MAC Notebook: Huskies thankful for November

The Sports Xchange

November 22, 2015 at 6:56 pm.

Nov 3, 2015; Toledo, OH, USA; Northern Illinois Huskies safety Marlon Moore (2) celebrates after a turnover during the fourth quarter against the Toledo Rockets at Glass Bowl. Huskies win 32-27. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 3, 2015; Toledo, OH, USA; Northern Illinois Huskies safety Marlon Moore (2) celebrates after a turnover during the fourth quarter against the Toledo Rockets at Glass Bowl. Huskies win 32-27. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Northern Illinois did what Northern Illinois does in November — win. The Huskies have posted one of the best, yet not recognized nationally known streaks over the past few seasons. The Huskies won their 22nd straight game in November by defeating Western Michigan 27-19 on Nov. 19 in DeKalb.

The last time the Huskies lost in November was a 45-31 defeat to Central Michigan on Nov. 27, 2009. The streak includes a 2012 MAC Championship game win on Nov. 20. In all, the Huskies have won seven straight games at home and 35 of their last 36 games, and defeated Western Michigan seven straight times.

“Every team is so different,” NIU coach Rod Carey said. “We don’t look at it like we’ve been there before last year or the year before. You can’t because every team changes year to year … There isn’t any magic fairy dust on this thing in any way, shape or form. It’s really boring and cliche, but that’s how we live.”

All the Huskies (8-3, 6-1) have to do is beat Ohio in DeKalb in their regular season finale and they can punch a ticket to Ford Field for their sixth straight appearance in the MAC Championship game, and third consecutive matchup against Bowling Green, which already has clinched the MAC East title.

The Falcons, though, stumbled in a 44-28 loss to Toledo to end their seven-game winning streak. Bowling Green committed five turnovers and were unable to stop Toledo’s running game. Bowling Green, which has lost six straight games to Toledo, allowed 171 yards rushing, including 153 by Toledo running back Kareem Hunt.

“We’d won seven games in a row and that’s hard to do,” BGSU coach Dino Babers said. “That’s two months of winning, so obviously a loss is difficult. And who we lost to makes it more difficult.”

Although the Falcons (8-3, 6-1 East) have clinched a ticket to the Dec. 4 title game in the Motor City, Bowling Green needs to build some momentum with a strong showing against Ball State this week.

On the other end, Toledo has won two straight tough games after losing to Northern Illinois at home. The Rockets rode a powerful running game and opportunistic defense to shut down Bowling Green’s high-profile offensive attack. The Rockets (9-1, 6-1) close out the regular season in a home game against Western Michigan. Toledo, which had its opener against Stony Brook cancelled, must defeat the Broncos and have Ohio beat Northern Illinois to win the MAC West Division and force a rematch with Bowling Green. If the Huskies and the Rockets both win their final game, Northern Illinois wins the tie-breaker because they won the head-to-head meeting.

“We’ve had our backs to the wall since the loss (to Northern Illinois) two weeks ago, then had to go on the road to beat two really good team, Central Michigan and BG, and next week (Western Michigan in Toledo) will be more of the same,” Toledo coach Matt Campbell said.

AKRON (6-5, 4-3)

Game: Akron 42, Buffalo 21. Quarterback Thomas Woodson passed for 258 yards and a career-high four touchdowns to lead Akron to its sixth win of the season. Akron is bowl eligible for just the second time in its program history since joining the FBS. Donnell Alexander added a career-high 143 yards rushing and two touchdowns and Imani Davis added seven receptions for 118 yards and a touchdown.

“I’m just so thrilled for our guys tonight, finally getting to be bowl eligible” Akron coach Terry Bowden said. I was clear last night that our seniors had a special desire to win this game today. It was a great team effort.”

Takeaway: The Terry Bowden era is starting to bear some more good news after the Zips became bowl eligible for the second time in the program’s history — 10 years after their last bowl appearance. Though the East Division is down this year, the fact that Akron can win seven or eight games is a big step for the once-struggling program.

Next: vs. Kent State, Nov. 27.

BALL STATE (3-8, 2-5)

Game: Ohio 48, Ball State 31. Ball State quarterback Riley Neal passed for 247 yard and two touchdowns and rushed for 62 yards in a loss at Ohio. KeVonn Mabon paced the offense with 10 receptions for 139 yards and a touchdown and Jordan Williams caught three passes for 78 yards and a touchdown.

