seal the win.

    MAC East:
    Marshall University represented the East Division for the fourth time in a row in the league's championship game. The Thundering Herd and Akron tied for the championship with 5-1 divisional records, however the Herd's 31-28 victory over the Zips on Oct. 28 gave Marshall the tiebreaker edge.

    MAC West:
    For the first time in four years, the tiebreaker came into effect in the West Division, allowing Western Michigan into the championship game for the second consecutive year. The Broncos and Toledo Rockets both compiled 4-1 divisional records. WMU's 21-14 win over Toledo on Sept. 23 was the difference allowing the Broncos into the post season.

    Recent MAC Changes:
    The 2000 Mid-American Conference football schedule reflected an emphasis on divisional competition while also sustaining league rivalries. Per NCAA regulations, MAC institutions played a full divisional schedule in 2000, with divisional champions qualifying for the championship game. The MAC is one of only three conferences in Division I-A to stage a football championship game (SEC, Big 12). Last year's MAC championship game saw then No. 11 ranked Marshall defeat Western Michigan 34-30 in the second most-watched college football game in ESPN2 history. Due to the unbalanced divisional configuration, two schools in the West (Central Michigan and Western Michigan) played eight conference games, while the remaining four played seven MAC games and had one additional non-conference game. All seven East Division schools played a full divisional schedule and two crossover games. Divisional champions were based on each schools' divisional record only. Head-to-head competition was used as the initial tiebreaker in determining divisional standings. Overall conference record by percentage could have also be factored into the tiebreaker formula if needed.

    MCB History:
    Under the direction of former Michigan State University head coach George Perles, the Motor City Bowl has teamed with the Mid-American Conference since the bowl's inception in 1997 to feature some of the nation's top players in a highly competitive post season environment. Perles, the bowl's Chief Executive Officer, and Ken Hoffman, Executive Director, have secured sponsorship from the Big Three Automakers - Ford, Daimler Chrysler and General Motors. The game pits the Mid-American Conference champion against an opponent from Conference USA.

    The MCB's first three encounters have pitted league champion Marshall against Ole Miss of the Southeastern Conference, Louisville from Conference USA and Brigham Young from the newly formed Mountain West Conference. ESPN and ESPN 2 have beamed the games world wide. Stars and spectacular performances have emerged from the MCB's December competition, including John Avery of Ole Miss, Randy Moss, Chad Pennington and Doug Chapman of Marshall and Chris Redman of Louisville.

    "Every year the bowl gets stronger and stronger," said Perles. "The more success you have, the more credibility you have. The more credibility you get, the more respect you earn."

    Last year's game featured the No. 10 ranked Marshall Thundering Herd against BYU, which shared the inaugural Mountain West title with Utah and Colorado State. Led by Doug Chapman's MCB record 87-yard touchdown run, the Herd stifled the Cougars 21-3. Chapman also holds the single game rushing mark with 152 versus Ole Miss in 1997.

    In 1998, Marshall won its first bowl game ever behind Pennington's MVP outing of 18-of-24 passing for 411 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. The Herd broke from a 21-21 halftime tie to claim a 48-29 triumph.

    The initial MCB contest in 1997 was highlighted by two touchdowns in the first 41 seconds of the game, including an 80-yard scoring strike from Pennington to Moss. The Ole Miss Rebels secured a thrilling win on a Deuce McAllister one-yard run with 31 seconds remaining.

    Played at the Pontiac Silverdome, also home of the NFL Detroit Lions, the Motor City Bowl is easily accessible to MAC fans and alumni. The Motor City Bowl has had a positive impact on both the Mid-American Conference and the Detroit area. The Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates that the bowl had a $27 million impact on the Metro Detroit area during that first year and $29.6 million in 1998. Only the North American International Auto Show makes a bigger financial stamp on the Detroit community.

