MAC Notes: UNI continues dominance over Toledo

The Sports Xchange

November 08, 2015 at 9:19 pm.

Nov 3, 2015; Toledo, OH, USA; Northern Illinois Huskies quarterback Ryan Graham (17) runs the ball against the Toledo Rockets during the fourth quarter at Glass Bowl. Huskies win 32-27. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 3, 2015; Toledo, OH, USA; Northern Illinois Huskies quarterback Ryan Graham (17) runs the ball against the Toledo Rockets during the fourth quarter at Glass Bowl. Huskies win 32-27. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The national spotlight found the Mid-American Conference on Nov. 3 when No. 20 Toledo hosted Northern Illinois on ESPN2. The Rockets entered the MAC West showdown with seven straight wins, including against Arkansas and Iowa State.

But the Rockets, despite leading 17-7 in the second quarter and Northern Illinois losing its quarterback, Drew Hare, and senior receiver, Tommylee Lewis, lost to the Huskies for the sixth straight time, dropping a 32-27 decision. The Huskies outscored the Rockets 13-3 in the fourth quarter, capping the winning drive with a 2-yard touchdown run by Joel Bouagnon.

“Northern Illinois played four quarters of disciplined football and unfortunately we didn’t,” Toledo coach Matt Campbell said. “I also want to thank all of our fans in the community and our student for coming out. It was a great environment to play in, and we’re extremely appreciative of that support. It’s certainly disappointing we couldn’t play better for them. I was disappointed in our execution. We were not our best tonight and that cost us the football game.

“We were undisciplined tonight. That’s the best way to put it. We had multiple opportunities to put them away and others times when we had a chance to execute better when we should have. When you don’t do that against a good team, that’s what gets you beat. You have to tip your hat to NIU.”

The Huskies (6-3, 4-1) control their fate in their search for a sixth straight West title, as they play Western Michigan (5-0 in the league) later this month. The Huskies received inspired play from freshman quarterback Ryan Graham. After junior starter Drew Hare left the game with a season-ending Achilles injury midway through the second quarter, Graham was 9-for-12 for 132 yards passing and ran for 41yards.

“I hate to see Drew go out like that, he’s my best friend and we do everything together,” Graham said. “I gave him a hug and he said ‘You can do this. You got this.’ And it really helped me get through it. I was doing it for him. I was doing it for his team and I was excited to do it.”

The Huskies spoiled Toledo’s chances for an undefeated chances, possibly their shot at a New Year’s Day bowl game, a possible MAC West title and knocked them out of the upcoming Top 25 poll.

If the Huskies defeat Buffalo in their next game, and Western Michigan can beat East leader Bowling Green, Northern Illinois will host Western Michigan on Nov. 18 in a possible winner-take-all contest for the West title. Western Michigan, like NIU, can win the MAC West outright by winning all of their games.

The Broncos certainly are on a roll after recording a 54-7 triumph over Ball State, led by a stout defensive effort and big-play running game.

“In pregame, I’ve never done this in my entire life,” WMU coach P.J. Fleck said after the Ball State game. “This was different than how I was feeling throughout the day. I wrote down, ‘I feel like we will play our best.’ I’ve never written that down, ever.

Meanwhile, Bowling Green keeps on rolling, defeating Ohio 62-24 to improve to 7-2 and 5-0 in the East. Bowling Green quarterback Matt Johnson had his record ninth straight game this season with over 300 yards passing. For the season, Johnson has thrown for 3,686 yards and 33 touchdowns.

“We’re not out trying to set records or trying to break what we did last week,” Johnson said. “If it happens, it happens, and that’s nice. But it’s not a goal of ours.

AKRON (4-5, 2-3)

Game: Akron 17, UMass 13: Akron scored 10 points in the second half and played strong defense to inch closer to the .500 mark. At 4-5 on the season, the Zips stayed in the hunt for a possible game. Thomas Woodson passed for 174 yards and a touchdown and Conor Hundley rushed for a game-high 92 yards.

