Motor City Bowl Preview

DETROIT (AP) -- Jeff Quinn's coaching debut will come in what may be Central Michigan's biggest game in 12 years.

An assistant with the program for three seasons, Quinn will guide the Chippewas in their first bowl game since 1994 as interim coach when they play Middle Tennessee at the Motor City Bowl in Detroit on Dec. 26.

This game comes three weeks after Quinn replaced Brian Kelly, who guided Central Michigan to a 9-4 record and its first conference title in 12 years before leaving to become Cincinnati's new coach. Kelly also interviewed at Michigan State and Iowa State before taking the Cincinnati job.

``I am excited about the chance to lead this team into the Motor City Bowl,'' said Quinn, who was the team's offensive coordinator this season. ``This is an outstanding opportunity for our football program.''

The Chippewas shouldn't have any problem adjusting to Quinn, who also spent 15 seasons as an assistant at Grand Valley State.

``We are pleased to have Jeff leading us through this bowl game,'' athletic director Dave Heeke said. ``He will provide stability and consistency for our players and our program. We are all looking forward to a successful bowl experience.''

Central Michigan went 7-1 in the Mid-American Conference, claiming the West Division title and beating Ohio 31-10 in the league title game on Nov. 30 at Detroit's Ford Field, site of the bowl game.

This will be Central Michigan's first bowl appearance since losing 52-24 to UNLV in the 1994 Las Vegas Bowl. The Chippewas' only other bowl game as a Division I team came in the 1990 California Raisin Bowl, losing 48-24 to San Jose State.

Central Michigan has secured back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 1990-91.

``It's a great feeling to be coming back for the Motor City Bowl,'' redshirt freshman quarterback Dan LeFevour said. ``We know how great of a place Ford Field is now, so it's going to be fun.''

Quinn's offense was a big reason the Chippewas will be trying for their first 10-win season since going 10-0-1 in 1979. The Chippewas led the MAC with 29.6 points per game while ranking second in total offense with 380.2 yards per game and passing offense (252.4 ypg).

They did it with a young group of stars.

LeFevour led the MAC with 3,514 total yards. He completed 63.8 percent of his passes, throwing 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He threw for 349 yards and three scores in the MAC title game.

Freshman Bryan Anderson led the team with 67 receptions for 816 yards and five touchdowns.

Sophomore Ontario Sneed didn't have as productive a season as he did as a freshman when he rushed for 1,065 yards, but is averaging 8.0 yards per carry with 779 yards. He set a MAC title game record with his 96-yard touchdown run for the game's final score.

Despite allowing 22.9 points per game, the Chippewas defense - led by All-MAC linebacker Red Keith (117 tackles) - has held three opponents to 10 points or less. The team has forced 27 turnovers.

Central Michigan is the first team from the state to play in the 10-year history of the Detroit-based bowl.

Middle Tennessee (7-5) will be making its first bowl appearance as a Division I-A school. A victory would give the Blue Raiders their winningest season since 2001, the last time the team finished above .500.

``This is a tremendous accomplishment for our team and very deserving because of the hard work these players put in day after day to have an opportunity to be in the postseason,'' said Middle Tennessee's Rick Stockstill, the Sun Belt Conference coach of the year. ``To be able to attend a bowl game in just our eighth season at the I-A level is a testament to our program and shows the direction we are headed.''

The Blue Raiders had an impressive turnaround after going 4-7 in 2005. They finished second in the Sun Belt with a school-record six league wins. Their only conference loss came to eventual champion Troy, blowing a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter to lose 21-20 on Nov. 25.

Middle Tennessee allowed the fewest points (271) among Sun Belt teams, but 179 of those came in losses to major conference opponents Maryland, Oklahoma, Louisville and South Carolina - all bowl teams.

Defensive back Damon Nickson ranks fifth in the nation with a 29.9-yard kickoff return average and led the Sun Belt with five interceptions. Fellow junior Erik Walden ranks 16th nationally with 9 1/2 sacks and is the school's all-time leader with 18 1/2. Senior linebacker J.K. Sabb leads the team with 67 tackles and 14 1/2 for losses.

Thanks to six games of scoring 30 points or more, the Blue Raiders led the Sun Belt with 23.5 points per game and turned the ball over just four times in their last five games.

All-purpose freshman Desmond Gee looks to score a touchdown in his seventh straight game. Senior running back Eugene Gross, who led the Sun Belt with 10 TDs, needs 96 rushing yards to reach 1,000 for the first time in his career.

Middle Tennessee, which has never faced Central Michigan, will be the first Sun Belt team to play in the Motor City Bowl.


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