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A History of MAC East Title Games Part 1

Before Friday's Battle for the MAC East, Bull Run looks at other legendary late season battles for the right to represent the MAC East in the MAC Championship Game.

Kirk Irwin

November 15, 1997: Ohio 8-2 (6-1)  at Marshall, 8-2 (6-1):

The Battle for the Bell for the East

15 years removed from a winning season and 29 years from their last MAC Championship, Ohio travelled 80 miles south to face their rivals at Marshall. Marshall in their first year in the MAC, enjoyed success behind Quarterback Chad Pennigton and Receiver Randy Moss. Marshall's inclusion in the MAC restored the 44-game Ohio/Marshall rivalry, which was dormant for 10 years.

In 1997, a bell was introduced as game trophy, and the "Battle for the Bell" was created with the MAC East on the line.

Ohio was held to 63 yards, all on the ground while Randy Moss caught 7 balls for 101 yards as Marshall shut out the Bobcats 27-0 in front of 32,000 fans. Marshall went on to host and win the first ever MAC Championship game, defeating the Toledo Rockets.

November 10, 2001: Marshall, 7-1 (6-0) at Miami, 7-2 (6-0):

Big Byron vs. Big Ben

Marshall, four time MAC Champions finally found themselves tested by redshirt freshman QB Ben Roethlisberger. The game saw 756 yards of total offense, but it was a trick play RB throw to Leftwich that ultimately gave Marshall the win.

Tailback Brandon Carey was the only person to throw a TD pass in the game, he threw two. Marshall won 27-21 en route to their fifth consecutive MAC East title, although they would go on to lose the MAC to Toledo.

November 12, 2003: Marshall, 6-3 (4-2) at Miami, 8-1 (5-0):

Big Ben Buries Marshall

Marshall, winners of six consecutive MAC East titles, found themselves in unchartered waters, playing catchup. Pennington and Leftwich gave way to Roethlisberger, but this time, the marquee QB wasn't on the Herd, he was a Redhawk. With a win, #24 Miami would clinch their first trip to the MAC Championship game and Miami left no doubt. Big Ben threw for 282 yards and 2 touchdowns and Miami won 45-6. Miami finished the season 13-1 including a win in the MAC Championship over Bowling Green.

November 20, 2004: Miami 8-2 (6-1) Akron, 6-4 (6-1):

Brandon Murphy's Law

Without Big Ben, Miami still found themselves in a winner take all game for the MAC East. Akron hosted the Redhawks behind standout QB Charlie Frye and the talented Domenik Hixon. Tied at 27 after 3 quarters, Miami's defense shut down the Zips, while Brandon Murphy's 35 yard TD run proved to be the game winner

November 22, 2005: Toledo, 7-3 (5-2) at Bowling Green, 6-4 (5-2):

Bruce Gradkowski's Going Away Present

Toledo, led by "all about football" Senior Quarterback Bruce Gradkowski lost their shot at clinching the MAC West the previous week with a loss against NIU. Toledo however could still win the West with a victory over Bowling Green and a NIU loss against Western Michigan. Bowling Green came into the battle of I-75 a game ahead of Akron but Akron had the tiebreaker, so BGSU had to beat Toledo to win the MAC.

A ho-hum 7-7 first half, turned into a second half MACtion epic. With 8 minutes remaining Omar Jacobs put BGSU up by 7, but with 100 seconds left Gradkowski tied the game. In the second overtime, Bowling Green stalled at the 24 and kicked a field goal. Gradkowski threw his fourth TD pass on the day, to seal the Toledo victory and hand the MAC East to the Akron Zips.

Akron would go on to defeat NIU 31-30 to win the MAC Championship.

November 17, 2007: Bowling Green, 6-4 (3-2) at Buffalo 4-6 (3-1):

No Bowl Game, Just Bowling Green

Miami was 4-1 in division with wins over Bowling Green and Buffalo and only one game remaining at Ohio. The only team that could catch the Redhawks were the upstart Buffalo Bulls. Buffalo would need a win vs BGSU, a win at Kent State and a Miami loss at Ohio. They would get the win over Kent and the Miami loss the following week, but it was all for not as Buffalo couldn't defeat the Falcons at home.

Freddie Barnes caught 10 passes for 113 yards including a 44-yard TD while Chris Wright caught an 83-yard TD pass as BGSU scored 24 consecutive points to take a 31-10 lead. Drew Willy found Ernest Jackson to cut the lead to 14 and UB drove down the field again only to be stopped at the 3-yard line.

Miami thus won the MAC East where they fell to Central Michigan.