Takeaway: A strong defensive performance against a solid and sometimes explosive UMass offense keyed Akron’s win. The victory might have saved Akron’s season, as they are two wins away from becoming bowl eligible, and should be favored against Miami (Ohio).

Next: at Miami, Nov. 14.

BALL STATE (3-6, 2-3)

Game: Western Michigan 54, Ball State 7: Ball State managed just a third-quarter touchdown and netted 152 yards of total offense in dropping its sixth game of the season. The Broncos had no such issue scoring or moving the ball, finishing with 358 yards rushing and 353 through the air.

Takeaway: Ball State coach Pete Lembo is no longer considered a hot coaching candidate, not with the Cardinals floundering toward the finish line. The Cardinals could only muster seven first downs and averaged 2.9 yards per passing attempt against Western Michigan.

Next: at Ohio, Nov. 17.

BOWLING GREEN (7-2, 5-0)

Game: Bowling Green 62, Ohio 24: Bowling Green amassed 581 yards of total offense and quarterback Matt Johnson threw for 365 yards and four touchdowns as the Falcons won their 17th straight game over a MAC East Division opponent.

The Falcons scored over 60 points for the second time this season, and averaged 8.4 yards per play. Bowling Green scored at least two touchdowns in each of the four quarters, and Travis Greene rushed for 106 yards.

Takeaway: The Falcons are on a roll, and they will play a team on a bigger roll in their next game. Western Michigan and Bowling Green are both 5-0 in the conference, with WMU leading the West and Bowling Green all but sewing up a third straight East title.

Next: at Western Michigan, Nov. 11.

BUFFALO (5-4, 3-2)

Game: Buffalo 18, Kent State 17. Buffalo quarterback Joe Licata tossed an 8-yard touchdown pass to tight end Matt Weiser with 58 seconds left to cap a stunning comeback win over Kent State.

Licata was 25-for-39 for 190 yards and two touchdowns. The Bulls trailed 17-6 in the fourth quarter, but Licata directed two long scoring drives to keep the Bulls in hunt for a possible bowl bid.

Takeaway: The Bulls might have saved their season with a comeback victory, capturing their third straight win. Licata is having a strong season during the conference, helping keep the Bulls afloat and one win shy of becoming bowl-eligible.

Next: vs. Northern Illinois, Nov. 11.


Next: vs. Toledo, Nov. 10.


Game: Miami 28, Eastern Michigan 13: Eastern Michigan tallied just 89 yards passing and 103 rushing to drop its ninth game of the season in 10 contests. Miami’s defense recorded a season-high nine sacks and allowed just one touchdown.
Takeaway: Last season, behind quarterback Reginald Bell, the Eagles showed some progress in their final games. This season, the Eagles seem to going in the opposite direction, now suddenly faced with quarterback issues, with Bell and Brogan Roback battling for reps. The offensive line allowed nine sacks to a Miami team that entered the contest with just 13 sacks.

Next: vs. UMass, Nov. 14.

KENT STATE (3-6, 2-3)

Game: Buffalo 18, Kent State 17. Buffalo quarterback Joe Licata threw two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to lead the Bulls to a comeback win over Kent State.

The Golden Flashes converted just 23 percent of their third-down attempts and finished with 261 yards of total offense. George Bollas ran for a team-high 107 yards and a touchdown.

Takeaway: This one hurts. The Golden Flashes have now endured several tough close losses, a sign the program though might be moving in the right direction with another year of experience.

Next: at Ohio, Nov. 10.

MIAMI (2-8 1-5)

Game: Miami 28, Eastern Michigan 13. Defensive end J.T. Jones recorded nine of his team’s nine sacks and Miami had 15 tackles for a loss to knock off Eastern Michigan. Senior defensive end Bryson Albright had three sacks and the MU defense racked up 72 yards in sacks, while the offense tallied 291 yards rushing and 441 yards of total offense.

Takeaway: Any victory, despite the opponent, are a reason to celebrate in Oxford. The RedHawks notched their second win of the season with their best defensive effort of the season and a solid running game. Miami has steadily been improving in the last few games, so winning a game is a good step forward for the struggling program.

