There might not have been a more dramatic turnaround in college football this fall than the one that occurred at Miami University.

There might not have been a more dramatic turnaround in college football this fall than the one that occurred at Miami University.

After losing to Central Michigan 35-10 in the 2007 Mid-American Conference title game to finish 6-7, the RedHawks slipped to 2-10 in 2008 and coach Shane Montgomery was forced to resign.

Another rough season occurred in 2009 as Miami went 1-11 under first-year coach Michael Haywood.

It took what two-year Miami captain Jordan Gafford calls a "change in the culture" to bring about what happened this fall.

After splitting their first six games, the RedHawks bounced back and advanced to the MAC championship game in Detroit, where they beat Northern Illinois 26-21 on Dec. 3 to improve to 9-4.

The win sent Miami, which features a pair of fifth-year seniors and central Ohio natives in Armand Robinson and Gafford, to the GoDaddy.com Bowl at 8 p.m. Jan. 6 in Mobile, Ala., against Middle Tennessee State.

Gafford, a 2006 Worthington Kilbourne High School graduate and defensive back, and Robinson, a 2006 Reynoldsburg graduate and wide receiver, both were key players along with 2007 Westland graduate Will Diaz (DL) and 2006 Whetstone graduate Seth Philip (kickoff specialist).

Haywood left Dec. 16 to coach the University of Pittsburgh. Lance Guidry is serving as interim coach.

"It's been a rough four years for Armand and I to be a part of the team's struggles, so this year has been exciting," said Gafford, the ThisWeek Super 25 captain in 2005. "To win a lot of close games and win the MAC championship, it was all worth it. I think a lot of it was that (Haywood) came in and cleaned house. We've been playing our best football at the end of the season."

Gafford played in 10 games as a freshman in 2006 and was the team's top tackler among non-linebackers in 2007 before suffering a fractured tibia in the second game of 2008, ending his season.

Gafford came back as a co-captain in 2009 and started the first eight games before going down with a torn nerve in his neck.

Gafford missed two games this season with a concussion but finished with 32 tackles, one interception and a fumble recovery while playing safety.

Robinson had 76 receptions for 805 yards and five touchdowns this season. He had 14 catches in the MAC title game, including the game-winning 33-yard score with 33 seconds to go.

"This is unbelievable because this is the first time I've ever been on a team that won a championship," Robinson said.

•LEFFLER FINDS ROLE — Although it wouldn't have seemed likely after he graduated from Columbus Academy in 2007, Andy Leffler will be traveling to Orlando, Fla., on Dec. 28 to play for North Carolina State in the Champs Sports Bowl.

A linebacker, wide receiver, kicker and punter for the Vikings, Leffler discovered Elon University on a family vacation and eventually became a walk-on punter.

After punting just eight times for the Phoenix in 2009, Leffler transferred to N.C. State.

This season, the Dublin native punted 31 times for a 38.7 average while splitting duties with senior Jeff Ruiz (36.4 average) for the Wolfpack.

"I wanted to just focus on my academics this year, but I just decided to give it a shot and in the third game this year I got my first punt," said Leffler, a junior. "It's something I never would have dreamed of. The most enjoyable part has been getting the second opportunity."

•FROM THE BIG TEN — Eighteen players with local ties are on rosters of Big Ten teams, including nine from Ohio State, which plays Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 4.

Michigan State has seven players from central Ohio, including three who played significantly this season in Le'Veon Bell (RB, Groveport), B.J. Cunningham (WR, Westerville South) and Steve Gardiner (LB, Dublin Coffman).

The Spartans play Alabama in the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 1. The Crimson Tide won the BCS national title game last year and feature 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram.

"It's really exciting, especially coming off a 6-7 year last year," said Gardiner, who has played on special teams the last two years and split time between middle linebacker and outside linebacker this season. "Playing against last year's national champions and Heisman winner adds a little bit of motivation, plus it's the Big Ten against the SEC."

•ALSO BOUND FOR ORLANDO — The Wolfpack's opponent in the Champs Sports Bowl is West Virginia, which starts Beechcroft graduate Julian Miller on its defensive line.

Miller, a redshirt junior in his second season as a starter, was a Rivals.com second-team all-Big East honoree after finishing with 13 tackles for losses and eight sacks. He has one year of college eligibility remaining.

"I feel like each year I've gotten better," said Miller, whose team is 9-3. "With my situation, I'd really like to pursue a pro career."

