MAC Notebook: Falcons get another impressive W

The Sports Xchange

September 27, 2015 at 9:20 pm.

Sep 26, 2015; West Lafayette, IN, USA; Bowling Green Falcons quarterback Matt Johnson (11) throws a pass during the first half of the game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Ross Ade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 26, 2015; West Lafayette, IN, USA; Bowling Green Falcons quarterback Matt Johnson (11) throws a pass during the first half of the game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Ross Ade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

On a Saturday that featured many missed opportunities for upsets by conference members, Bowling Green saved the day. The Falcons notched their second victory over a Big Ten Conference opponent with a 35-28 triumph at Purdue. The Falcons (2-2) have already beaten Maryland in convincing fashion and lost to Tennessee and Memphis.

Bowling Green won its third straight meeting against Purdue when Travis Greene scored on a 12-yard touchdown run with nine seconds left in regulation. The Falcons racked up 539 yards of total offense, with Matt Johnson completing 43 passes for 402 yards and one touchdown.

“I told those guys that they are going to remember this game for the rest of their lives,” BGSU coach Dino Babers said.

Despite being stopped on fourth down twice in the third quarter, allowing 426 yards of offense to Purdue, the Falcons prevailed because Purdue missed two field goals, including one with the game tied with 2:50 left to play.

Central Michigan, Buffalo, Northern Illinois, Ohio, Kent State and Ball State all had chances notch an upset win on Saturday, but all six teams fell short. Central Michigan provided a big scare to No. 2 Michigan State, much like NIU did last week at No. 1 Ohio State. The Chippewas trailed 17-10 and had the ball early in the fourth quarter, but Michigan State’s defense tightened and the Spartans scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns in a 30-10 win.

Northern Illinois lost its second straight game after compiling just 81 yards passing, as Boston College posted a 17-14 win over the Huskies. The Huskies had the ball with a chance to win, but Boston College’s stout defense held firm.

Of all the MAC teams, Ohio had the most frustrating loss. The Bobcats led for most of their game against Minnesota, but the Gophers rallied with a late fourth-quarter drive, punctuated by a 3-yard touchdown run by Shannon Brooks with 30 seconds left to take a 27-24 lead.

But Ohio still was able to march down the field, mostly because of a long kickoff return by Dez Patterson. However, the Bobcats were whistled for a delay of game penalty while setting up for a potential winning field goal. The Gophers had called time-out, but the controversial penalty stood, causing Ohio coach Frank Solich to shift his plans and attempt a Hail-Mary pass that went unsuccessful.

“The thing that bothers me on that type of play is that the ball gets snapped, so apparently the center doesn’t hear the whistle, either,” Solich said. “But somehow you’re expecting the kicker to hear it when he’s concentrating on the snap. The crowd is very, very loud. He’s following through to what, he thinks, is maybe the game-winning kick.”

Ball State nearly notched a program-building victory — and also the MAC’s second win of the day over a Big Ten team — but dropped a 24-19 decision at No. 17 Northwestern.

The Cardinals (2-2) led 10-7 at halftime after forcing three turnovers before the Wildcats answered with 17 unanswered points to start the third quarter. Ball State finished with 359 yards of total offense, but the Wildcats rolled up 546 yards and allowed just three points in the final quarter.

“It was one of those nights where you felt really good about the effort and how we competed, but at the end of the day to beat a quality team like this you have to play an extremely clean football game,” Ball State coach Pete Lembo said.

Although Toledo didn’t play a school from a Power Five Conference, the Rockets improved to 3-0 with a 37-7 win over Arkansas State. The Rockets played without star running back Kareem Hunt, who was sidelined with a hamstring injury. The Rockets were on the cusp of a Top 25 ranking last week, so Saturday’s resounding win might move them into the rankings for the first time since 2012.

AKRON (2-2)

Game: Akron 35, Louisiana-Lafayette 14: Akron won its second straight game as sophomore quarterback Thomas Woodson threw for 238 yard and two touchdowns and added 93 yards on the ground and a rushing touchdown. The win marked the 500th in the Akron’s school history.

