Buffalo ends No. 12 Ball State's run, 42-24
DETROIT — Ball State fumbled away its perfect season.
The 12th-ranked Cardinals coughed up the ball four times and Buffalo scored off each turnover, routing the previously unbeaten team, 42-24, last night in the Mid-American Conference championship game.
"We kind of shot ourselves in the foot," defensive end Brandon Crawford said. "They capitalized off the opportunities."
Ball State (12-1) finished the regular season undefeated for the first time since 1949, but entered the game without much of a shot to bust into the Bowl Championship Series because it trailed Utah in the standings.
The Bulls returned fumbles 92 and 74 yards on consecutive drives late in the third quarter to take a 28-17 lead.
Buffalo (8-5) won its first MAC title, capping the program's first bowl-eligible season since joining college football's top tier of teams in 1999.
NFL scouts at Ford Field saw Ball State quarterback Nate Davis struggle to hold onto the ball. The Cardinals fumbled four times and Davis was involved each time.
"It was a big effect," Davis said. "They took two fumbles to the house."
The most critical came when he tried to dive toward the goal line, but had the ball knocked loose for Mike Newton to scoop up and take 92 yards for a go-ahead score.
"I was trying to make a big play," Davis said.
Davis finished 31 of 48 for 351 yards with a touchdown and an interception on his final attempt when the game was out of reach.
After the game, the junior put to rest speculation that he will enter the NFL draft.
"I will come back," Davis said. "There's no doubt about. It's been the plan all along."
Buffalo quarterback Drew Willy, meanwhile, played mistake-free football.
Willy was 19 of 28 for 206 yards with three touchdowns to Naaman Roosevelt, didn't throw an interception and was sacked only once.Roosevelt finished with 116 yards receiving and James Starks ran for 82 yards and a score, though he fumbled twice.
Ball State's MiQuale Lewis ran for 138 yards and two TDs and Briggs Orsbon set a MAC title game record with 13 receptions and had 141 yards receiving.
The Cardinals hadn't trailed by more than a TD all season and were behind for just 23 minutes this year, but they fell behind for good against Buffalo with 3:52 left in the third when Newton went 92 yards.
"It's going to hurt for a little bit, but our kids will bounce back and be resilient and get ready for what's next," coach Brady Hoke said.
COACH NUTT RECEIVES EXTENSION UNTIL 2012
Mississippi football coach Houston Nutt turned around a moribund Ole Miss program in just a year, then came to terms on a new contract extension yesterday that will keep him in Oxford until 2012 amid speculation he was a candidate for the Auburn vacancy.
Nutt and athletic director Pete Boone agreed to terms in the afternoon and the coach signed the deal right after practice.
Nutt's new salary was not released, but several reports peg it at around $2.5 million. His assistants also will get raises.
"I'm very excited about the terms we discussed," Nutt said. "I'm excited about the assistant coaches' salaries and I'm excited about the vision Pete Boone has. This helps recruiting and shows the direction our program is headed."
Nutt signed a four-year, $7.4 million contract when he took over at Ole Miss last season after resigning at Arkansas. He made $1.7 million this season while leading the Rebels to four straight wins and an 8-4 record.