Miami (Ohio) 26, Northern Illinois 21. So not many people showed up in Detroit, and the odds are you weren't riveted to the tube for the MAC Championship Game, either. Even the MAC's own website was a little mixed up about which Miami was on the field. (Hint: It's the one that's been in the conference for 63 years.) That's OK. Because the most dramatic turnaround of 2010 is going down with or without you, and it's going down in astonishing fashion – on a desperate, 4th-and-20 heave with time running out:
Austin Boucher's 31-yard, tip-drill completion to Chris Givens on fourth down extended Miami's last-gasp drive for the winning points, which came two plays later on a 33-yard touchdown strike from Boucher to a wide open Armand Robinson to put the RedHawks in front of heavily favored NIU, 26-21. Thirty-nine seconds later, Miami was celebrating its first MAC championship since Ben Roethlisberger towered above the huddle in 2003, this time barely a year removed from a rock-bottom, 1-11 finish under rookie head coach Mike Haywood.
The RedHawks opened their second season under Haywood by giving bumbling Florida a run for its money in the Swamp, and went on to win seven of eight in the MAC coming into tonight. That included a 4-0 road mark in a five-week span from mid-October to mid-November, on the heels of an 11-game road losing streak dating back to 2008. With the wild championship upset, Miami moves to 9-4 on the year – a full eight games better than the last-place disaster of 2009, the most extreme single-season swing in the nation.
Haywood should focus tonight on enjoying the fruits of his labor over the last two years. Then he should enjoy checking his voicemail in the morning, where congratulatory messages from an athletic director or two may very well be waiting.