MAC Notebook: NIU impresses against Ohio State

The Sports Xchange

September 21, 2015 at 1:17 am.

Sep 19, 2015; Columbus, OH, USA; Northern Illinois Huskies quarterback Drew Hare (12) drops to throw during first quarter action versus Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium. Northern Illinois Huskies leads 7-3 after the first quarter.  Mandatory Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The Huskies forced five turnovers and had an opportunity to tie the game in the final minute, but Ohio State’s defense made a key stop to seal the win. Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

As usual, Northern Illinois is at the heart of the positive news for the Mid-American Conference. The Huskies had a rare opportunity — just the third time ever in school history — to battle the No. 1 team in the country. The Huskies battled the top-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes to the final whistle, falling 20-13 in Columbus.

“We got it to a one-score game (in the fourth quarter), which was good,” NIU coach Rod Carey said. “At the end, we missed too many opportunities. We’re upset about losing the game. We had an opportunity to win. I’m proud of the defense, the offense and all three phases of the game. They gave us the opportunity to win. The whole defense played really well.”

The Huskies nearly shocked the crowd and walked away from the Horseshoe with pride after forcing five turnovers, including three interceptions, and having a chance in the final seconds to tie or win the game.

Shawun Lurry picked off two passes, as NIU’s defense held the Buckeyes prolific offense to 13 points, as Ohio State scored a touchdown on an interception return. In fact, the Buckeyes managed just 162 yards on the ground. The Buckeyes failed to score in the fourth quarter, but preserved the win with a late stop on defense.

The Huskies limited Heisman Trophy candidate Ezekiel Elliott to 108 yards rushing on 23 carries, with a long run of just 13 yards.

Toledo had its second straight victory over Power Five Conference team, defeating Iowa State 30-23 in double overtime. The Rockets (2-0) have thrust themselves into early discussion to be a BCS Bowl crasher after defeating Arkansas last week. Smion Jones Moore scored a 10-yard touchdown in the second overtime and the Rockets defense held the Cyclones out of the end zone to end the game. Toledo quarterback Phillip Ely had another strong effort, passing for 138 yards and one touchdown and Kareem Hunt rushed for 129 yards.

Rarely has Kent State made headlines in the last few seasons, but the Golden Flashes nearly knocked off a solid Minnesota team in Minneapolis. The Golden Gophers recorded a hard-fought 10-7 win, but the loss is a positive for Kent State considering many thought Minnesota would be a contender for the Big Ten West Division title.

Central Michigan nearly pulled off a minor upset before losing 30-27 in overtime at Syracuse. The Chippewas remain a mystery team after losing a close game to Oklahoma State, but there’s no doubt surrounding the talent of quarterback Cooper Rush, who passed for 430 yards and two touchdowns.

AKRON (1-2)

Game: Akron 52, Savannah State 9: Senior nose tackle Cody Grice scored three touchdowns and Akron racked up 291 yards rushing for its first win of the season. Grice scored all three of his touchdowns in the first half to pad his career total to seven.

Takeaway: A win is a win. The Zips needed a win badly, plus the offense showed some life with a 52 point effort, 291 yards rushing and 335 yards passing.

“I told the team to savor a 52-9 victory, enjoy it,” Akron coach Terry Bowden said. “Winning cures all ills at least for the day.”

Next: at Louisiana, Sept. 26.

BALL STATE (2-1, 1-0)

Game: Ball State 28, Eastern Michigan 17. Ball State scored 28 unanswered points to erase a 17-0 deficit to win its Mid-American Conference opener. Freshman quarterback Riley Neal led the Cardinals on two long scoring drives in the second half, then two more on back-to-back possessions in the second half.

“It wasn’t an easy win, but this is a much improved team,” Ball State coach Pete Lembo said of Eastern Michigan.

Takeaway: Freshman Riley Neal had an impressive showing, finishing 24 of 28 for 194 yards passing and rushing for 86 yards. The Cardinals have scored 10 of their 12 touchdowns on the ground, so Neal’s strong effort is a good sign.

Next: at Northwestern, Sept. 26.


Game: Memphis 44, Bowling Green 41: Memphis scored 10 unanswered points in the final 11-plus minutes to run its record to 3-0, while Bowling Green dropped to 1-2 on the season.

Takeaway: Scoring points is certainly not an issue for Bowling Green. The Falcons have looked impressive in three games, but stopping teams is another issue. The Falcons led 41-34 with 14:13 left, but Memphis roared back to win its 10th straight game.

Next: at Purdue, Sept. 26.


Game: Buffalo 33, Florida Atlantic 15: Buffalo scored 26 points in the second half, including 19 in the third quarter, and added three defensive scores to win a hard-fought non-conference road game.

Takeaway: Buffalo’s defense, for a change, carried the team. The Bulls forced five turnovers, converting into 24 points, with a safety and three touchdowns. Linebacker Brandon Berry had 10 tackles, as the Bulls had three fumble returns for 105 yards.

Next: vs Nevada, Sept. 26.