Takeaway: It’s hard to judge Akron after four games, but at 2-2, the Zips are in a good spot when compared to past seasons. Nine different Akron receivers caught a pass in Saturday’s game, a good sign for a program devoid of playmakers for most of the decade.

Next: at Ohio, Oct. 3.

BALL STATE (2-2, 1-0)

Game: No. 17 Northwestern 24, Ball State 19: Northwestern scored 17 unanswered points in the third quarter to post a comeback win over the pesky Cardinals. Ball State led 10-7 at halftime thanks to forcing three first-half turnovers, but Northwestern’s offense fixed their turnover issues and amassed over 500 yards of total offense.

Takeaway: Considering how strong Northern Illinois, Toledo and Western Michigan have looked in the first four games, Ball State’s place in the West Division has been overlooked, but don’t count out the Cardinals. With a solid passing game and improved defense, the Cardinals could pull off an upset or two in conference play.

Next: vs. Toledo, Oct. 3.


Game: Bowling Green 35, Purdue 28: Bowling Green senior quarterback Matt Johnson completed 43-of-59 passes for 402 yards for his school-record setting fourth straight 400-yard game this season to knock off Purdue. Johnson set the tone by passing for 149 yards in the first quarter, while Donovan Wilson had two rushing touchdowns in the first half. Austin Valdez’ fourth-quarter interception sealed the win for Bowling Green.

Takeaway: An impressive win for an impressive MAC team. The Falcons defeated a Big Ten team for the second time this season, and have managed to be 2-2 despite a tough four-game slate to start the season. Johnson is looking like a premier quarterback, with four straight 400-yard plus passing games this season.

Next: at Buffalo, Oct. 3.


Game: Nevada 24, Buffalo 21: Buffalo quarterback Joe Licata threw for a season-best 338 yards and two touchdowns, but Nevada rode a strong start to pull out the nonconference win. The Bulls defense allowed 17 points in the first half, but limited Nevada to an early fourth-quarter touchdown. Licata had a big game, but threw two costly interceptions.

Takeaway: Buffalo has shown all the makings of challenging Bowling Green and Ohio for the East Division title. The Bulls have a solid defense and offense, but mistakes have hurt them at key times this season.

Next: vs. Bowling Green, Oct. 3.


Game: No. 2 Michigan State 30, Central Michigan 10: The Chippewas had their third solid showing against a Power Five Conference team, this team failing to move the ball in the fourth quarter in dropping a 20-point decision to Michigan State. Trailing 17-10 in the fourth quarter with the ball, Central Michigan committed some costly penalties and lost a fumble on their next possession.

“Certainly when you’re playing your best and you’re hanging in there with the big boys, there’s a lot of confidence that comes along with that,” CMU coach John Bonamego said.

Takeaway: The Chippewas are just a few points away from being 4-0, with wins over Oklahoma State, Syracuse and Michigan State. Quarterback Cooper Rush continues to shine on the big stage, completing 26 of his 39 pass attempts for 285 yards and a touchdown. For the season, Rush has completed 116 of his 167 passes for 1,268 yards and six touchdowns with three interceptions.

Next: vs. Northern Illinois, Oct. 3.


Game: Army 58, Eastern Michigan 36: Army scored 15 points in the first quarter and amassed a whopping 556 yards rushing to rout Eastern Michigan. The Eagles did manage 280 yards passing, as Brogan Roback completed 27 of his 39 passing, but three Army running backs ran for at least 86 yards, led by Aaron Kemper’s 147 yards rushing.

Takeaway: The Eagles have shown flashes of potential mixed with maddening results on defense. Things won’t get any better this Saturday when the Eagles travel to LSU to face one of the best running backs in the country in Leonard Fournette.

Next: at LSU, Oct. 3.


