DETROIT -- A broken hand and separated shoulder were not
enough to stop Bruce Gradkowski from lifting Toledo to the
Mid-American Conference championship.
Gradkowski threw three of his four touchdown passes to Lance
Moore, leading the Rockets to a 35-27 win over Miami (Ohio) in the
MAC title game Thursday night.
When Gradkowski hurt his shoulder on the first drive, he missed
only one play. He injured his throwing hand late in the second
quarter, and X-rays taken at halftime showed his hand was broken.
But he returned to toss three scoring passes in the second half.
"There was no way I wasn't coming back," said Gradkowski, who
was 18-of-24 for 251 yards with four touchdown passes and one
interception. "Nothing was going to keep me out of this game."
Moore had five receptions for 118 yards and caught three
touchdown passes for the third time in his career.
The Rockets responded when they found out the extent of
"Everyone was like, 'Wow." Moore said. "It just made
everyone want to play even harder because we're healthy and he's
out there with a broken hand and a bad shoulder."
The banged-up Gradkowski joined some impressive company.
For the fourth year in a row, a quarterback threw four touchdown
passes in the MAC title game. Ben Roethlisberger did it last year
for the RedHawks, and Byron Leftwich did it for Marshall the two
"If he did that with a broken hand, that's a really gutsy
performance," Miami coach Terry Hoeppner said.
Toledo (9-3) will return to Ford Field to face Connecticut on
Dec. 27 in the Motor City Bowl. The RedHawks (8-4) will play in
either the Silicon Valley Classic or the Independence Bowl.
The Rockets trailed 14-7 at halftime and rallied with three TDs
in the third quarter. Toledo went ahead 35-20 early in the fourth
on Moore's third score.
Miami pulled within eight points when Josh Betts followed up a
57-yard pass to Michael Larkin with a 13-yard TD pass to Josh
Williams with 4:13 left. Toledo sealed the win with two third-down
conversions on the final drive to win the MAC title game for the
second time in five appearances.
The MAC had its championship game on a neutral field after the
previous seven were hosted by one of the finalists. The announced
crowd was 22,138 at the home of the Detroit Lions.
Toledo's Steve Odom made six catches for 78 yards and a score.
Scooter McDougle provided balance for Toledo's offense with 167
yards rushing on 35 carries, a MAC title game record, but sprained
his knee late in the game.
Betts was 20-of-33 for 304 yards with three TD passes and two
interceptions. His 3,255 yards passing trails only Roethlisberger's
single-season record at Miami.
"I'm not sure much changed in the second half," Betts said.
"We just had two turnovers. We knew we couldn't do that against a
team like that."
Larkin had nine receptions for 131 yards and a score. Larkin
extended his NCAA record streak with at least one catch to 49
After leaving the game late in the second quarter with a hand
injury, Gradkowski's felt good enough to throw a 22-yard pass, on a
flea-flicker play, to Moore midway through the third quarter. The
game-tying score came two plays after a converted fourth-and-3 and
followed Betts' first interception.
Betts threw another interception on Miami's next drive and Keon
Jackson returned the tipped pass 31 yards for a score, giving the
Rockets a 21-14 lead.
The RedHawks answered with an 84-yard scoring drive, capped by
Ryan Busing's 8-yard catch in the back of the end zone. Anthony
Jordan blocked the extra point.
Toledo pulled away on its next two possessions with 28- and
29-yard scoring passes to Moore.