“We’ve been an inconsistent football team on offense and defense,” Ball State coach Pete Lembo said.

Takeaway: The Cardinals surely can’t be looking forward to playing a motivated Bowling Green team in their regular season finale, not after winning just three of their first eight games. The Cardinals have some positives with some young players, especially freshman quarterback Riley Neal, stepping up, but too many mistakes, on offense and defense, have hurt them in close games.

Next: vs. Bowling Green, Nov. 24.

BOWLING GREEN (8-3, 6-1)

Game: Toledo 44, Bowling Green 28. Toledo scored the game’s first 20 points and held Bowling Green’s potent offense scoreless in the fourth quarter to defeat its local rivals for the sixth season in a row. Bowling Green managed just 94 yards rushing and 274 passing, as Bowling Green quarterback Matt Johnson was 29-for-47 passing for 274 yards and three touchdowns, but was intercepted twice and sacked three times.

Bowling Green’s defense couldn’t stop UT’s rushing attack. Toledo running back Kareem Hunt ran for a game-high 153 yards and two touchdowns and Terry Swanson scored a touchdown. The Falcons hurt themselves with five turnovers.

“We just didn’t execute well enough,” BGSU coach Dino Babers said. “If we make some of those plays, maybe it’s a lot easier, but we didn’t make some and that made it a lot harder.”

Takeaway: There’s two ways to look at Bowling Green’s loss to Toledo. First, the Falcons really had nothing to play for. A letdown was expected after they clinched their third straight MAC East Division title prior to the UT game. On the other side, the Falcons had lost to their I-75 rivals five straight times coming into the game. The Falcons had an opportunity to show that his was a complete team, not just an offense-based program. The Falcons committed five turnovers and trailed by margins of 20-0 and 30-7.

Next: at Ball State, Nov. 24.

BUFFALO (5-6, 3-4)

Game: Akron 42, Buffalo 21. Buffalo quarterback Joe Licata passed for 262 yards and a touchdown, but threw two interceptions and the Bulls managed just 130 yards rushing. The Bulls’ defense allowed 475 yards of total offense, with Akron tallying 217 yards on the ground.

Takeaway: The Bulls let an opportunity to end the season with some momentum, especially with struggling UMass as their last game of the regular season. The Bulls have to defeat UMass to earn six wins to become bowl eligible.

Next: vs. UMass, Nov. 27.


Game: Central Michigan 27, Kent State 14. Central Michigan quarterback Cooper Rush passed for 337 yards and a touchdown to lead the Chippewas to their sixth win of the season. Rush was sacked three times and tossed an interception, but managed to lead CMU to a game-winning touchdown drive late in the third quarter. The Chippewas scored 17 points in the first quarter, but managed just 10 points in the final three quarters to become bowl eligible.

“It always feels great to win and it’s a lot of fun winning on the road,” CMU coach John Bonamego said.

Takeaway: A good bounce-back win following a tough 28-23 loss to Toledo that knocked the Chippewas out of the MAC West race. With a 6-5 record and winnable game against Eastern Michigan to close out the regular season, the Chippewas should finish with seven wins and earn another bowl game appearance.

Next: vs. Eastern Michigan, Nov. 27.


Bye Week

Next: at Central Michigan, Nov. 27.

KENT STATE (3-8, 2-5)

Game: Central Michigan 27, Kent State 14. Kent State scored 14 points in the second quarter, but couldn’t find the scoreboard the rest of the game in dropping its eighth decision of the season. The Golden Flashes finished with 98 yards passing, but managed 189 on the ground, with Trayion Durham scoring a touchdown

Takeaway: The Golden Flashes can finish the regular season on a positive note by defeating local rival and neighbor Akron this week. The Golden Flashes have to find more playmakers in the passing game, and maybe seek help at quarterback in the off-season.

Next: at Akron, Nov. 27.

MIAMI (3-9, 2-6)

Game: Miami 20, UMass 13. Miami closed its season by winning its first road game in over three years, ending a 22-game road losing streak by holding the UMass offense to 250 total yards. Defensive lineman Bryson Albright had two sacks and seven tackles, including game-sealing interception late in the fourth quarter.

