Ben Roethlisberger ended his college career in style.
Roethlisberger, a junior, passed for 376 yards and four first-half touchdowns to lead No. 14 Miami of Ohio to a 49-28 victory over Louisville in the GMAC Bowl on Thursday night before announcing his decision to leave school early and declare himself eligible for April’s NFL draft.
“I feel the time is right to embark on the next challenge,” he said.
Roethlisberger is a likely top-10 selection in the NFL draft, April 24-25 in New York. He showed why against the Cardinals, completing 21 of 33 passes, shaking off would-be sacks and throwing perfect passes on the run.
The RedHawks (13-1) extended major college football’s longest winning streak to 13 games after racing to a 35-7 second-quarter lead. Miami scored two more touchdowns in the fourth to stymie a rally by Louisville (9-4), which has lost five bowl games in six years.
After a season-opening loss at Iowa when Roethlisberger had four passes intercepted, Miami rebounded to match its longest winning streak set in 1972-74.
“He made some plays that made those of you who haven’t seen him play in person go, ‘How can he do that? How can he keep escaping like that and hitting guys in the hands with balls,’ ” Miami Coach Terry Hoeppner said.
The RedHawks outgained Louisville, 597 yards to 492, in a matchup of high-powered offenses.
“The Big 12 officials were officiating this game. They said they think we should have a revote,” Hoeppner said, referring to the Heisman Trophy won by Oklahoma’s Jason White.
“I think he’s the finest football player in college football.”
Roethlisberger informed the team of his decision to leave on the eve of the game.
“He is a great player,” Louisville Coach Bobby Petrino said. “We couldn’t tackle him, and he made some great throws.”
Roethlisberger joined Marshall’s Byron Leftwich and Chad Pennington as the only Mid-American Conference quarterbacks to reach 11,000 career yards in offense.