Robert Spillane intercepted a pass with 51 seconds remaining, and No. 13 Western Michigan remained undefeated, holding off Ohio 29-23 on Friday night to win its first Mid-American Conference title since 1988.
The Broncos (13-0, No. 17 CFP) led 23-7 at halftime, but Ohio rallied and had the ball in WMU territory in the final minute when Spillane intercepted Greg Windham’s pass over the middle. Spillane immediately took a knee at his own 30, then was mobbed by his teammates as a Ford Field crowd full of Broncos fans roared.
Ohio (8-5) never led and didn’t do much on offense until the final quarter, but the Bobcats still came achingly close to their first MAC championship since 1968.
Instead, WMU became the first undefeated team to win the MAC title game since Marshall in 1999. The question is whether the Broncos have done enough to make it to the Cotton Bowl. WMU is trying to earn the Group of Five bid to a New Year’s Six bowl.
“We’ve done all we can do,” quarterback Zach Terrell said.
Western Michigan’s Corey Davis had eight catches for 144 yards, including a 70-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter. Butch Hampton kicked five field goals, the last a 34-yarder that gave the Broncos a 29-23 lead with 1:24 remaining.
The crowd of 45,615 was easily a record for a MAC title game.
In the first interview he’s granted since he was dismissed as head coach of Oregon, Mark Helfrich says he reached out to former coach Chip Kelly a couple of weeks ago when he thought he could be fired. Helfrich told ESPN Radio that he reached out to Kelly when it started “going south” for the Ducks and the rumors heated up, in the interest of trying to save his assistants’ jobs. “When you start thinking of your assistants and all the support staff and all those people, if he were to come back here some of those people would be ‘saved’ quote-end quote,” Helfrich said.
Standout Iowa State wide receiver Allen Lazard will return for his senior season. Lazard caught 69 passes as a junior in 2016, including seven for touchdowns, and his 1,018 yards rank third in school history. Lazard also averaged seven catches for 114 yards in his final five games, coinciding with quarterback Jacob Park’s elevation to the starting job.