At a glance

Below are area natives who are listed on rosters of college football teams that are competing in 2010-11 bowl games:

PLAYER (HIGH SCHOOL) COLLEGE BOWL GAME

Mike Adams (Dublin Coffman) Ohio State Sugar, Jan. 4

Rob Anzuini (Hilliard Darby) Ohio U. New Orleans, Dec. 18

Chi Chi Ariguzo (DeSales) Northwestern TicketCity, Jan. 1

Ike Ariguzo (DeSales) Air Force Independence, Dec. 27

Nic Barber (Newark) Ohio U. New Orleans, Dec. 18

Le'Veon Bell (Groveport) Michigan State Capital One, Jan. 1

Eric Benjamin (Grove City) Ohio U. New Orleans, Dec. 18

John Blevins (Upper Arlington) Miami GoDaddy.com, Jan. 6

Justin Boren (Pickerington Central) Ohio State Sugar, Jan. 4

Zach Boren (Pickerington Central) Ohio State Sugar, Jan. 4

Ben Buchanan (Westerville Central) Ohio State Sugar, Jan. 4

Samuel Cherry (Gahanna) Toledo Little Caesar's, Dec. 26

Zac Clark (Grove City) Ohio U. New Orleans, Dec. 18

Kyle Clifton (Dublin Coffman) Ohio U. New Orleans, Dec. 18

Steven Crane (Pickerington North) Ohio U. New Orleans, Dec. 18

Ricky Crawford (Olentangy) Ohio State Sugar, Jan. 4

B.J. Cunningham (Westerville South) Michigan State Capital One, Jan. 1

Bo Delande (Hilliard Davidson) Ohio State Sugar, Jan. 4

Will Diaz (Westland) Miami GoDaddy.com, Jan. 6

Connor Dietz (Hilliard Davidson) Air Force Independence, Dec. 27

Mario Dovell (Whetstone) Ohio U. New Orleans, Dec. 18

Nate Ebner (Hilliard Davidson) Ohio State Sugar, Jan. 4

Ross Fleming (Olentangy Liberty) Air Force Independence, Dec. 27

Josh Fitzpatrick (DeSales) Navy Poinsettia, Dec. 23

Jordan Gafford (Worth. Kilbourne) Miami GoDaddy.com, Jan. 6

Steve Gardiner (Dublin Coffman) Michigan State Capital One, Jan. 1

Cavin Green (Columbus Academy) Ohio State Sugar, Jan. 4

Adam Griffin (DeSales) Ohio State Sugar, Jan. 4

Josh Hendershot (Newark Catholic) Toledo Little Caesar's, Dec. 26

Travis Jackson (DeSales) Michigan State Capital One, Jan. 1

Antonio Jeremiah (Hilliard Darby) Michigan State Capital One, Jan. 1

Chris Johann (Pickerington North) Ohio U. New Orleans, Dec. 18

Quentin Jones (Northland) UTEP New Mexico, Dec. 18

Zac Kerin (Olentangy) Toledo Little Caesar's, Dec. 26

Ricky Kovatch (Dublin Jerome) West Virginia Champs Sports, Dec. 28

Kyle Kozak (Pickerington Central) Ohio U. New Orleans, Dec. 18

Josh Kusan (DeSales) Air Force Independence, Dec. 27

Andy Leffler (Columbus Academy) N.C. State Champs Sports, Dec. 28

B.J. Machen (Hilliard Darby) Georgia Tech Independence, Dec. 27

Danny Miller (Westerville North) Ohio U. New Orleans, Dec. 18

Julian Miller (Beechcroft) West Virginia Champ Sports, Dec. 28

Keith Moore (Grove City) Ohio U. New Orleans, Dec. 18

Patrick Omameh (DeSales) Michigan Gator, Jan. 1

A.J. Oxley (Pickerington North) Ohio U. New Orleans, Dec. 18

Seth Philip (Whetstone) Miami GoDaddy.com, Jan. 6

Grant Pleasant (Dublin Scioto) Toledo Little Caesar's, Dec. 26

Darius Reeves (Gahanna) Toledo Little Caesar's, Dec. 26

Rob Rhodeback (Northridge) Texas A&M Cotton, Jan. 7

Armand Robinson (Reynoldsburg) Miami GoDaddy.com, Jan. 6

Skyler Schofner (Big Walnut) Michigan State Capital One, Jan. 1

Kenny Stafford (DeSales) Toledo Little Caesar's, Dec. 26

Drew Stevens (Olentangy) Michigan State Capital One, Jan. 1

Jeramie Stump (Grove City) Ohio U. New Orleans, Dec. 18

Justin Stumph (St. Charles) Miami GoDaddy.com, Jan. 6

Chase Swisher (Olentangy Orange) Toledo Little Caesar's, Dec. 26

Storm Timson (Licking Heights) Ohio U. New Orleans, Dec. 18

Ibrahim Yayah (Brookhaven) Toledo Little Caesar's, Dec. 26