    Motor City Bowl History
    1997 	Ole Miss 34, Marshall 31 	(43,340) 	Stewart Patridge, Ole Miss
    1998 	Marshall 48, Louisville 29	(52,106) 	Chad Pennington, Marshall
    1999 	Marshall 21, BYU 3	 	(52,449) 	Doug Chapman, Marshall

    Did You Know...
    That the University of Cincinnati was the first ever Mid-American Conference member team to represent the league in a bowl game? UC was a charter member of the MAC and competed in football from 1947 through 1952. The Bearcats won the MAC football champonship in 1947, 1949, 1951 and 1952. On Jan. 1, 1947, at Kidd Field in El Paso, Texas, UC defeated Virginia Tech, 18-6, in the 12th Sun Bowl game. UC also represented the MAC in the 1951 Sun Bowl game, losing to West Texas, 14-13. The Bearcats other bowl game as a MAC member came on Dec. 3, 1949, when they beat Toledo, 33-13, in the Glass Bowl game held in Toledo. That game was prior to UT joining the MAC.

    Four New Head Coaches Join Mid-American Conference Ranks

    In the ever changing world of college coaching, four MAC schools will feature new head coaches for the 2001 season.

    At the University at Buffalo, Jim Hofher (Cornell 1979) was named Nov. 30 to replace Craig Cirbus, whose contract was not renewed. Hofher, who sepnt eight years as the head coach at Cornell, spent this past season as the quarterbacks coach at Syracuse. His 22 years of collegiate coaching experience also includes stops at Wake Forest, Miami (Ohio), Tennessee and North Carolina. Hofher was 44-36 as head coach of the Big Red from 1990-97. Cirbus was 19-47 in six years at UB.

    Bowling Green tapped into the staff at Notre Dame for its new head coach, Urban Meyer (Cincinnati 1986), named to that post on Dec. 4. Meyer, in his fifth year on the ND staff as the receivers coach, replaced Gary Blackney. Blackney had resigned earlier in the season. Meyer has also coached as an assistant at Ohio State, Illinois State and Colorado State. Blackney was 60-50-2 in 10 years at BGSU.

    Toledo named longtime assistant defensive coordinator and assistant head caoch Tom Amstutz (Toledo 1977) on Dec. 12 to replace Gary Pinkel, who left for Missouri's head post. Amstutz has been an assistant coach at UT for 21 years, from 1977-1986 and 1990-2000. From 1987-89, Amstutz coached outside linebackers at Navy. Amstutz has been a part of 141 wins at UT as an assistant coach. He had joined Pinkel's staff at Missouri prior to his appointment at UT. Pinkel compiled a record of 73-37-3 in 10 years.

    Ohio, looking for a replacement for the dearted Jim Grobe, named head coach at Wake Forest, also tapped into its own staff, promoting defensive coordinator Brian Knorr (Air Force 1986) to head coach on Dec. 12. Knorr first came to Ohio in 1995 as inside linebackers coach and was promoted to defensive coordinator in 1999. He previously served as an assistant coach at Air Force and was on active duty from 1987-92. Grobe put together a record of 33-33-1 in six seasons.

    MAC All-Americans:
    Led by the league's fourth-ever consensus All-American, Akron defensive back Dwight Smith, a total of 16 MAC student-athletes were named to at least one national post season team in 2000.

    Dwight Smith, defensive back, Akron
    Associated Press, first team
    American Football Coaches Association, first team (no second team selected)
    Football Writers' Association of America, first team
    Walter Camp Football Foundation, first team
    Football News, first team
    The Sporting News, third team, MAC Player of the Year
    Jim Thorpe Award, one of three finalists

    Steve Azar, placekicker, Northern Illinois
    The Sporting News Freshman (second team)

    Brian Brandt, punter, Central Michigan
    The Sporting News Freshman (second team)

    Terrell Jones, linebacker, Miami
    The Sporting News Freshman (third team)

    Thomas Hammock, running back, Northern Illinois
    Verizon Academic, first team

    Brian Potter, defensive lineman, Miami
    Verizon Academic, first team

    Eddie Tillitz, wide receiver, Miami
    Verizon Academic, second team

    Todd France, placekicker, Toledo
    Verizon Academic, second team

    Ryan Diem, offensive line, Northern Illinois
    Football News, third team

    DeJuan Goulde, defensive line, Toledo Football News, third team

    Robert Sanford, running back, Western Michigan
    Football News, honorable mention

