Ball State fumbled away its perfect season.

The 12th-ranked Cardinals coughed it up four times and Buffalo scored off each turnover, routing the previously unbeaten team, 42-24, last night in the Mid-American Conference championship game in Detroit.

Ball State (12-1) finished the regular season undefeated for the first time since 1949.

The Cardinals entered the game without much of a shot to bust into the Bowl Championship Series, because it trailed Utah in the standings.

The Bulls returned fumbles 92 and 74 yards on consecutive drives late in the third quarter to take a 28-17 lead.

Buffalo (8-5) won its first MAC title, capping the program's first bowl-eligible season since joining college football's top tier of teams in 1999.

Noteworthy

* Houston Nutt and Mississippi agreed to a 1-year contract extension that will keep him in Oxford, following a report he was a target for the Auburn opening.

Nutt signed a 4-year, $7.4 million contract when he took over at Ole Miss last season after resigning at Arkansas. He made $1.7 million this season and the Rebels went 8-4. The Rebels finished second in the SEC Western Division after winning just 13 games in their previous four seasons. The team likely will accept a Cotton Bowl berth in the next few days.

* Boise State coach Chris Peterson said he will not be Mississippi State's next football coach, a position left open by Sylvester Croom's resignation last Saturday. Peterson and Mississippi State athletic director Greg Byrne are longtime friends.

* Texas Tech chancellor Kent Hance said his school made a formal offer of a 5-year extension to football coach Mike Leach. He did not reveal financial terms.

Leach is in his ninth season with Tech and guided the Raiders to a school-record 11-1 record this year and a share of the Big 12 South title. Tech has earned a bowl bid in all nine seasons under Leach, who had been mentioned as a candidate for the University of Washington's vacant head-coaching position.

* Louisville football coach Steve Kragthorpe says he has no plans on leaving and wants to rebuild the team after its first losing season since 1997. The Cardinals are 5-7 after losing to Rutgers Thurday night, 63-14, by the team's worst margin in 20 years.

Kragthorpe is 11-13 in 2 years at Louisville after taking over for Bobby Petrino.

* For the first time ever, Kansas is headed to a bowl game for the second straight year. Less than a week after rallying past No. 19 Missouri 40-37 in the regular-season finale, the Jayhawks (7-5) are authorized to sell tickets to the Insight Bowl, Dec. 31, in Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz., against a Big Ten opponent. *