Miami quarterback Billy Bahl completed 12 passes for 160 yards and a touchdown and Alonzo Smith added 109 yards rushing.

Takeaway: Miami is slowly building steam toward a strong off-season. The RedHawks’ recruiting class is one of the best in the conference, and now they ended a 22-game road losing streak. Billy Bahl is making small strides every week.


Game: Northern Illinois 27, Western Michigan 19. Northern Illinois 13 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to set itself in prime position for the program’s sixth straight MAC West Division title. The Huskies have won 22 straight November games and won 35 of their last 36 games at home, plus defeated Western Michigan for the seventh straight time.

Jordan Huff sparked the victory with 159 yards rushing, including an 87-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Boomer Mays keyed the defense with a career-high 15 tackles, including 12 solo stops.

Takeaway: All the Huskies have to do is beat Ohio at Huskie Stadium in their next game and they will play Bowling Green for the third straight season in the MAC Championship game. The Huskies have won five straight MAC West titles, and 22 in a row in November.

Next: vs. Ohio, Nov. 24.

OHIO (7-4, 4-3)

Game: Ohio 48, Ball State 31. Ohio running back A.J. Ouellette ran for 121 yards and two touchdowns and J.D. Sprague added 275 yards passing and three touchdown to lead Ohio to its seventh win of the season. The Bobcats broke the game open in the first half, leading 28-3 late in the first half. Ohio scored a season high in points behind a big-play running game.

“I think it’s all of what takes a running game to have a chance to be successful and that’s starting with the O-line,” Ohio coach Frank Solich said. “We were healthy enough to be able to get things done these last three games. That’s huge in point production and yard production.”

Takeaway: The Bobcats are back. Ohio’s up-and-down season is on an upward arc right now. After winning three straight games to start the season, then losing to Minnesota in a close game, the Bobcats won two in a row but then dropped three in a row before rebounding to win their last two games. If the 7-4 Bobcats really want to show signs of being considered one of the best teams in the conference, they must beat Northern Illinois in DeKalb in their final regular season game of the season.

Next: at Northern Illinois, Nov. 24.

TOLEDO (9-1, 6-1)

Game: Toledo 44, Bowling Green 28. Kareem Hunt rushed for 153 yard and two touchdowns and Terry Swanson ran for 52 yards and a touchdown to lead Toledo to its sixth straight win over Bowling Green. Toledo quarterback Phillip Ely passed for 208 yards and a touchdown and Toledo’s defense allowed just 94 yards rushing and tallied three sacks and two interceptions. In all, the UT defense forced five turnovers and helped give the Rockets a 20-0 lead in the first half.

“That’s a team with so much talent, good skill players, and they can run the ball, too,” Toledo coach Matt Campbell said of Bowling Green. “I did think there were some things we could to do counterbalance all that and No. 1 was to create turnovers, Sure enough, it was a huge difference in the game.”

Takeaway: A Top 25 team a few weeks ago, the Rockets ended Bowling Green’s seven-game winnings streak and defeated the Falcons for the sixth straight time. The win keeps UT’s chances for the MAC West title alive, but they need to beat Western Michigan and have Ohio defeat Northern Illinois in DeKalb.

Next: vs. Western Michigan, Nov. 27.

UMASS (2-9, 1-6)

Game: Miami 20, UMass 13. Miami limited UMass to 250 yards of total offense and one touchdown to end a 22-game road losing streak. The Minutemen scored their lone touchdown late in the third quarter when Marquis Young broke loose for a 28-yard touchdown run.

Takeaway: The season ender can’t come soon enough for the struggling Minutemen. Gone is the once-exciting offense that at least made UMass games tolerable.

Next: at Buffalo, Nov. 27.


Game: Northern Illinois 27, Western Michigan 19. Northern Illinois reeled off 13 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to spoil an upset bid by Western Michigan in DeKalb. For the second game in a row, the Broncos’ had red zone problems that attributed to their loss.

Western Michigan quarterback Zach Terrell passed fro 331 yards and two touchdowns, but was sacked four times and threw an interception. Daniel Braverman led the Broncos with nine receptions for 126 yards and a touchdown and Corey Davis added seven catches for 123 yards and a touchdown.

Takeaway: The Broncos needed a win to stay in the hunt for the MAC West title, but lost for the second straight game due to a faulty offense in the red zone. Against Bowling Green and NIU, the Broncos have struggled converting at key moments in the red zone.