Next: vs. Akron, Nov. 14.


Game: Northern Illinois 32, No. 20 Toledo 27: Northern Illinois freshman quarterback Ryan Graham directed a pair of fourth-quarter drives to lead the Huskies to their sixth straight series win over Toledo on ESPN2. Graham entered the game midway through the second quarter after starting quarterback Drew Hare suffered a season-ending ankle injury.

Graham was 9-for-12 passing for 132 yards and one touchdown, while Joel Bouagnon rushed for 87 yards, including scoring the winning 2-yard touchdown with 1:59 left in the game. NIU linebacker Boomer Mays sealed the win by intercepting a Phillip Ely pass.

“We had guys step up,” NIU coach Rod Carey said. “(When Drew went down) I said next guy up, it’s your turn. We put (Ryan) in there, we let him get the blood flowing in the second quarter and he showed so much poise, it was great.”

“I prepared like I was going to play,” Graham said. “You take deep breaths, you play one play at a time and you have fun out there.”

Takeaway: The Huskies took a major step at winning their sixth straight West Division title, but the loss of Hare and wide receiver Tommylee Lewis to injuries could prove costly. If the Huskies win out, they will be headed to the MAC Championship game. Whether Graham’s inexperience factors into the Huskies struggling or playing at a high level is something to watch.

Next: at Buffalo, Nov. 11.

OHIO (5-3, 2-3)

Game: Bowling Green 62, Ohio 24: Bowling Green scored at least two touchdowns in each quarter to roll to a win over Ohio. The Bobcats were able to move the ball, finishing 543 yards of total to 581 for Bowling Green.

Takeaway: The Bobcats showed promise early in the season, but are stuck in a tailspin and haven’t been able to score enough points to keep up with the higher-scoring conference teams.

Next: vs. Kent State, Nov. 10

TOLEDO (7-1, 4-1)

Game: Northern Illinois 32, No. 20 Toledo 27. Northern Illinois outscored Toledo 13-3 in the fourth quarter to knock the Rockets out of the unbeaten ranks. The Rockets led 17-7 in the second quarter, but couldn’t hold off the pesky Huskies, who lost their quarterback, Drew Hare, to a season-ending injury in the second quarter. The Rockets led 17-10 after the first quarter, but scored just 10 points in the final three quarters to lose to the Huskies for the sixth straight season.

Takeaway: A tough loss for a program seeking to reclaim its spot atop the conference ladder. The Rockets just can’t beat the Huskies after years of owning the series. The Rockets had their national ranking, undefeated season, possible New Year’s Day bowl game and maybe even a MAC West title vanish with the home loss.

Next: at Central Michigan, Nov. 10.

UMASS (1-8, 0-5)

Game: Akron 17, UMass 13: Despite playing at home, the UMass offense converted just 20 percent of its third-down attempts and tallied only 261 yards of total offense. Quarterback Blake Frohnapfel attempted 43 passes but completed just 19 for 173 yards and no touchdowns, but threw two interceptions.

Takeaway: The once-lethal UMass offense has scored just 23 points against a pair of struggling conference teams in the last two games. What has happened to the UMass offense?

Next: at Eastern Michigan, Nov. 14.


Game: Western Michigan 54, Ball State 7: Western Michigan set a new school record for total offense with 711 yards and held Ball State to 152 yards of offense in moving into first place in the MAC West with a 5-0 record.

The Broncos also became bowl eligible with the win, as Jamauri Bogan rushed for 171 yards and two touchdowns. Corey Davis caught seven passes for 163 yards and three touchdowns and quarterback Zach Terrell threw for 324 yards and three touchdowns.

Takeaway: After a rough non-conference start, the Broncos suddenly find themselves all alone atop the MAC West standings at 5-0. A key home showdown against Bowling Green is next on tap, which will be a stiff test for WMU’s rapidly improving defense.

Next: vs. Bowling Green, Nov. 11.


