CFN Bowl Analysis ...
Miami Univ. 35 ... Middle Tenn. 21
Not only did Miami University go from 1-11 to 10-4 in one season, a historic turnaround, but it came up with a smart, good bowl win without a head coach.
The GoDaddy defied logic and college football reason.
1) You're not supposed to win a bowl game with a coaching situation in flux.
Northern Illinois didn't seem to have a problem with losing head coach Jerry Kill when it came out and blasted Fresno State in the Humanitarian Bowl, but West Virginia didn't even show up against NC State in the Champs Sports Bowl and Miami was an embarrassment against Notre Dame in the Sun. (I won't count Maryland's win over East Carolina in the Military, considering Ralph Friedgen was still at the helm, and I won't count Florida's win over Penn State in the Outback.) Miami managed to play its game just like Mike Haywood was still the head man, while Middle Tennessee, with veteran head coach Rick Stockstill, couldn't stop screwing up.
2) You hit the quarterback, good things happen.
Middle Tennessee was one of the best teams in America this year when it came to getting to the quarterback and making plays in the backfield, and while it only came up with one sack, it made 11 tackles for loss and thumped RedHawk QB Austin Boucher time and again. It didn't matter. Boucher was throwing laser beams as he moved the ball without a problem against the Blue Raider defense.
3) A veteran quarterback in his final game is supposed to keep the mistakes to a minimum.
Middle Tennessee was last in the nation in turnover margin, but with more than a month to work on making the right read and being smarter with the ball, Blue Raider QB Dwight Dasher couldn't stop hanging the ball up in the air in places where only RedHawk defenders could get it. Boucher was the young player still learning on the fly, while Dasher came into the game as the crusty veteran. Dasher threw four picks killing drive after drive.
The MAC always needs a good boost, and this was a big win for the conference as MU has the look of the league's new superpower, sort of in a Central Michigan mode of the last few seasons. Considering where the program was last year at this time, it's the Ted Williams of football programs.
- More Brock Huard and Mike Bellotti. These two were terrific breaking down a meaningless game seen by dozens. Huard, in particular, did a great job of pointing out what Dasher kept doing wrong.
- Boucher is a strong, decisive passer. It'll be tough to get him off the field when Zac Dysert comes back, but at the very least there should be a great competition for time.
- In order to run the MU 3-3-5 scheme, the linebackers have to be terrific. Junior Jerrell Wedge seemed to make every play with a game-high 13 stops.
The GoDaddy.com Bowl was modestly entertaining. Putting a live camera on Mike Haywood for three hours would have been can't-miss TV.
In an already emotional week for Haywood, the former Miami U. and Pittsburgh head coach, he had to be watching this game with a brew of pride and sadness. This was his team, the one he led from 10 losses to 10 wins, the first to do so in FBS history. These were his kids, many of whom he recruited, picking up the pieces in unison after he departed for the Big East. This was the site of his launching point before an arrest derailed a promising head coaching career. It had to be a rollercoaster ride of an evening for Haywood, paralleling the past month of his life. It would have been oddly interesting to see him in action, getting a glimpse of a coach who's in the process of trying to pick up the pieces of his life and his profession.
- Geez, Middle Tennessee State is loaded with speed. It wasn't enough, though, in the face of Miami U.'s power, which wore down the Blue Raiders, especially late, with the running of Thomas Merriweather.
- Based on his impassioned pre-game speech and halftime adjustments, RedHawk interim head coach Lance Guidry helped his cause to stick around once Don Treadwell takes over. By watching him in action, you wouldn't have known this was Guidry's first gig as the head guy.
- Treadwell is going to enjoy working with redshirt freshman QB Austin Boucher over the next three seasons. The lefty doesn't possess a rifle, but he makes good decisions and plays with the poise of an upperclassman.
- The Sun Belt was painfully close tonight to going perfect in the postseason, the only conference to do so. Troy and Florida International were already victorious, but the Blue Raider loss means the 4-1 Mountain West will finish with the highest winning percentage.
By Matt Zemek
What is it with plucky and resilient Mid-American Conference teams who own a blessed abundance of tunnel vision and don't know the meaning of the word "letdown"?
Last year at the game once called the GMAC Bowl – the game hosted by Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama – a MAC team with a coach heading out the door still won against a Sun Belt foe. The no-longer-invested-in-Butch-Jones Central Michigan Chippewas edged the Troy Trojans in a classic contest. Earlier in this almost-a-month-long bowl season, a Northern Illinois club that lost coach Jerry Kill to the Minnesota Golden Gophers was able to block out a combination of shock and numbness, thereby dusting off Fresno State in the Humanitarian Bowl. On Thursday night, the college football world got to see one more display of eye-opening backbone from a Mid-American Conference team.
Yes, the RedHawks from the Heartland made sure that the 2011 GoDaddy.com Bowl became the MAC daddy bowl. Miami University – surely stung by Michael Haywood's departure to Pittsburgh and then his abrupt arrest on domestic violence charges – did not allow its spirits to sag or its shoulders to slump. As a result, Miami added to its trophy case and turned back the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders, who frankly had a lot more to play for.
Think about it for a bit: Miami won the MAC championship and had already achieved everything it realistically could have hoped for (and then some). Middle Tennessee – which did not deserve a bowl game as much as Miami's MAC rival, the Temple Owls – figured to compete with much more desperation. Entering the game with a 6-6 record and a heavy load of doubt perched on its back, Middle Tennessee needed this win to salvage its season. Miami had done something of consequence in 2010, while Middle Tennessee had not. This bowl battle was supposed to be significant for the Blue Raiders in much the same way that the Insight Bowl was important to Iowa and the Texas Bowl was important to Illinois.
Instead, the team that established a habit of winning in the regular season learned to persevere even without Mike Haywood on its sideline. Feisty, dogged, and graced with a secondary that – unlike Oklahoma or South Carolina – can actually catch interceptions on a consistent basis, the RedHawks intercepted MTSU quarterback Dwight Dasher on four separate occasions, shutting out the Blue Raiders over the final 27 and a half minutes of regulation. On a night when Miami quarterback Austin Boucher threw two interceptions, the RedHawks were still able to finish plus-three in the turnover column. That's how fourth-quarter rallies from an opponent never materialize, and that's how another MAC team did itself proud in the bowl season.
-- This game was the 2011 Sugar Bowl on the field, but since five commercial logos were painted on the turf; a small crowd attended at a less-than-modern stadium; and most college sports fans were paying attention to basketball, this game wasn't called a classic by online commentators. The Sugar Bowl, however, was. That's what publicity and brand-name identities (or lack thereof) will do to the public perception of a given sporting event.
--Since Dwight Dasher missed the first four games of this 2010 season, a season that ended in train-wreck fashion on Thursday in Mobile, Ala., one wonders if a fellow by the name of Terrelle Pryor will have a chat with Mr. Dasher.