Falcon second half ousts Memphis in GMAC Bowl victory

John Zenor and John Zenor

MOBILE, Ala. – Omar Jacobs passed for 365 yards and five touchdowns, leading Bowling Green to a 52-35 victory over Memphis Wednesday night in the GMAC Bowl.

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, also scoring on a 13-yard reception 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.

Memphis star DeAngelo Williams rushed for 120 yards on 18 carries before limping to the locker room at the end of the third quarter with a fractured right fibula.

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.

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.

Wimprine was nearly as good, throwing for a 42-yard score to tight end John Doucette, a 60-yarder to Chris Kelley and a 39-yarder to Maurice Avery on a screen pass. Williams momentarily stopped the aerial show with a 31-yard scoring run down the sideline.

Sanders had seven catches for 124 yards and Sharon gained 117 yards on five catches.

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 Ben Roethlisberger and Byron 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.