A lot of Division I-A colleges turned their back on Ben Roethlisberger coming out of Findlay High School, including the University of Toledo.
Big Ben made the Rockets pay for their mistake last night in his first trip to the Glass Bowl.
Miami's sophomore quarterback, who had a few hundred people in the stands cheering for him, passed for 299 yards and engineered five scoring drives as the RedHawks denied the Rockets their school-record 18th straight home win with a 27-13 victory before 24,466 fans.
The loss was the first at home for UT (5-3, 3-1 MAC West) in nearly three years and snapped the nation's third-longest home winning streak at 17.
The Rockets also lost leading rusher and starting tailback William Bratton on the last play of the second quarter with a hairline fracture of the left ankle that could possibly sideline him for the rest of the season.
“This is a great, great win for Miami football,” said Roethlisberger, who completed 22 of 31 passes for 299 yards as the RedHawks (5-3, 4-1 MAC East) improved to 5-1 on the road - the best mark in the country. “It was nice that a few hundred people from Findlay could be here to share this with me.”
Roethlisberger was sacked twice and was held without a touchdown pass for just the second time in 21 career games, but he impressed everyone with his poise and ability to turn broken plays into big plays.
“He's a great player,” said UT quarterback Brian Jones, who completed 30 of 46 passes for a career-high 341 yards and one touchdown. He also scored on a 24-yard run. “Even when something's not there, he makes something happen. He did that numerous times tonight.”
“I'm happy No. 7 [Roethlisberger] is on my side,” Miami coach Terry Hoeppner said. “He makes a bunch of plays that we don't even have in our playbook or draw up. Those plays are what make him special.”
Toledo's offense, shut out in the first half for the second straight week, trailed 20-0 before finally getting on the scoreboard when Jones tossed a five-yard touchdown pass to tight end Andrew Clarke on a fourth down play with 2:46 left in the third quarter.
Trailing 27-13, Toledo was stopped on a fourth-and-one at the 10 with 6:32 to play when freshman tailback Astin Martin slipped and fell down.
“Every loss is a big loss,” said UT linebacker Tom Ward, from Defiance. “The streak ended, but that's not on our mind right now.”
In the first half, Toledo also had two other drives end inside its 20-yard line with a Jones fumble at the 13 and another failed fourth-down conversion at the 10.
Five minutes into the fourth quarter, with Miami leading 20-13, Roethlisberger made a rare mistake. He was picked off by Toledo defensive tackle Chaz Williams with 10:36 left. However, linebacker David Gardner was flagged 15 yards for a late hit on Roethlisberger, giving Miami an automatic first down at the 11.
Three plays later, Luke Clemens scored his second touchdown on an 11-yard run with 8:55 left, putting the RedHawks up by 14 points. Clemens has 13 rushing TDs this year.
“I take the full blame for that play,” said Gardner, who injured his fingers late in the second quarter, but returned in the second half. “I got a late hit on a play where we would have had a turnover and could have possibly taken the lead.”
The RedHawks built a 20-0 lead at 7:14 of the third quarter when Jared Parseghian of St. John's Jesuit kicked his second field goal, a 37-yarder, capping an eight-play, 40-yard drive.
The score was set up after Toledo failed to get a first down on a fourth-and-11 play from its own 40.
After a scoreless first quarter, Miami erupted for two touchdowns and a field goal in the second for a 17-0 lead.
Roethlisberger was 13-of-17 for 171 yards in the first half as Miami outgained Toledo 250-172 in total offense. Jones was 12 of 15 for 114 yards and one fumble. His miscue and a missed fourth-down play by Toledo helped set up 10 of Miami's 17 points.
“We had some chances in the first half,” UT coach Tom Amstutz said. “We had some great drives, but we turned the ball over. I thought we controlled the ball, but we just need to finish drives.”