Williams sparks Memphis turnaround

MOBILE, Ala. -- When DeAngelo Williams arrived at Memphis,
the Tigers had just completed their seventh consecutive losing
season and were about to endure No. 8.

"Our class wanted to change that," the prolific junior
tailback said. "That's why some of us came here. We wanted to make
an everlasting statement for this program, and we definitely did

The GMAC Bowl between Memphis and Bowling Green on Wednesday
night is a chance for two once down-and-out programs to offer
further evidence of impressive turnarounds -- and to showcase two of
the nation's top offenses.

Memphis, which ended a 32-year bowl exile last season, is in the
postseason two years in a row for the first time.

Bowling Green, meanwhile, is bowling for green -- a $750,000
payout -- back-to-back years for only the second time and first
since the 1991-92 seasons. The Falcons are also trying to continue
the Mid-American Conference's recent winning postseason ways. MAC
teams have won eight of their last nine bowl games.

"We're starting to show you the kind of players that are in the
MAC," defensive back Keon Newson said. "We've got guys that can
play and we've got guys that can play with the best in the nation.

"We're going to go to this game not only to make a name for
Bowling Green but to make a name for the MAC."

Williams and Bowling Green sophomore quarterback Omar Jacobs are
certainly deserving of more attention.

Williams, Conference USA's co-offensive player of the year, has
rushed for 1,828 yards and 21 touchdowns, ranking second nationally
in rushing and third in all-purpose yards.

Jacobs is the MAC's offensive player of the year and
fourth-rated passer in the nation. He's hoping the GMAC Bowl can be
the same kind of showcase for him that it was for former MAC stars
quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich.

"Those quarterbacks, Byron and Ben, have gone on to do well in
the NFL and are big-time quarterbacks, and hopefully I'll also have
a great game and be added to that list," Jacobs said.

Williams is complemented by quarterback Danny Wimprine, who has
posted the school's top three passing seasons and directs the
nation's 10th-rated offense.

"They're probably one of the better 1-2 punches in the nation
right now," Newson said. "They're pretty explosive offensively.

"We've seen the running attack in Northern Illinois and the
passing attack in Marshall. We haven't seen both really in the same

Williams is hoping to build much happier bowl memories after
watching last year's New Orleans Bowl from the sidelines with a
torn knee ligament.

"Now, to actually play in one and actually have the opportunity
to win back-to-back bowl games -- that's unheard of (at Memphis),"
said Williams, who has 687 yards and eight touchdowns in the past
three games. "That definitely gives us that much more
determination to go win."

Jacobs ranks second nationally in total offense and passing
yards and his 36 touchdown passes -- against just three
interceptions -- is tops.

"Their passing game is just as good as any we've faced this
year," Memphis defensive end Marcus West said. "Their running
game can be a threat because of the pass."

The Tigers, who won the New Orleans Bowl last season, have three
straight victories since back-to-back losses to Cincinnati and
Louisville. Now, they're feeling like old hands in the bowl

"Last year I didn't really feel any pressure to win the bowl
game," said coach Tommy West, who received a big raise and
one-year contract extension this week. "It was almost a sigh of
relief to everyone that we were going. After 32 years, it was just
good to go.

"I think there will be excitement (this time), but I don't
think there will be the euphoria that there was a year ago."

The Falcons missed the MAC championship game after blowing a
20-point halftime lead against Toledo, ending a seven-game win

"We just want to finish on a good note," Jacobs said. "We've
got a sour taste in our mouth from the Toledo game."