for this game

Buffalo stuns Ball State for MAC crown

Dec 6, 2008 - 6:15 AM DETROIT (Ticker) -- The Buffalo football team did the school's basketball team one better on Friday.

A day after the Bulls' basketball team took Connecticut to the wire before losing, the football team shocked 13th-ranked and previously undefeated Ball State, 42-24, in the Mid-American Conference Championship.

"I'm just proud of these guys," an emotional Buffalo coach Turner Gill said. "It's probably the greatest (career achievement) because of where this program was. For them to become MAC champions in three years, I am so proud of them."

The victory guarantees Buffalo its first bowl appearance, which will come in the International Bowl on January 3 against a Big East opponent.

The bowl bid is the second in Buffalo's 94 years of collegiate football but will mark the first invitation that is accepted.

The 1958 Bulls were invited to play in the Tangerine Bowl against Florida State, but later turned it down when it was learned that two of Buffalo's African-American players would not be allowed to compete against white players at the game site.

"It is with great pride, and anticipation, that we accept an invitation to play in the International Bowl on behalf of our administration," Gill said. "... It is another great step forward for our university and particularly fitting that it occurs 50 years after our 1958 team earned our first bowl bid."

Drew Willy threw three touchdown passes to Naman Roosevelt and the Bulls turned four fumbles by Ball State quarterback Nate Davis into 28 points, including two returns for touchdowns in the third quarter that turned the game in their favor.

Ball State held a 10-7 advantage at halftime. Play opened up in the second half as Willy hit Roosevelt with a 39-yard pass to give the Bulls (8-5) a 14-10 lead.

The Cardinals (12-1) responded as MiQuale Lewis scored his second touchdown on a 1-yard run midway through the quarter to make it 17-14.

After Ball State recovered a fumble by Buffalo, it appeared headed for another score. Lewis ran toward the goal line. The ball was spotted at the half-yard line and the play went under video review. The review confirmed the call and the ball was spotted at the half-yard line.

After Lewis was tackled for a loss and Ball State was called for illegal procedure, Davis scrambled and went airborne as he approached the goal line. Davis was clobbered and fumbled, allowing Buffalo's Mike Newton to pick the ball up and bring it 92 yards for a TD and a 21-17 lead.

Incredibly, Davis fumbled again in the final minute of the quarter as the quarterback was not ready for a snap in the shotgun and it hit him. Sherrod Lott scooped the ball up and returned it 74 yards to make it 28-17.

"Scoop and score," Bulls defensive coordinator Jimmy Williams said. "That's what we teach -- scoop and score."

Fumblitis bit Davis again in the fourth quarter as he coughed the ball up while trying to sneak for a first down on a fourth-down play.

Willy, who finished 19-of-28 for 208 yards and three touchdowns, and Roosevelt hooked up - again - for an 8-yard pass that made it 35-17 with six minutes left. Roosevelt had 10 catches for 116 yards and three touchdowns.

"This is crazy," Roosevelt said. "I don't know if this will ever sink in. My first year here we won two games and now we're the MAC champions. That's what Coach Gill made us believe in."

Davis, who was 31-of-48 passing for 351 yards, hit Louis Johnson with a 22-yard touchdown pass to make it 35-24. Buffalo recovered an onside kick and drove 25 yards with James Starks going the final yard to make it 42-24.

"To hold that trophy with all those guys and the administration and all the guys who supported us over the years is truly what it's all about," Willy said. "Turner Gill, that's all you need to know. He's the one who made us believe."