    Chester Taylor, running back, Toledo
    Football News, honorable mention

    Lavel Bailey, wide receiver, Akron
    Football News, honorable mention

    Justin McCareins, flanker, Northern Illinois
    Football News, honorable mention

    Kevin Rollins, linebacker, Toledo
    Football News, honorable mention

    Dave Zastudil, punter, Ohio
    Football News, honorable mention

    Toledo Hits Double Digits:
    The Toledo Rockets are just one of 10 teams in the nation to register 10 or more regular season wins. In addition to the Rockets' 10-1 mark, the teams are Oklahoma (12-0), Florida State (11-1), Virginia Tech (10-1), Miami (Fla.) (10-1), Washington (10-1), Oregon State (10-1), TCU (10-1), Florida (10-2) and Kansas State (10-3). Toledo also won 10 games under head coach Gary Pinkel in 1995 went they went 11-0-1 and won the Las Vegas Bowl. Among UT's triumphs this year are a 24-6 win at Penn State and a 42-0 home victory over Marshall.

    Akron's Dwight Smith Finds National Landscape:
    Akron senior defensive back Dwight Smith may want to find space for a trophy room in his house upon graduation. Smith, the national co-leader in interceptions with 10, scored a double coup recently in post season awards. On Nov. 21, Smith was tabbed as one of three finalists for the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back, along with Miami's (Fla.) Edward Reed and Florida's Lito Sheppard. Smith attended ESPN's College Football Awards Show on Dec. 7 in Orlando, Fla. That same day, Smith was named a first-team All-American by the Football Writers Association of America. Smith became the first MAC defensive player named to a first-team All-America squad since Miami linebacker Curt McMillian was named to the Gannett News first team in 1992. On Nov. 27 Smith was named to the Walter Camp Football Foundation on its 111th All-America Team. Smith subsequently was named to All-America teams by Associated Press (first team), Football News (first team) and The Sporting News (third team).

    Western Michigan's Robert Sanford One of Eight Doak Walker Semifinalists:
    The MAC's second leading rusher with 130.9 yards per game, WMU's Robert Sanford, was named a semifinalist for the prestigious Doak Walker Award presented by Vectrix. The annual award recognizes the top running back in college football. Sanford was joined in the select company by Dan Alexander (Nebraska); Damien Anderson (Northwestern); Rudi Johnson (Auburn); Ken Simonton (Oregon State); Anthony Thomas (Michigan); LaDainian Tomlinson (TCU); and Deonce Whitaker (San Jose State). Tomlinson was named the winner of this year's Doak Walker Award on Dec. 7.

    Neal Sets Record:
    With 10 receptions for 93 yards in the MAC championship game, Western Michigan wide receiver Steve Neal completed his career as the all-time MAC leader in receptions (235) and receiving yards (3,599). Marshall's Nate Poole finished third all-time with 212 receptions and sixth in receiving yards with 2,727. Northern Illinois' Justin McCareins was fourth in receptions with 204 and also fourth in receiving yards with 2,991.

    Turner Turns It On:
    Northern Illinois freshman running back Michael Turner established several records with his 52 rushing attempts and 281 rushing yards in the Huskies' season-ending 40-6 win over Central Michigan. His 52 rushing attempts are an NCAA record for a freshman, breaking the old standard of 49 set in 1996 by Wisconsin's Ron Dayne versus Minnesota. In addition, the 52 carries set a MAC record, overshadowing the old mark of 49 held by Central Michigan's Eric Flowers (1998 vs. Eastern Michigan). The 281 yards are a MAC freshman record and the most in the nation this year by any freshman.

    Best Comeback:
    The most wins by a MAC team that was winless the previous year is five, set in 1966 by Ohio University. The Bobcats were 0-10 in 1965 and improved to a 5-5 mark the next season. This year's Ball State team went 5-6 after an 0-11 slate in 1999.

