MOBILE, Ala. » Not even an interim coach and a freshman quarterback could keep Miami of Ohio from one of the best turnaround seasons in college football history.
Austin Boucher threw for 289 yards and two touchdowns in his fourth career start and the RedHawks capped a historic season with a 35-21 win last night over Middle Tennessee in the GoDaddy.com Bowl.
"We didn’t play perfect by any means — we’ve played better before," Miami interim coach Lance Guidry said. "But boy, the kids were so tough through this whole thing. They’ve been on a roller-coaster ride."
The RedHawks (10-4) are the first team in Football Bowl Subdivision history to win 10 games one season after losing 10. Miami finished a dismal 1-11 in 2009, but recovered to win the Mid-American Conference title and finish this season on a six-game winning streak.
MTSU (6-7) won three games in a row to become bowl eligible, but was hurt by five turnovers.
Miami’s Dayonne Nunley was responsible for two of them, recovering a fumble and returning an interception 52 yards for a touchdown. Thomas Merriweather rushed for 100 yards and two touchdowns.
MTSU’s Dwight Dasher threw four interceptions — all in the second half.
It was a sweet ending for the RedHawks, especially considering there was plenty of adversity along the way. Miami played its first bowl since 2004 without coach Mike Haywood, who accepted the head coaching job at Pittsburgh in December. Haywood has since been fired from Pitt after being arrested on a felony domestic violence charge. On Monday, a magistrate entered a not guilty plea for Haywood on the felony charge.
The RedHawks also lost starting quarterback Zac Dysert to a lacerated spleen in November, but Boucher kept the offense going. The redshirt freshman wasn’t perfect, throwing two interceptions, but completed 22 of 35 passes, including several clutch throws to keep drives alive.
"Boucher’s a competitor," Guidry said. "He’s a winner. We didn’t know that until he got a chance to actually start and play. Out of high school we thought he was a really good player and a winner, but until you get live bullets, you really don’t know. But he’s done a great job."
MIAMI (OHIO) 35, MIDDLE TENNESSEE 21
MTSU–Tanner 18 run (Gendreau kick), 4:37.
MiO–Merriweather 3 run (Cook kick), 2:29.
MTSU–Dasher 49 run (Gendreau kick), :40.
MiO–Merriweather 3 run (Cook kick), 13:11.
MiO–Nunley 52 interception return (Cook kick), 13:22.
MTSU–Tanner 54 run (Gendreau kick), 12:32.
MiO–Givens 17 pass from A.Boucher (Cook kick), :54.
MiO–Harwell 5 pass from A.Boucher (Cook kick), 5:25.
RUSHING–Middle Tennessee, Dasher 17-90, Tanner 11-87, Kyles 3-24, Cunningham 1-7. Miami (Ohio), Merriweather 27-100, Robinson 4-23, A.Boucher 6-1, Woods 1-0, Team 1-(minus 1), Harwell 1-(minus 5).
PASSING–Middle Tennessee, Dasher 18-29-4-162. Miami (Ohio), A.Boucher 22-35-2-289, Scherpenberg 1-1-0-9, Team 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING–Middle Tennessee, Tanner 5-34, Andrews 4-36, McDonald 3-43, Beyah 2-24, Blissard 2-20, Drake 2-5. Miami (Ohio), Harwell 7-86, Robinson 4-81, Givens 4-60, Paine 3-33, Merriweather 2-13, Bruton 1-14, Woods 1-7, Ju.Semmes 1-4.
GoDaddy.com Bowl, at Mobile, Ala.
Miami (Ohio) 35, Middle Tennessee 21
Cotton Bowl, at Arlington, Texas
Texas A&M (9-3) vs. LSU (10-2), 3 p.m. (KHON)
BBVA Compass Bowl, at Birmingham, Ala.
Pitt. (7-5) vs. Kentucky (6-6), 7 a.m. (ESPN)
Fight Hunger Bowl, at San Francisco
Boston College (7-5) vs. Nevada (12-1), 4 p.m. (ESPN)
BCS National Championship,
at Glendale, Ariz.
Auburn (13-0) vs. Oregon (12-0), 3:30 p.m. (ESPN)
» Ryan Mallett, Arkansas quarterback: The Razorbacks’ 6-foot-6 junior, who led the Razorbacks to their first BCS bowl game this season, declared for the NFL Draft yesterday. He led the Southeastern Conference in passing, throwing for 3,592 yards and 30 touchdowns. "Playing in the NFL is a goal of mine, and I am grateful to the people that have prepared me to take the next step," Mallett said.
» Marcell Dareus, Alabama defensive end: Dareus’ legal guardian, Lester Reasor, told the Birmingham News yesterday that Dareus has decided to skip his senior season. Dareus was the MVP of the BCS championship game last year. He finished this season with 34 tackles, 11 for a loss, and 4 1/2 sacks.
» J.J. Watt, Wisconsin defensive end: Watt had 21 tackles for loss this season and played a leading role for a team that made it to the Rose Bowl, where the Badgers lost to TCU. "I will be a Wisconsin Badger for life and am forever grateful for all of the love and support that the fans, administration and community have shown to my family and I during my time in Madison," Watt said on the school’s website.
» Darren Evans, Virginia Tech tailback: Evans missed all of his sophomore season while rehabbing from knee surgery and the tailback isn’t taking the chance that it could happen again. The redshirt junior said in a teleconference from his home in Indianapolis that it was a difficult decision, but the opportunity to play in the NFL "has always been a dream."