Broncos hold on to win MAC ti­tle

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Noah Tris­ter

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

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