Game: Syracuse 30, Central Michigan 27 OT: Jordan Fredericks’ 4-yard touchdown run in overtime sealed the three-point win for Syracuse. The Chippewas rallied from a 24-10 halftime deficit to force overtime when quarterback Cooper Rush found Ben McCord for a 27-yard touchdown pass with seven seconds left. Rush completed 37 passes for 430 yards and two touchdowns and McCord caught 10 passes for 147 yards.

“They’re upset,” CMU coach John Bonamego said. “They lost the game, and that’s the way I want them to be. I don’t ever want them to be satisfied with a loss.”

Takeaway: Cooper Rush is establishing himself as an elite quarterback in the conference. The Chippewas had another strong effort in a loss, and remain a team that can be dangerous come conference play.

Next: at Michigan State, Sept. 26.


Game: Ball State 28, Eastern Michigan 17: Ball State scored 28 straight points to spoil Eastern Michigan’s rare bid for a second straight win early in the season. Brogan Roback passed for 196 yards in his second straight start, and Ikie Calderson set the pace on defense with 17 tackles.

Takeaway: It’s looking like Brogan Roback is the clear starter at quarterback for the Eagles. The Eagles played solid on both sides of the ball, but have yet to learn how to close games. That will come with time.

Next: vs. Army, Sept. 26.


Game: Minnesota 10, Akron 7: The Zips held Minnesota scoreless in the second half and to just 104 yards rushing and 184 passing for the game in the loss.

“It’s disappointing just because we were so close, but I’m super proud of this team for coming out,” Kent State coach Paul Haynes.

Takeaway: Kent State has made big strides from the season opener, but its offense remains a big issue. The Zips’ only score came on Demetrius Monday’s fumble return for an 80-yard touchdown

Next: vs. Marshall, Sept. 26.

MIAMI (1-2)

Game: Cincinnati 37, Miami 33: One week after failing to score a point, Miami tallied 448 yards of total offense and senior quarterback Drew Kummer threw for 176 yards and three touchdowns. The RedHawks finished with 220 yards rushing, as Hayden Moore scored a 1-yard touchdown with 1:13 left to cement the comeback win for Cincinnati.

Takeaway: The Miami offense came alive in a tough four-point loss. The problem was that the RedHawks’ defense allowed 545 yards, including a late touchdown to spoil a possible upset bid. The RedHawks showed good balance on offense, tallying 220 yards rushing and 228 passing.

Next: at Western Kentucky, Sept. 26.


Game: No. 1 Ohio State 20, Northern Illinois 13: The Huskies forced five turnovers and had an opportunity to tie the game in the final minute, but Ohio State’s defense made a key stop to seal the win. The Huskies held Ohio State to 10 points in the second half, including not allowing a point in the fourth quarter.

The Buckeyes managed just 162 yards rushing and 136 passing, while the Huskies netted 110 rushing and 80 passing. Joel Bouagnon rushed for 78 yards and Shawun Lurry had two of NIU’s three interceptions.

“When you lose a game, the positives don’t outweigh the negatives,” NIU coach Rod Carey said. “You’ve got to make the play and take advantage of the opportunities. We will learn from this. They made more plays than we did, but we had plenty of opportunities to win this football game.”

Takeaway: The Huskies came thisclose to forcing overtime or possibly winning the game late in regulation. The Huskies had struggled with slow starts in their first two games, but that problem was fixed. The Huskies showed that they aren’t afraid of the No. 1 team in the country, battling the Buckeyes to the final seconds in Columbus. This can only help the Huskies down the road.

Next: at Boston College, Sept. 26.

OHIO (3-0)

Game: Ohio 35, Southeastern Louisiana 14: Papi White tallied 132 total yards and scored two touchdowns, both rushing, to spark Ohio to a 3-0 start. The Bobcats were led by quarterback Derrius Vick’s career-high 327 yards passing, including finding Brendan Cope for a 67-yard touchdown.

“We were supposed to win, but I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I wanted it to be,” Ohio coach Frank Solich said.

Takeaway: The rain-soaked game was delayed due to lightning, as the Bobcats’ offense never could get rolling, but this was a solid win that can help build confidence for the start of the conference season.

Next: at Minnesota, Sept. 26.

TOLEDO (2-0)

Game: Toledo 30, Iowa State 23 2OT: The Rockets notched their second straight win over a Power Five Conference opponent after defeating Arkansas last week.

Takeaway: Watch out Mid-American Conference. Make that, watch out BCS. The Rockets have set themselves up to be a possible sleeper for a BCS bowl game with their second straight impressive win. Don’t laugh, the Rockets are a Cinderella team, and can possibly run the table to an undefeated season, with their toughest games at home against Northern Illinois and a road contest at nearby Bowling Green.

Next: vs. Arkansas State, Sept. 26.

UMASS (0-2)

Game: Temple 25, UMass 23: Blake Frohnapfel threw for 393 yards and three touchdowns and Tajae Sharpe caught 11 passes for 156 yards, but Temple’s Austin Jones drilled a 32-yard field goal with 12 seconds left to ruin an possible upset bid by the Minutemen.

