Sunday, October 14, 2001

Miami 30, Akron 27

'Hail Mary' pass lifts RedHawks

By Ian Duthie
Enquirer contributor

        OXFORD — A prayer, at best, is what Miami was left with after squandering an 18-point halftime lead to Akron. So the RedHawks relied on a “Hail Mary” play to pull out a 30-27 victory over the Zips Saturday at Yeager Stadium.

        With seven seconds left in the game, the RedHawks had the ball on their 16-yard line and trailed 27-24.

        After a 14-yard out put Miami at its own 30, three seconds remained.

        Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger took the snap out of the shotgun formation, avoided the pass rush, and stepped up in the pocket — buying time for his receivers to get to end zone. After checking over his shoulder to make sure he had time, he launched a pass as high and as far as he could.

        What happened next, Roethlisberger could describe only as divine intervention.

        His and Miami's prayers were answered in the form of wide receiver Eddie Tillitz, who found the ball after it had ricocheted of the hands of defender John Fuller. Tillitz juggled the ball, then gained control of it in the end zone, giving the RedHawks a dramatic victory.

        Tillitz rode the shoulders of his teammates to the locker room.

        “The play is called Big Ben,” said Miami coach Terry Hoeppner after the game. “It is a play you can't (control). We work on it every Thursday in practice. Usually it is tipped incomplete. You just hope it works in a game.”

        Roethlisberger recalls successfully completing the pass in practice, primarily when there where no defenders to stop it. Akron's defense looked just as helpless against it Saturday as Tillitz was swarmed by his teammates after his big catch.

        “It feels so great right now,” Tillitz said. “I could feel the (pain) from the guys on top of me. At that moment it didn't matter because we had won.”

        Akron (2-4, 2-2 Mid-American Conference) was left devastated at what had transpired as its players laid on the field in disbelief.

        “If anyone has every just walked up to you and punched you in the gut as hard as they can, you can imagine how hard it is to speak after that sort of loss,” Akron coach Lee Owens said.

        Roethlisberger set a school record with 399 passing yards, and the offense complied 545 total yards, the most for Miami since 1999 against West Virginia. The win keeps Miami (4-2, 3-0 Mid-American Conference) in a tie for first place in the MAC East Division with Marshall.

Team   1 2 3 4     SCORE
Akron   0 6 10 11     27
Miami-Ohio   10 14 0 6     30
Scoring Summary
1st QuarterMiami-Ohio Touchdown - 31-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger to
Cal Murray. (Jared Parseghian kick). 11:37 remaining.
Miami-Ohio Field Goal - 32-yarder by Jared Parseghian.
3:23 remaining.
2nd QuarterAkron Field Goal - 31-yarder by Zac Derr. 13:27 remaining.
Miami-Ohio Touchdown - 47-yard run by Steve Little.
(Jared Parseghian kick). 10:37 remaining.
Akron Field Goal - 47-yarder by Zac Derr. 1:03 remaining.
Miami-Ohio Touchdown - 37-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger to
Steve Little. (Jared Parseghian kick). 0:05 remaining.
3rd QuarterAkron Field Goal - 52-yarder by Zac Derr. 10:51 remaining.
Akron Touchdown - 72-yard pass from Charlie Frye to
Matt Cherry. (Zac Derr kick). 9:07 remaining.
4th QuarterAkron Touchdown - 37-yard pass from Charlie Frye to
Matt Cherry. (Frye pass to Junior McCray). 5:53 remaining.
Akron Field Goal - 27-yarder by Zac Derr. 0:09 remaining.
Miami-Ohio Touchdown - 70-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger to
Eddie Tillitz. 0:00 remaining.
Attendance: 10,561
Final Team StatisticsAkron Miami-Ohio
First downs 2023
Rushes-yards 42-9734-167
Passing yards 309399
Return yards 1715
Passing (Att-Comp-Int) 31-21-040-23-1
Punts-Average 4-33.23-44.3
Fumbles-Lost 1-03-1
Penalties-Yards 3-338-75
Time of Possession 31:2128:39
Akron - McCray 17-62, Carter 13-20, Basch 6-12, Cherry 1-8, Barbee 2-2, Frye 3-(-7).
Miami-Ohio - Little 21-77, Roethlisberger 10-59, Murray Jr 2-20, Henry 1-11.
Akron - Frye 21-31-0, 309 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Miami-Ohio - Roethlisberger 23-40-1, 399 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Akron - Cherry 11-189, Fortener 2-56, Wilson 2-27, Barbee 2-12, Schifino 2-7, Ritley 1-13, Zuercher 1-5.
Miami-Ohio - Tillitz 6-132, Branch 6-92, Henry 3-53, Murray Jr 3-37, Larkin 2-18, Little 1-37, Stegman 1-19, Clemens 1-11.

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