Exclamation Point Made in Detroit

Detroit, Michigan – Friday evening in front of a record crowd of 51, 286 in attendance the Bowling Green State University Falcons of the Mid-American Conference defeated the Big Ten's Northwestern Wildcats 28-24. The two teams turned the 2003 Motor City Bowl into an offensive display which included quick strikes and time consuming touchdown drives.

In the end, the Falcons finished off the best season the MAC as a conference has ever had by placing an exclamation point at the end of it when they scored the final touchdown of the game on three yard pass from senior quarterback Josh Harris to junior Cole Magner with just over four minutes in the game. In the 2003 season the MAC saw their teams get wins over the Big Ten's Northwestern and Purdue, the Big 12's Kansas State and Iowa State, the Big East's Pittsburgh, the SEC's Alabama and the ACC's Maryland. The Northern Illinois Huskies, shunned by bowl selection committees were sitting at home after defeating Alabama, Iowa State and Maryland.

Early on in Friday's game however, the Falcons had a little trouble getting started throwing an interception in the games opening drive. On their second drive Head Coach Gregg Brandon decided to go for a first down on 4th and 6 on the Wildcats' 31 yard line but Harris ended up taking a 9 yard sack giving the Wildcats good field position at the own 40. Twenty yards later on a 4th and 2 at the Falcons 40, Noah Herron broke lose on the right side and ran 40 yards for the games opening touchdown. Herron opened and closed the scoring for the Wildcats. He got his second touchdown in the fourth quarter on a two yard run with ten minutes left in the game.

For the Wildcats Herron wasn't even the story. Senior running back Jason Wright accounted for two thirds of the Wildcats 357 rushing yards. Wright gained 238 yards on the ground, his 7th consecutive game rushing for over 100 yards. His biggest gain of the night came on the Wildcats 2 play of the third quarter when he broke free and ran 77 yards for the touchdown giving the Wildcats a 17-7 lead.

The Falcons didn't give up though. They battled back by taking control of the game clock. Following the Wildcats touchdown Harris led the Falcons down the field in a 13 play 80 yard drive that took 5:04 off the clock. Harris completed all but one of ten pass attempts on the drive. The Falcons scored on a 7 yard pass from Harris to Magner.

The Falcons didn't get their first lead of the game however until their first drive of the fourth quarter when Harris again completed all but one pass on an 8 play 80 yard drive that only saw one running play a Harris run for 6 yards. The drive which took 3:21 to complete was capped off with an 11 yard pass from Harris to redshirt sophomore Steve Sanders.

Northwestern answered the Falcons when Wright ran the kickoff back for a Motor City Bowl record 88 yard kickoff return. Three plays later Herron had his second touchdown of the game and the Wildcats were on top again 24-21.

Bowling Green once again was up to the task of answering the Wildcats and again Harris led the Falcons on another long time consuming drive. In the teams fourth and final scoring drive Harris again completed all but one pass in a drive that took 11 plays to cover 67 yards. Harris completed the drive in 5:50 when he hooked up with Magner for a 3 yard touchdown to win the game.

For the first time in Motor City Bowl history the game had to award a co-MVP. With the 68 yards rushing and 1 touchdown to compliment his 38 out of 50 passes for 386 yards and three touchdowns in the air, Josh Harris was a cinch to win the Most Valuable Player award. However, Jason Wright's 337 all-purpose yards (238 rushing, 11 receiving and 88 kick return yards) was also deserving of the Most Valuable Player award. Because of the performances of both athletes they were both selected to share the MVP.

In a season that saw 6 teams become bowl eligible, the MAC as a whole had by far one of the best seasons of any of the other NCAA D-IA conferences. However, the conference only saw two teams receive the conferences only guaranteed bowl game appearances. The Northern Illinois Huskies was by far the most deserving team to go to a bowl game of all the D-IA teams that are sitting home this bowl season. The country as a whole finally noticed this season which fans of the teams in the MAC has known for years, the MAC can play football but because of living in the shadow of the Big Ten and being shunned by the Big Ten conference and the media in the region no one was able to see it. It took a quarterback nicknamed "Big Ben" (Ben Roethlisberger), another quarterback named Josh Harris, a running back in Michael Turner, a defensive end in Jason Babin and a wide receiver from Alaska (Cole Magner) for people to stand up and take notice.

While the teams in the MAC now look toward the recruiting season next season already looks to be better than this season. With Kent State coming up because of quarterback Josh Cribbs, Akron and Charlie Frye, Toledo and Bruce Gradkowski, Western Michigan and Ryan Cubit or Oseloka Keys and of course Miami, Bowling Green and Northern Illinois the MAC is hoping for the addition of at least a third bowl game. But for now, in Bowling Green, Ohio they are celebrating the Falcons first bowl game appearance and victory since the Falcons 35-34 win over Nevada in the 1992 Las Vegas Bowl.

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