Tigers Fall In GMAC Bowl
Dec. 22, 2004
By JOHN ZENOR
MOBILE, Ala. - Omar Jacobs went from Bowling Green's question mark to the Mid-American Conference's latest star quarterback.
Jacobs capped a marvelous sophomore season by passing for 365 yards and five touchdowns to lead the Falcons to a 52-35 victory over Memphis on Wednesday night in the GMAC Bowl.
"This is just a sign of things to come," Bowling Green coach Gregg Brandon said in what could have been a compliment or a warning. "When we first talked about what we needed him to do, we needed him to manage the offense and don't turn it over, and if you get a chance make a play every once in a while.
"Well ... he took it to the next level."
The Falcons (9-3) turned a shootout into a blowout after leading 35-28 at halftime to win their fourth consecutive bowl game.
Jacobs got them started with four first-half touchdown passes - two apiece to Charles Sharon and Steve Sanders - and P.J. Pope helped carry them the rest of the way.
Pope ran 28 times for 151 yards and a pair of 1-yard touchdowns. He also caught a 13-yard pass for the only score of the third quarter.
The Tigers (8-4), playing in back-to-back bowl games for the first time, couldn't keep up with the nation's No. 4 offense, which totaled 558 total yards.
"That first half, we felt like we got in a rhythm with our run-pass mix, but we're not good enough to be one or the other," Memphis coach Tommy West said. "No team is."
Memphis' DeAngelo Williams rushed for 120 yards on 18 carries before limping to the locker room at the end of the third quarter with a broken right leg.
He hurt it earlier in the game but went back in and couldn't get through a tearful postgame press conference.
"He had been their weapon all year, and with him being hurt and out of the game we knew they're just a one-dimensional team," Bowling Green linebacker Jovon Burks said.
Danny Wimprine nearly matched Jacobs' performance, going 26-of-39 for 324 yards and four touchdowns but passing for just 11 yards in the third quarter and losing a fumble.
Jacobs, whose 41 touchdown passes led the nation and set a Mid-American Conference record, completed 26 of 44 passes with an interception to earn Most Valuable Player honors.
If his first season as a starter is an indication, he's in line for the kind of prolific career of former MAC quarterbacks such as Byron Leftwich and Ben Roethlisberger.
He used a number of rollout passes to counter a blitzing Memphis defense - a la Roethlisberger in last year's GMAC Bowl.
"We knew their (modus operandi) was blitzing," Jacobs said. "They got to me a couple of times, but we came out and made plays."
At halftime, the teams seemed poised to take aim at the 2001 GMAC Bowl, the highest scoring bowl game in history with 125 combined points for Marshall and East Carolina.
The offenses stopped themselves early in the third quarter. Jacobs threw only his fourth interception of the season to give the Tigers the ball at Bowling Green's 41.
Memphis tried to go for it on fourth down but was twice penalized for having 12 men on the field.
Bowling Green made it 42-28 on the ensuing possession with Pope slipping underneath for a 13-yard touchdown catch on third-and-7.
The Tigers then squandered another trip across midfield when a scrambling Wimprine fumbled the ball and Bowling Green's Mike Thaler recovered 31 yards behind the line of scrimmage to set up a field goal.
Even the weather worked in the offenses' favor, however, with a driving rainstorm subsiding a few minutes before kickoff to clear the way for Jacobs and Wimprine to go to work.
They took full advantage. Jacobs capped his four-touchdown half with a 17-yarder to Sanders, who reached over defensive back Cameron Essex in the end zone with 37 seconds left.
"We knew if we just kept putting it to them and didn't (mess) up, we knew we had them," offensive lineman Andrew Hart said.
Not surprisingly, it was a night for offensive records.
Jacobs set the MAC record with his 41st overall touchdown rushing or passing in the first quarter, adding four more. He also joined Roethlisberger and Leftwich as the league's only 4,000-yard passers.
The Falcons also set the MAC record for scoring average in a season.
Wimprine, meanwhile, went over 10,000 career passing yards.