Memphis runs from Akron --
Star back gets 233 yards, just enough to beat Zips
December 27, 2005
(The Detroit News)

Jim Spadafore / The Detroit News
DETROIT -- It was a wild ending but Memphis rode the running of DeAngelo Williams and the surprising passing of quarterback Maurice Avery for a 38-31 victory over Akron in the Motor City Bowl at Ford Field before a crowd of 45,801.
Memphis (7-5) had a seemingly safe, 21-point lead with less than two minutes remaining before Akron put on an incredible rally.
The Zips, behind quarterback Luke Getsy's Motor City Bowl record 455 yards passing and record-tying four touchdown passes, scored two touchdowns in 56 seconds to close to 38-31. Then, after a controversial play went against them, the Zips ran out of time.
Williams, the Motor City Bowl's most valuable player, rushed for 233 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries and Avery passed for 170 yards, including 143 in the first half, to lead the Tigers.
Trailing 38-17, the Mid-American Conference champion Zips (7-6) scored with 1:46 left on a 14-yard pass from Getsy, who completed 34 of a Motor City Bowl record 59 attempts, to Domenik Hixon. Akron's Jason Montgomery (Southfield-Lathrup) recovered the onside kick and six plays later, Akron scored with 55 seconds left on a 19-yard pass from Getsy to Jabari Arthur. Memphis' John Doucette recovered the onside kick.
With 39 seconds left, Akron seemed to have recovered a fumble, but officials ruled that Akron was offsides. Memphis then ran out the clock.
"I was nervous I didn't want to be the only coach in the country to get a Gatorade bath and lose the game," Memphis coach Tommy West said. "I'd be even more popular than DeAngelo with the guys at ESPN then."
Everyone knew about the exploits of Williams, a Doak Walker finalist as one of the nation's top running backs. But few knew about Avery's passing ability. Avery, a senior who switched from wide receiver to quarterback midway through the season after injuries rocked the Tigers, was a key in the first half with his passing.
Williams took over the second half with his impressive running.
He set an NCAA record with his 34th career 100-yard rushing game. He was in some famous company at 33 with Archie Griffin (Ohio State) and Tony Dorsett (Pittsburgh). Williams now ranks No. 1 in the nation in yards per game this season with a 177.1.
Williams, who didn't play the final several minutes, missed setting a Motor City Bowl record by four yards.
Northwestern's Jason Wright holds the record of 237 yards set in 2003. Williams' three touchdowns tied a Motor City Bowl record. Williams finishes his college career with 6,021 yards rushing and 55 touchdowns on 968 carries. He is the fourth player to rush for over 6,000 yards.
Avery completed passes of 42, 48 and 50 yards in the first half to set up all of the Tigers' scoring for a 13-3 halftime lead. Avery was 7-of-13 overall, 5-of-9 for 143 yards in the first half.
"We talked all week that we had to throw to win," West said. "They (Zips) loaded up the box early to stop the run. We figured we'd take anywhere between five and eight shots deep and we'd have to hit on at least a few of them to win."
The Tigers, who finished tied for second in Conference USA behind champion Central Florida, also got strong play out of their special teams. Stephen Gostkowski kicked a Motor City Bowl record 50-yard field goal along with field goals of 32 and 25 yards.
Akron, playing in its first Division I-A bowl, scored on a 72-yard pass from Getsy to running back Brett Biggs with 11:03 left in the final quarter to cut its deficit to 23-17.
But the Tigers stormed back and scored in two plays and 22 seconds. Williams ran 67 yards to the 2-yard line and he scored on the next play. Avery ran for the conversion to give the Tigers a 31-17 lead. Memphis wide receiver Earnest Williams scored on a 5-yard run with 3:09 left to make it 38-17.
The Zips' Arthur set a Motor City Bowl record with 180 yards in receptions (eight catches).
The Zips' big rally fell a little short but coach J.D. Brookhart praised his team's effort and what it accomplished this season.
"We had a lot of missed opportunities in the first half and we had to play catch up and we had to alter our game plan," said Brookhart. "But I'm extremely proud of our football team and the legacy they've started."