Takeaway: A healthy and productive Blake Frohnapfel is good news for UMass. The Frohnapfel-Tajae Sharpe connection is leading the offensive attack, with Sharpe catching a career-high 11 passes to run his career mark to 188 catches.

Next: at Notre Dame, Sept. 26.


Game: Western Michigan 52, Murray State 20: Quarterback Zach Terrell threw for 355 yards and Jarvion Franklin rushed for 161 yards to hand the Broncos their first win of the season. Daniel Braverman hauled in 14 catches for 167 yards and two touchdowns and Corey Davis added six receptions for 139 yards and two scores.

Takeaway: The Broncos’ are finally in the win column. The good news, besides the win, was a big game by sophomore running back Jarvion Franklin. When the Broncos can run the ball with success, they are a dangerous team with quarterback Zach Terrell leading the way and wide receivers Daniel Braverman and Corey Davis forming a potent duo.

Next: at Ohio State, Sept. 26.


–Northern Illinois sophomore cornerback Shawun Lurry picked a good time to have his best game of his young career. The West Palm Beach, Fla., native intercepted two passes in NIU’s 20-13 loss at No. 1 Ohio State. He finished with 45 interception return yards and added two tackles and two pass break-ups.

–Northern Illinois junior quarterback Drew Hare had a rough day at Ohio State, completing just 14 of his 21 passes for 80 yards. Hare also threw two interceptions and was sacked four times.

–Bowling Green quarterback Matt Johnson is putting up big numbers early in the season. With numerous weapons at his disposal, Johnson completed 28 passes for 443 yards and four touchdowns in a loss to Memphis.

–Bowling Green wide receiver Roger Lewis failed to lead the Falcons in receptions, but he made up for that in nearly every category against Memphis. Lewis had seven catches for 261 yards and three touchdowns, including a long of 94 yards.

–Western Michigan’s wide receiving tandem of Daniel Braverman and Corey Davis are going to do some damage in MAC play. Braverman caught 14 passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns and Davis added six receptions for 139 yards and two touchdowns in WMU’s win over Murray State.

–Central Michigan quarterback Cooper Rush nearly led the Chippewas to a road win against Syracuse. Although the Orange pulled out a 30-27 win in overtime, Rush completed 37 of his 51 passes for 430 yards and two touchdowns.

–Kareem Hunt rushed for 129 yards and Toledo tallied 171 yards on the ground to record a 30-23 win over Iowa State in double overtime. The Rockets notched their second straight win over a team from a Power Five Conference after knocking off Arkansas last week on the road.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “That’s a heck of a football team. That actually felt more like a Big Ten team, to be honest with you … We tip our hat to them, they played a heck of a ballgame on both sides of the ball. Their quarterback made plays for them, a couple of other guys made plays for them. They came in here ready to play, and that’s a heck of a football team.” — Ohio state linebacker Darron Lee said of Northern Illinois after No. 1 Ohio State escaped with a 20-13 win over NIU in Columus.



1. Northern Illinois almost pulled off perhaps the biggest upset in its school history at No. 1 Ohio State. The Buckeyes’ defense held strong in the final minutes to pull out a 20-13 win over Northern Illinois. The Huskies’ defense looked solid, forcing five turnovers and holding Heisman Trophy candidate Ezekiel Elliott to a hard-fought 108 yards. The Huskies looked like a Big Ten team, with coach Rod Carey not 3-1 all-time against teams from the Big Ten.

2. Toledo is a team that might make some national noise. The Rockets notched their second straight win in as many weeks against a team from a Power Five Conference, defeating Iowa State 30-23 in double overtime. The Rockets have a chance to crash the BCS party, for that possibility was even mentioned in a article prior to the Iowa State contest. Don’t look now, but the Rockets are a dangerous team, both for the rest of the conference.

3. Don’t overlook Ohio. Sure, the Bobcats haven’t played the toughest of schedules, especially with Marshall struggling this season. At 3-0, the Bobcats have a nice blend of experience at quarterback and a solid running game to go along with some playmakers at wide receiver.

4. Can anybody stop Bowling Green’s offense? The Falcons might be the best 1-2 team in the country, or at the very least the most exciting. Memphis defeated Bowling Green 44-41 but Bowling Green racked up 579 yards of total offense and Matt Johnson threw for 443 yards and four touchdowns. Wide receiver Roger Lewis is one of the underrated receivers in the country after catching seven passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns. Lewis has 22 receptions for 461 yards and five touchdowns in three games this season.

5. Western Michigan and Central Michigan cannot be judged by the win-loss column. The Broncos captured their first win of the season in a rout over Murray State, but the Broncos showed the same run-pass balance that vaulted them to a bowl game last season. Meanwhile, Central Michigan lost 30-27 on the road to Syracuse in overtime to fall to 1-2. But Cooper Rush has looked solid at quarterback, as the Chippewas also lost a close decision at home to Oklahoma State.

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