Scores

Final

(24) N Illinois 21

(10-3, 8-0 MAC)

Miami (OH) 26

(9-4, 7-1 MAC)

Coverage: ESPN2

7:00 PM ET, December 3, 2010

1 2 3 4 T
#24NIU 14 0 0 721
M-OH 13 0 7 626

Top Performers

Passing: C. Harnish (NIU) - 281 YDS, 3 TD

Rushing: T. Merriweather (M-OH) - 11 CAR, 85 YDS, 2 TD

Receiving: A. Robinson (M-OH) - 14 REC, 176 YDS, 1 TD

Miami shocks Northern Illinois in final minute to win MAC title

Associated Press

DETROIT -- A year after losing 11 games, the Miami RedHawks are Mid-American Conference champions.

Austin Boucher threw a touchdown pass to Armand Robinson with 33 seconds left and Miami of Ohio won the Mid-American Conference championship with a 26-21 victory over Northern Illinois (No. 25 BCS, No. 24 AP) on Friday night.

"Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good," Boucher said. "It got tipped but the play still got made."

The RedHawks (8-4) have been both.

They won the MAC for the first time since 2003 and their conference-best 15th title overall a season after they finished 1-11.

Chandler Harnish threw three touchdowns for the Huskies (10-3), who had won eight in a row.

"They made a few more plays than we did and that's what got us in the end," Northern Illinois Coach Jerry Kill said. "The balls bounced their way tonight."

Boucher, a freshman making his third start of the season, finished the game 29 for 46 for 333 yards. The decisive touchdown came six plays after the RedHawks forced Northern Illinois to punt from its end zone.

"I've been a quarterback all my life," said Boucher, who got the nod after starter Zac Dysert suffered a lacerated spleen Nov. 10. "I've imagined it so many times -- winning the game in the last minute."

The Huskies drove past midfield in the closing seconds, but the RedHawks' sideline emptied after Harnish was sacked as time expired.

Trailing 14-13 at halftime, Miami went on top early in the half when Thomas Merriweather scored the second of his two touchdowns rushing.

The Redhawks reached the Huskies' 1-yard line after recovering a fumble but came up empty when a fake field-goal failed.

Willie Clark caught a 39-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the fourth quarter to give Northern Illinois a lead that lasted until the final minute.

The RedHawks got the game's first touchdown when Merriweather ran in from a yard out but the kick was blocked by Mike Krause. The Huskies answered with a 69-yard TD catch by Martel Moore.

Miami retook the lead with Tracy Woods' 7-yard touchdown late in the first but fell behind minutes later when Moore caught a 27-yard touchdown from Harnish.

Robinson tied a Miami record with 14 catches for 176 yards and Merriweather ended the night with 85 yards on 11 carries.

Northern Illinois tailback Chad Spann, the conference's rushing leader, finished with 54 yards -- barely more than half his average -- on 17 tries. Moore amassed 110 yards on four catches.

"When they put a lot of guys in the box to keep you from running, you have to make them pay for it," Kill said. "We didn't do that."

Miami could by back in the Motor City soon. Organizers of the Dec. 26 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl get the first choice of the MAC's bowl-eligible teams.

"What an unbelievable feeling," Robinson said. "You'd never think something like this would happen after a 1-11 season."

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Team Stat Comparison

 
NIU
M-OH
1st Downs1819
Total Yards373432
Passing281333
Rushing9299
Penalties3-151-5
3rd Down Conversions6-136-16
4th Down Conversions0-12-3
Turnovers10
Possession26:3033:30

Passing Leaders

Northern IllinoisC/ATTYDSAVGTDINT
Harnish15/2828110.030
Miami (OH)C/ATTYDSAVGTDINT
Boucher29/463337.210

Rushing Leaders

Northern IllinoisCARYDSAVGTDLG
Spann17543.2011
Lynch5265.2011
Miami (OH)CARYDSAVGTDLG
Merriweather11857.7247
Woods5265.2111

Receiving Leaders

Northern IllinoisRECYDSAVGTDLG
Moore411027.5269
Clark47017.5139
Miami (OH)RECYDSAVGTDLG
Robinson1417612.6133
Harwell56613.2035

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERNIUM-OH
TD08:02Thomas Merriweather 1 Yd Run (Pat Blocked) 06
TD06:33Martel Moore 69 Yd Pass From Chandler Harnish (Michael Cklamovski Kick) 76
TD03:46Tracy Woods 7 Yd Run (Trevor Cook Kick) 713
TD01:17Martel Moore 27 Yd Pass From Chandler Harnish (Michael Cklamovski Kick) 1413
THIRD QUARTERNIUM-OH
TD09:52Thomas Merriweather 1 Yd Run (Trevor Cook Kick) 1420
FOURTH QUARTERNIUM-OH
TD14:54Willie Clark 39 Yd Pass From Chandler Harnish (Michael Cklamovski Kick) 2120
TD00:33Armand Robinson 33 Yd Pass From Austin Boucher (Two-Point Conversion Failed) 2126