Bowling Green beats Toledo, heads to MAC championship

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 29, 2003


- Josh Harris threw for three touchdowns and caught another one Saturday, leading No. 22 Bowling Green to a 31-23 victory over Toledo and a spot in the Mid-American Conference title game.

The Falcons scored on their first four possessions in the second half after trailing 14-7 after two quarters. Harris did it all, accounting for 379 of Bowling Green's 433 offensive yards.

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Bowling Green (10-2, 7-1 MAC) will host No. 15 Miami of Ohio on Thursday for the conference title.

It will be the first time the Falcons have played for a conference title since the MAC split into two divisions in 1997. The RedHawks beat Bowling Green 33-10 four weeks ago.

Harris flawlessly directed two time-consuming fourth quarter drives that put the game away. He finished with 256 yards passing, 75 running and also caught a 48-yard touchdown pass.

His third touchdown came with a little bit of luck.

The throw was tipped high into the air at the line but Charles Sharon grabbed the ball and ran 12 yards into the end zone, putting Bowling Green ahead 24-17 with 10:40 to play.

The Falcons got the ball back four plays later and Harris again marched them down the field. He lofted the ball into the corner of the end zone where Sharon made a diving catch for the touchdown with 3:29 left.

Toledo (8-4, 6-2 MAC) still had a shot.

Bruce Gradkowski threw a 58-yard touchdown pass to Lance Moore that pulled Toledo within 31-23 and the Rockets recovered an onsides kick.

But the Falcons defense held, giving them the MAC West division title in front of 29,724 - just the fifth sellout in 38 years at Doyt Perry Stadium.

It was the first time in 68 meetings that there was a championship at stake for the two longtime rivals, which are separated by just 20 miles.

And it figured to be a high-scoring game - both teams have been averaging 30 points per game.

But the defenses and a stiff, swirling wind made it difficult for both quarterbacks to pass.

Harris attempted only 10 throws in the first half. He scored the game's first touchdown on a trick play. Harris threw a lateral to Cole Magner who then pivoted and tossed the ball back to Harris.

He had five blockers in front of him and sprinted 48 yards into the end zone, giving the Falcons a 7-0 lead with 12:17 left in the second quarter.

Harris was 21-of-26 passing. Sharon had three touchdown receptions.

Gradkowski finished with three touchdown passes, but he was far from sharp. He came into the game sixth in the nation in passing efficiency.

He completed 13 of 23 passes for 184 yards. Moore had 113 yards receiving and two touchdowns.

Toledo didn't lead until just before the half.

Gradkowski found Moore streaking over the middle and he ran 26 yards into the end zone with 29 seconds left in the half, putting the Rockets up 14-7.