Central Michigan quarterback Dan LeFevour sprints past Ohio defender Michael Mitchell in the MAC championship game.
DETROIT - Football coaches always talk about winning games with big plays.
The Mid-American Conference championship game was a perfect example.
Central Michigan had eight plays of 20-plus yards, held Ohio to zero and walked away with a 31-10 victory last night for its first conference title since 1994.
"It's all about making plays," said Brian Kelly, who kept his team focused in a week that saw him linked to jobs at Michigan State and Iowa State. "Our quarterback made some great throws and his receivers made some great catches."
Redshirt freshman Dan LeFevour threw for 349 yards and three touchdowns and Damien Linson had 191 yards receiving against the Bobcats' normally stingy defense.
"It's fun when you've got four all-conference linemen in front of you and four or five targets on every play," LeFevour said. "That makes my life a lot easier."
Linson broke the title-game record of 179 yards set by Marshall's Denero Marriott in 2001. Randy Moss had 170 yards for Marshall in 1997.
"Coach told me that I was going to have a lot of chances to make plays today, and I wanted to make all of them," he said. "In a big venue like this, everyone wants to be a hero."
Chippewas tailback Ontario Sneed had two fourth-quarter touchdowns, including a 96-yard run that broke Chester Taylor's title-game record run by 31 yards. In all, Central Michigan outgained Ohio 457-224 and forced three turnovers while only committing one.
"We played a very good football team that was on the top of their game," Bobcats coach Frank Solich said. "We knew, to beat them, we had to limit their big plays and not turn the ball over. We didn't do either of those things."
Both teams were making their first appearance in the championship game, which started in 1997. Central Michigan (9-4) last won the conference title in 1994, while Ohio has not won the championship since 1968.
"We've known since August that we were going to be here," said defensive end Mike Ogle, who intercepted one pass and nearly had another.
"It still feels great to actually finish this off."
The Chippewas will return to Ford Field for the Dec. 26 Motor City Bowl, their first bowl game since the 1994 Las Vegas Bowl.
"We love Detroit," Kelly said. "Playing in a great venue like this gets the kids excited, and they made plays tonight. We'll be happy to spend Christmas here."