Game: Marshall 36, Kent State 29 (2OT): Marshall’s Tony Pittman scored on a 7-yard run in the second overtime to seal the win for the Thundering Hurd over Kent State in two overtimes. The Golden Flashes had a chance to force a third overtime but Colin Reardon threw two straight incompletions to end the game.

Takeaway: Kent State had another dose of bad luck for the second Saturday in a row. A solid effort against an improving Marshall squad followed a gritty loss at Minnesota. The Golden Flashes aren’t winning, but they are showing improvement and the defense is vastly improved.

Next: vs. Miami, Oct. 3.

MIAMI (1-3)

Game: Western Kentucky 56, Miami 14: Western Kentucky scored 21 points in the first quarter and added 28 in the second quarter to cruise to a nonconference win in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Miami’s offense managed just 291 yards of total offense and converted just seven third down attempts.

Takeaway: Another grueling loss for Miami. The RedHawks continue to have problems moving the ball, a big contrast from last season. On the positive side, freshman wide receiver Chris Hudson caught four passes for 64 yards and one touchdown.

Next: at Kent State, Oct. 3.


Game: Boston College 17, Northern Illinois 14: Northern Illinois mounted a late comeback but Boston College’s defense had a key defensive stand in the final minutes to hand the Huskies their second straight loss.

The Huskies, who lost to No. 1 Ohio State last week, cut the deficit to 17-14 with four-plus minutes remaining on Aregero Turner’s 86-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. But the Huskies, who finished with 72 yards rushing and 81 passing, could not move the ball on their final possession to get into field-goal range.

Takeaway: Another tough loss to a talented team on the road. For the second straight week, the NIU offense had trouble moving the ball. Even first-downs were hard to come by for the Huskies, as they finished with 153 total yards and were 3-of-14 on third-down conversions. Yes, the offense is not as powerful as the last few seasons, but the defense is solid and the Huskies, once again, should be dominant in conference play.

Next: at Central Michigan, Oct. 3.

OHIO (3-1)

Game: Minnesota 27, Ohio 24: Minnesota running back Shannon Brooks scored on a 3-yard touchdown run with 30 seconds left in regulation and a controversial delay-of-game penalty spoiled a possible winning field goal for the Bobcats in the final seconds.

Quarterback Derrius Vick was hampered by an ankle injury, but managed to complete 17 passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns in a gutsy effort.

“Yes, of course, we could’ve played better,” Ohio coach Frank Solich said. “That’s always the thing. There’s plays we’d like to have back, there are plays they want to have back … I think this is the type of game that sets the tone within our team. This type of loss leaves a bad taste in your mouth for each and every one of us and I think we’ll find a lot of positives that will come out of this game and hopefully that’ll lead us into conference play.”

Takeaway: The Bobcats came within a few seconds of an upset win at Minnesota and standing with a 4-0 record entering conference play. Sure, the Bobcats were on the wrong end of an official’s call, but the defense couldn’t produce a stop late in the game to end a Minnesota rally.

Next: at Akron, Oct. 3.

TOLEDO (3-0)

Game: Toledo 37, Arkansas State 7: Toledo scored 17 points in the first half and quarterback Phillip Ely threw for 308 yards as Toledo improved to 3-0 with a dominating win over Arkansas State.

The Rockets played without running back Kareem Hunt (hamstring), but piled up 169 yards rushing.

Takeaway: The Rockets are the only undefeated team left in the Mid-American Conference. Toledo has a good shot at landing a spot in the Top 25 for the first time since 2012, though Kareem Hunt’s injury is a concern, especially considering his recent injury issues.

Next: at Ball State, Oct. 3.

UMASS (0-3)

Game: No. 6 Notre Dame 62, UMass 27: After cutting the deficit to 21-20 midway through the second quarter, UMass scored just seven points the rest of the game, while Notre Dame reeled off six straight touchdowns. Shakur Nesmeth ended his team’s scoring drought with a 33-yard touchdown catch with just under four minutes left.