Next: at Toledo, Nov. 27.


–Miami senior defensive lineman Bryson Albright played a key role in ending his team’s 22-game road losing streak at UMass. Albright had seven tackles, including two sacks, and sealed the win with an interception with just under five minutes left in regulation.

–Akron quarterback Thomas Woodson, a sophomore, set a career-high with four touchdown passes in a victory over Buffalo. Woodson was 17-for-30 for 258 yards to make the Zips bowl eligible for just the second time in program history since joining the FBS.

–Northern Illinois running back Jordan Huff notched his 100-yard rushing game of his career with a 159-yard effort against Western Michigan. Huff had an 87-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to record the seventh-longest run in school history and the longest by an NIU tailback since LeShon Johnson in 1993.

–NIU linebacker Boomer Mays came on big in a big national televised contest. Mays recorded a career-best 15 tackles, including 12 solo stops, and added two pass breakups in the fourth quarter.

–Central Michigan quarterback Cooper Rush overcame some rough moments to pass for 337 yards and a touchdown to lead his team to their sixth win of the season. Rush is 284-for-421 passing for 3,312 yards and 23 touchdowns with nine interceptions in 11 games this season.

–Toledo running back Kareeem Hunt had a season-best 153 yards in a win over Bowling Green. Hunt added two rushing touchdowns to extend his career total to 31 rushing touchdowns. For his career, Hunt has 35 total touchdowns.

–Ball State wide receiver KeVonn Mabon recorded a career-high 312 all-purpose yards in a loss at Ohio. He became the first BSU player to surpass 300 all-purpose yards in a game since Dante Love in 2008. Mabon had 10 receptions for 139 yards and 173 yards in kickoff returns.

–Ball State freshman quarterback Riley Neal had one of his best games of his young career. He threw for 247 yards to pass the 2,000-yard mark for the season. He added two passing touchdowns and a career-long 41-yard run in the second quarter, finishing the drive with a touchdown run.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “After Toledo last week, we put a lot into that, and this week we were, ‘Alright, we need to turn around and this is a really big game for us.’ We want to become bowl eligible and we wanted to finish strong. We don’t want to let Toledo beat us twice. We responded really well in practice. We got the win.” — Central Michigan wide receiver Jesse Kroll after his team beat Kent State following a tough loss to Toledo the week before.



1. Northern Illinois is in the driver’s position to win its sixth straight MAC West Division title. The Huskies defeated Western Michigan in DeKalb to be locked in a tie atop the West standings with Toledo at 6-1. The Huskies own the tie-breaker if both teams finish with the same record because they beat the Rockets. The Huskies would play Bowling Green for the third straight season on Dec. 4 in the MAC title game if they win the West title. The Huskies have won 22 straight games in November.

2. Toledo owns Bowling Green. The Falcons can’t beat their local rivals in recent years. The Rockets defeated Bowling Green for the sixth straight time, this time adding more insult by ending BGSU’s seven-game winning streak on their home field. The Rockets have won their last two games after dropping a tough game to Northern Illinois to improve to 9-1. The Rockets need NIU to lose to Ohio and have to beat Western Michigan in Toledo to win the MAC West title.

3. Bowling Green’s heart has to be questioned after losing big to Toledo. The Rockets led 20-0 in the first half. The Falcons had won seven in a row, but dropped their sixth straight to their I-75 rivals. The two schools are separated by 45 minutes, but the Falcons might have suffered a letdown because they clinched the East title the previous week.

4. Akron became bowl eligible for the second time in school history since joining the FBS. The Zips’ last bowl game came 10 years ago when they won the MAC title. Central Michigan won its sixth game to also become bowl eligible, while Buffalo needs to win its final regular season game to become bowl eligible. Currently, Bowling Green, Ohio, Akron, Northern Illinois, Toledo, Western Michigan and Central Michigan are all bowl eligible with six or more wins.

5. Normally Miami doesn’t make headlines in the conference, at least in recent years, but the RedHawks deserve some attention for ending a 22-game road losing streak in a 20-13 win at UMass. The Redhawks became the first conference team to close its season, ending with a 3-9 overall mark and 2-6 standard in the MAC East. The RedHawks won two of their final three games, and have one of the better recruiting classes at this point of the season among conference teams.

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