Broncos hold on to win MAC title
detroit» Robert Spillane intercepted a pass with 51 seconds remaining, and No. 13 Western Michigan remained undefeated, holding off Ohio 29-23 on Friday night to win its first Mid-American Conference title since 1988.
The Broncos (13-0, No. 17 CFP) led 23-7 at halftime, but Ohio rallied and had the ball in WMU territory in the final minute when Spillane intercepted Greg Windham’s pass over the middle. Spillane immediately took a knee at his own 30, then was mobbed by his teammates as a Ford Field crowd full of Broncos fans roared.
Ohio (9-4) never led and didn’t do much on offense until the final quarter, but the Bobcats still came achingly close to their first MAC championship since 1968.
Instead, WMU became the first undefeated team to win the MAC title game since Marshall in 1999. The question is whether the Broncos have done enough to make it to the Cotton Bowl. WMU is trying to earn the Group of Five bid to a New Year’s Six bowl.
“We’ve done all we can do,” quarterback Zach Terrell said.
Western Michigan’s Corey Davis had eight catches for 144 yards, including a 70yard touchdown reception in the second quarter. Butch Hampton kicked five field goals, the last a 34-yarder that gave the Broncos a 29-23 lead with 1:24 remaining.
The crowd of 45,615 was easily a record for a MAC title game.
The Bobcats can hold their heads high after giving WMU by far its toughest game against a MAC opponent all season. Ohio’s defense held firm early, when a couple of fumbles by the Bobcats gave WMU a chance to break it open.
“They felt they had the talent to be in this game, and so did I,” Ohio coach Frank Solich said. “They were pretty driven to get some things done.”
The Broncos may end up sweating out the bowl announcements Sunday — Navy is putting up quite a fight for that Group of Five spot — but WMU can celebrate a truly special season no matter what happens. The Broncos nearly let it slip away in the second half, but their first conference title in nearly three decades was an accomplishment to savor.
The Bobcats’ MAC title drought continues, but Ohio is bowl eligible for the eighth straight season.
Navy plays Temple for the American Athletic Conference title Saturday, and WMU will obviously be rooting for the Owls in that one. Navy was two spots behind the Broncos in the most recent playoff rankings.
Western Michigan players celebrate their 29-23 victory over Ohio in the MidAmerican Conference title game Friday night in Detroit. Carlos Osorio, The Associated Press