Takeaway: Quarterback Blake Frohnapfel had a solid, but not great day, but that’s expected against a highly ranked team on the road. He threw for 233 yards and one interception, while Tajae Sharpe caught eight passes for 83 yards. All in all, a solid showing for a winless team trying to establish the groundwork for a solid program. The good news is the Minutemen received $1 million for playing Notre Dame.

Next: vs. Florida International, Oct. 3.


Game: No. 1 Ohio State 38, Western Michigan 12: For the second straight week, No. 1 Ohio State received a mini-scare against a Mid-American Conference opponent before putting the game away with a solid second-half defensive effort. Western Michigan tallied 338 yards of total offense, the most given up by the Buckeyes in 2015. Quarterback Zach Terrell threw for 169 yards.

Takeaway: The Broncos had an admirable effort against the top-ranked team in the county. After Ohio State almost lost to Northern Illinois the previous week, the Broncos knew they would be getting the Buckeyes’ best effort. The Broncos have an explosive offense, and that will show starting this Saturday at the start of conference play.

Next: Bye week.


–Northern Illinois lost for the second straight time in the regular season for the first time since September of 2011. The Huskies (2-2) have lost back-to-back road games against Ohio State and Boston College.

–NIU cornerback Shawun Lurry is making a name for himself. After intercepting two passes at No.1 Ohio State, Lurry picked off his fourth pass of the season at Boston College. He returned the pick 79 yards to set up an NIU touchdown.

–Bowling Green quarterback Matt Johnson is one of the top leaders in the country after notching his fourth straight 400-yard plus passing game of the season. Johnson completed 43 passes for 402 yards and one touchdown in BGSU’s win at Purdue.

–Akron sophomore quarterback Thomas Woodson had his imprint all over Akron’s 35-14 win over Louisiana-Lafayette. He passed for 258 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 93 yards and a touchdown.

–Central Michigan quarterback Cooper Rush nearly directed his team to an upset at No. 2 Michigan State. Rush finished 26-of-39 for 285 yards and one touchdown in the loss.

–Ohio quarterback Derrius Vick’s numbers against Minnesota weren’t flashy, but his gutsy play dealing with an ankle injury nearly propelled the Bobcats to an upset road win. Vick threw for 194 yards and two touchdowns, but he was hampered all game by his ankle.

–Buffalo quarterback Joe Licata had a game to remember in a loss to Nevada. The senior passed for a season-high 338 yards and two touchdowns.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Their varsity was better than our varsity, and their JV was a little better than our JV. We kind of put a little shock into them and woke them up I guess at the end of the second quarter.” — UMass coach Mark Whipple following his team’s 62-27 loss at No. 6 Notre Dame.



1. Bowling Green saved the Mid-American Conference. After a day of many near-upsets, the Falcons knocked off Purdue on the road. Although probably not really an upset, any win over a Big Ten Conference opponent is noteworthy. The Falcons, at 2-2, have to be the favorite to win their third straight MAC East Division title.

2. Ohio is for real. The Bobcats came within a few seconds of an upset at Minnesota and a 4-0 start heading into conference play. The Bobcats had a chance to win the game, but a costly and controversial penalty pushed them out of field-goal range.

3. The MAC nearly had one of its most memorable weekends. In all, Central Michigan nearly beat No.2 Michigan State, Ball State had a chance to defeat No. 17 Northwestern, Northern Illinois lost 17-14 to Boston College and UMass played No. 6 Notre Dame solid for the first two quarters before wilting in the second half. Ohio also nearly defeated Minnesota. Not a bad weekend for a conference attempting to gain national headlines.

4. What is the extent of Toledo running back Kareem Rush’s hamstring injury. Rush sat out Toledo’s win over Arkansas State, but considering Rush’s injury history and Toledo’s dependence on him, any injury to Rush is significant.

5. Western Michigan had a solid showing in a 38-12 loss at No. 1 Ohio State. Besides earning $1 million for playing the Buckeyes, the Broncos were able to move the ball against Ohio State en route to compiling 338 yards of total offense. Ohio State scored just 14 points in the second half.

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