    Bowl Bound:
    Several MAC student-athletes have been selected for postseason bowls. Miami's starting left tackle Alex Sulfsted has accepted an invitation to the 2001 Hula Bowl scheduled for 8 p.m. (EST) on Jan. 20 at War Memorial Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii. Wide receiver Sly Johnson will play in the 2001 Delchamps Senior Bowl slated for 2 p.m. (EST) Jan. 20 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala. Toledo linebacker Kevin Rollins has also been selected for the Hula Bowl and Northern Illinois' offensive tackle Ryan Diem has been tapped for the Blue-Gray Classic Senior Bowl and Tyco Gridiron Classic. Western Michigan wide receiver Steve Neal has been tapped for the Hula Bowl. Akron defensive back Dwight Smith is slated to appear in both the Tyco Gridiron Classic and Delchamps Senior Bowl.

    Toledo Bypass:
    Despite being ranked No. 25 in the nation and sporting a 10-1 record, the Toledo Rockets could not find a home in a post season bowl. The Rockets are the first top 25 ranked team since No. 22 Wyoming, which went 10-2, in 1996, not to be invited to a bowl.

    MAC Record Watch 
    Receiving Yards
    1.) 3,599 - Steve Neal (Western Michigan) 1997-2000
    2.) 3,513 - Eugene Baker (Kent State) 1995-98
    3.) 3,053 - Reggie Allen (Central Michigan) 1995-98
    4.) 2,991 - Justin McCareins (Northern Illinois) 1997-2000
    5.) 2,866 - Bryan Schorman (Central Michigan) 1995-98
    6.) 2,727 - Nate Poole (Marshall) 1997-2000
    7.) 2,679 - Steve Hunter (Bowling Green) 1982-85
    1.) 235 - Steve Neal (Western Michigan) 1997-2000
    2.) 229 - Eugene Baker (Kent State) 1995-98
    3.) 212 - Nate Poole (Marshall) 1997-2000
    4.) 204 - Justin McCareins (Northern Illinois) 1997-2000
    5.) 184 - Reggie Allen (Central Michigan) 1995-98
    Rushing Yards
    1.) 5,596 - Travis Prentice (Miami) 1996-99
    2.) 4,368 - Deland McCullough (Miami) 1992-95
    3.) 4,219 - Robert Sanford (Western Michigan) 1997-2000
    4.) 4,190 - Jerome Persell (Western Michigan ) 1976-78
    5.) 4,172 - George Swarn (Miami) 1983-86
    6.) 4,162 - Curtis Adams (Central Michigan) 1981-84
    Touchdown Passes
    1.) 100 - Chad Pennington (Marshall) 1997-99
    2.) 87 - Tim Lester (Western Michigan) 1996-99
    3.) 63 - Brian McClure (Bowling Green) 1982-85
    4.) 57 - Jose Davis (Kent State) 1997-99
    5.) 53 - Charlie Batch (Eastern Michigan) 1994-97
    6.) 52 - Ryan Huzjak (Toledo) 1993-96
    t-7.) 49 - Mike Bath (Miami) 1997-2000
    t-7.) 49 - Brad Tayles (Western Michigan) 1989-92
    Passing Yards
    1.) 11,299 - Tim Lester (Western Michigan) 1996-99
    2.) 10,688 - Chad Pennington (Marshall) 1997-99
    3.) 10,280 - Brian McClure (Bowling Green) 1982-85
    4.) 9,146 - Walter Church (Eastern Michigan) 1996-2000
    5.) 8,717 - Brad Tayles (Western Michigan) 1989-92
    Pass Attempts
    1.) 1,507 - Tim Lester (Western Michigan) 1996-99
    2.) 1,427 - Brian McClure (Bowling Green) 1982-85
    3.) 1,423 - Walter Church (Eastern Michigan) 1996-2000
    4.) 1,370 - Brad Tayles (Western Michigan) 1989-92
    5.) 1,265 - Chad Pennington (Marshall) 1997-99
    Pass Completions
    1.) 900 - Brian McClure (Bowling Green) 1982-85
    2.) 875 - Tim Lester (Western Michigan) 1996-99
    3.) 822 - Chad Pennington (Marshall) 1997-99
