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College football roundup: Ball State defeats Buffalo in MAC title game

Ball State quarterback Drew Plitt looks downfield during the Mid-American Conference championship game Dec. 18, 2020.
Drew Plitt passed for three touchdowns and ran for another in Ball State’s 38-28 win over Buffalo in the Mid-American Conference championship game Friday night in Detroit.
(Carlos Osorio / Associated Press)

DETROIT — Drew Plitt threw three touchdown passes and ran for a score in the first half, and Ball State kept Buffalo star Jaret Patterson under control in a 38-28 victory over the Bulls on Friday night in the Mid-American Conference title game.

The Cardinals (6-1) won their first MAC championship since 1996, the year before the title game originated. They held Patterson to 47 yards in 18 carries after he had been averaging more than 200 a game. Patterson left with an apparent right leg injury in the third quarter, but he was able to return in the fourth.

By then, Buffalo (5-1) was playing catch-up. The game turned when Ball State scored three touchdowns in the final 5:55 of the first half to take a 35-21 lead.

The Bulls trailed by 10 and had the ball in the red zone when running back Kevin Marks dropped a fourth-down pass in the final quarter.

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Buffalo, which hadn’t played a game closer than 19 points in this short season, was trying for its first MAC title since 2008. That year, the Bulls knocked off an undefeated and nationally ranked Ball State team for the championship. The Cardinals returned the favor this time.

Patterson came into the game with 1,025 yards rushing in five games, but he didn’t make much of an impact on this night, and his team was down 38-21 when he left in the third. Marks ran for a 67-yard touchdown in that quarter, passing a clapping Patterson on the sideline, but there was no more scoring after that.

Patterson had only one carry after coming back in the game.

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Alabama Birmingham 22, Marshall 13

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Trea Shropshire had five receptions for 180 yards — including a 71-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter — and Spencer Brown had 30 carries for 149 yards rushing to help UAB beat Marshall for the Blazers’ second Conference USA championship in the last three years.

Tyler Johnston III was 12-for-22 passing for 252 yards and two touchdowns for UAB (6-3).

Letters from readers to the Los Angeles Times Sports department for Dec. 19.

UAB became the first school to reach the championship game for the third straight season, all on the road. The Blazers, who resumed their football program in 2017 after it was cut following the 2014 season, won the title at Middle Tennessee in 2018 and lost at Florida Atlantic last year.

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Grant Wells was eight-for-23 passing for 138 yards and two touchdowns for the Thundering Herd (7-2).

Nebraska 28, Rutgers 21

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Adrian Martinez ran for two touchdowns and threw for another, and mistake-prone Nebraska rolled up 620 total yards in wearing down Rutgers in the kickoff to Big Ten Champions Week.

Dedrick Mills rushed for a career-high 191 yards and Wan’Dale Robinson ran for a touchdown and caught another as the Cornhuskers (3-5, 3-5) overcame four turnovers and denied Rutgers (3-6, 3-6) a Big Ten-best four wins in a season.

Martinez finished 24 for 28 for 255 yards passing and carried 23 times for 157 yards as Nebraska outgained Rutgers 620 yards to 252 yards.

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Martinez scored on runs of 41 and one yard and threw a 14-yard scoring pass to Robinson that tied the game at 21 late in the third quarter. His one-yard run in the fourth quarter capped a nine-play, 92-yard drive that was the difference.

Safety Christian Izien intercepted two passes and recovered two fumbles for Rutgers, which started to turn things around this season with Greg Schiano back as coach for a second stint.


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