–Bowling Green quarterback Matt Johnson has a whopping 33-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio this season. Johnson passed for 365 yards and four touchdowns against Ohio, his ninth 300-yard game in a row. He has tied the school record for 12 300-yard games in his career.

–Bowling Green wide receiver Roger Lewis has topped the 100-yard receiving mark for five straight games after notching 102 receiving yards against Ohio.

–Miami’s defense recorded a single-game school record high of nine sacks in Saturday’s win over Eastern Michigan. Miami entered the contest with just 13 sacks in its first nine games.

–Miami defensive end J.T. Jones notched four sacks against EMU to set a new personal best for sacks in a game.

–Northern Illinois freshman quarterback Kent Graham led the Huskies to a comeback win over then-No. 20 Toledo by directing two fourth-quarter touchdown drives. Graham is slated to be the starter for NIU’s next game against Buffalo after Drew Hare suffered a season-ending Achilles injury against Toledo in the second quarter.

–Western Michigan racked up a school-record 711 yards of total offense in a 54-7 win over Ball State. Quarterback Zach Terrell threw for 324 yards and three touchdowns in 22 pass attempts.

–Western Michigan freshman Jamauri Bogan is quickly becoming one of the best players in the conference. He rushed for career-high 171 yards and scored on a career-long 76-yarder against Ball State.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “I think it’s all about preparation. I started today and prepared for Buffalo. Obviously, me and Drew prepared together, but because of his injury and the situation he is in, it’s going to be me and a lot of other guys. I’ll always have guys helping me out, preparing me. It’s all about practice. Practice is hard, hopefully the game is a little easier.

“You never know. Backup quarterback can be the easiest position, and then it could be the hardest position. I guess I was two plays away from playing in the beginning of the season, and then injuries happened. The way the cards were dealt, I just ended up playing. I prepared every week like I was going to play. I had great leaders in front of me helping me out. I am ready to play. I am excited to play.” — NIU quarterback Kent Graham on becoming the starter due to a season-ending injury to Drew Hare.



1. Bowling Green can clinch the MAC East Division for the third straight season with a win over Western Michigan. The Falcons have won six straight games to improve to 7-2 and 5-0 in the East. Matt Johnson has thrown for at least 300 yards in all nine games this season. The Falcons’ defense has been improving in the last few weeks. Is the Dino Babers era coming to an end soon? The BGSU coach is one of hottest coaching candidates for a BCS program in the country.

2. Toledo is no longer undefeated. The Rockets had everything working in their favor against Northern Illinois: playing at home; leading in the second quarter; NIU losing starting quarterback Drew Hare and wide receiver Tommylee Lewis to injuries; and their defense holding NIU’s offense in check. Yet the Rockets couldn’t hold the lead and NIU freshman quarterback Kent Graham directed a fourth-quarter comeback to knock the Rockets from the Top 25 rankings, the unbeaten ranks, a possible New Year’s Bowl game and scrambling just to get back into the MAC West race.

3. Northern Illinois’ season could be in trouble with injuries to Hare and Lewis. Hare, a junior, was adept at not forcing passes and staying away from turnovers, while posing a threat in the running game. He’s ruled out for the season with a ruptured Achilles, while Lewis might still return. The Huskies have two relative easy games, Buffalo and Ohio, but host Western Michigan on Nov. 18.

4. Western Michigan is dominating teams. At 5-0, the Broncos are in sole possession in first place in the MAC West. The Broncos rolled up a program-best 711 yards of offense and 54 points against Ball State. Freshman Jamauri Bogan is taking over games lately, rushing for a career-high 171 yards against Ball State. Western Michigan’s offense is potent, with its upcoming clash against pass-happy Bowling Green set to be an explosive affair.

5. Miami won a game. The RedHawks notched their second win this season, defeating struggling Eastern Michigan 28-13 in Oxford. Miami’s defense amassed nine sacks and the offense finished with 441 yards of total offense. Miami won just two games last season, and was winless in 2013.

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