    4.) 814 - Walter Church (Eastern Michigan) 1996-2000
    5.) 663 - Brad Tayles (Western Michigan) 1986-89
    Touchdown Receptions
    1.) 35 - Eugene Baker, Kent State (1995-98)
    2.) 29 - Justin McCareins, Northern Illinois (1997-2000)
    t-3.) 27 - Steve Neal, Western Michigan (1997-2000)
    t-3.) 27 - Ronnie Redd, Bowling Green (1991-94)
    5.) 25 - Randy Moss, Marshall (1997)
    Kick Scoring
    1.) 307, Brad Selent, Western Michigan, 1997-2000
    2.) 306, Gary Gussman, Miami, 1984-87
    3.) 288, Rusty Hanna, Toledo, 1989-92
    4.) 279, Kent Stucker, Ball State, 1988-91
    5.) 274, Rade Savich, Central Michigan, 1975-78
    6.) 273, Kevin Nichol, Central Michigan, 1986-89
    Coaching Victories
    Wins		Coach/School/Year
    1.) 110		Herb Deromedi/Central Michigan/1978-93
    2.) 108		Bill Hess/Ohio	/1958-77
    3.) 77		Doyt Perry/Bowling Green/1955-64
    4.) 73		Gary Pinkel/Toledo/1991-2000
    5.) 66		Trevor Rees/Kent State University/1951-63
    6.) 64		Bill Mallory/Miami/1969-73/NIU/1980-83
    7.) 62		Al Molde/Western Michigan/1987-96
    t-8.) 60	Gary Blackney/Bowling Green/1991-2000
    t-8.) 60	Paul Schudel/Ball State/1985-94
    10.) 59		Randy Walker/Miami/1990-98
    MAC Top Ten Performances This Year
    Rushing Yards
    1.) 281, Michael Turner, Northern Illinois vs. Central Michigan
    2.) 257, Marcus Merriweather, Ball State at Central Michigan
    t-3.) 230, Chester Taylor, Toledo at Northern Illinois
    t-3.) 230, Michael Turner, Northern Illinois vs. Eastern Michigan
    5.) 222, Steve Little, Miami at Buffalo
    6.) 211, Dontrell Jackson, Ohio at Miami
    7.) 207, Brandon Payne, Akron vs. Connecticut
    8.) 203, Robert Sanford, Western Michigan at Marshall
    9.) 188, Brandon Payne, Akron vs. Miami
    10.) 187, Anthony Jones, Ball State at Miami
    Passing Yards
    1.) 393, Byron Leftwich, Marshall at Akron
    2.) 378, Byron Leftwich, Marshall vs. Buffalo
    3.) 372, Walter Church, Eastern Michigan vs. Northern Illinois
    4.) 364, Walter Church, Eastern Michigan at Temple
    t-5. 358, Byron Leftwich, Marshall vs. Western Michigan (12/2)
    t-5.) 358, Mike Bath, Miami at Vanderbilt
    7.) 332, Jeff Welsh, Western Michigan vs. Ohio
    8.) 323, Joe Freedy, Buffalo vs. Kent State
    9.) 312, Byron Leftwich, Marshall vs. Kent State
    10.) 294, Byron Leftwich, Marshall at Ohio
    Receiving Yards
    1.) 199, Kevin Walter, Eastern Michigan vs. Northern Illinois
    2.) 198, Kenny Christian, Eastern Michigan at Temple
    3.) 189, Justin McCareins, Northern Illinois at Auburn
    4.) 181, Sean Schembra, Ball State at Buffalo
    5.) 158, Andre Ford, Buffalo vs. Kent State
    6.) 156, Lavel Bailey, Akron vs. Northern Illinois
    7.) 154, Justin McCareins, Northern Illinois vs. Toledo
    8.) 151, Justin McCareins, Northern Illinois vs. Buffalo
    9.) 150, Justin McCareins, Northern Illinois at Ball State
    t-10.) 143, Jason Branch, Miami vs. Ohio
    t-10.) 143, Lanier Washington, Marshall vs. Buffalo
    The Best of Both Worlds (double 100-yard performances in a single game)
    Mike Bath, Miami at Ohio State (236 passing yards, 105 rushing yards)
    Robbie Mixon, Central Michigan vs. Akron (164 rushing yards, 101 receiving yards)
    Talmadge Hill, Ball State at Central Michigan (228 passing yards, 101 rushing yards)