MAC Notebook: Rockets enjoying view from the top

The Sports Xchange

October 18, 2015 at 7:54 pm.

Oct 17, 2015; Toledo, OH, USA; Toledo Rockets quarterback Phillip Ely (12) drops back to pass during the first quarter against the Eastern Michigan Eagles at Glass Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 17, 2015; Toledo, OH, USA; Toledo Rockets quarterback Phillip Ely (12) drops back to pass during the first quarter against the Eastern Michigan Eagles at Glass Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Toledo remained unbeaten with an impressive 63-20 triumph over Eastern Michigan on Saturday. The No. 22 Rockets (6-0, 3-0 MAC West) scored 56 straight points, completing five touchdowns drives in five or fewer plays to set a season high for points, yards and passing efficiency.

“It was a lot of fun, especially on the offensive side,” UT quarterback Phillip Ely said. “We haven’t played a great game so far. I know we’ve been winning games, but on the offensive side, we haven’t really played like we wanted to. I think we did a great job today. We just gotta keep it going.”

The Rockets play at UMass on Saturday before starting a difficult stretch in November, but for right now, Toledo coach Matt Campbell is enjoying the view atop the West standings.

“I think where I’m really excited is to see that group continue to throw and catch the football with some consistency because it’s something we’re going to have to do down the stretch run,” Campbell said.

About 35 miles south of Toledo, Bowling Green improved to 5-3 and 3-0 in the East Division. The Falcons, for a change, received a solid effort from their defense in a 59-10 rout over Akron at Doyt Perry Stadium. The defense held the Zips to 271 yards of total offense, and did not allow a point in the second half.

“This week we played a complete game,” BGSU defensive lineman Terrance Bush said. “Everyone did their assignments, and there weren’t many ‘busts’ in the secondary or in the front seven. It’s nice to have a game where the defense gets praised.”

Western Michigan might be the hottest team in the league now, posting a 49-14 win over Ohio in Athens. At 3-3 and 2-0 in the MAC West, the Broncos ran for 430 yards, with Jamauri Bogan rushing for a team-high 149 yards and LeVante Bellamy adding 135 yards.

Central Michigan and Northern Illinois stayed in the thick of the West Division race, as Central Michigan posted a 51-14 win over Buffalo and Northern Illinois crushed Miami.

AKRON (3-4, 1-2)

Game: Bowling Green 59, Akron 10: Bowling Green outscored Akron 31-10 in the second half to run away with a conference victory. The Zips managed just 104 yards passing and their two quarterbacks combined to throw two interceptions. The Zips did finish with 158 yards rushing, with Conor Hundley leading the way with 69 yards.

Takeaway: The Zips’ defense is on a freefall after a solid start this season. The Falcons’ offense is no match for most teams, let alone a struggling defense and an Akron offense unable to move the ball.

Next: Bye week.

BALL STATE (2-5, 1-2)

Game: Georgia State 31, Ball State 19: Georgia State scored 17 points in the second quarter and Nick Arbuckle scored on a 1-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter to cement a road win over Ball State.

Ball State quarterback Riley Neal passed for 218 yards and two touchdowns, while Jordan Williams caught seven passes for 68 yards and a touchdown for Ball State.

Takeaway: The Cardinals made too many mistakes and allowed 17 points in the second quarter to spoil a possible upset bid.

“It’s a very disappointing loss,” BSU coach Pete Lembo said. “We didn’t play well in the second quarter on either side of the ball … We shot ourselves in the foot execution-wise on offense and basic throwing and catching.”

Next: vs. Central Michigan, Oct. 24.

BOWLING GREEN (5-2, 3-0)

Game: Bowling Green 59, Akron 10: Bowling Green senior quarterback Matt Johnson completed 25-of-30 passes for 357 yards and five touchdowns in a romp over Akron.

The Falcons outscored the Zips 31-0 in the second half, limiting Akron to 104 yards passing and intercepting a pair of passes. Bowling Green allowed just 271 yards of total offense for its best defensive performance of the season.

“I thought it was a total team win,” Bowling Green coach Dino Babers said. “When you look at the stops the defense made, and you can’t take away a blocked kid and a long return on special teams … it’s a very volatile combination when all three things are clicking like that.”

Takeaway: Bowling Green had perhaps its best all-around game of the season, combining its powerful offense with a solid defensive effort and special teams showing. The Falcons have won 15 straight games against MAC East Division teams. Next: at Kent State, Oct. 24.

BUFFALO (2-3, 0-1)

Game: Central Michigan 51, Buffalo 14: Buffalo failed to score in the second and third quarters and Central Michigan quarterback Cooper Rush threw for 313 yards and four touchdowns.

The Bulls couldn’t muster up a solid running game to keep Central Michigan’s potent offense off the field, finishing with 92 yards rushing on 29 carries. Buffalo quarterback Joe Licata threw for 133 yards and one touchdown.

Takeaway: The Bulls are in a bad tailspin and can’t seem to stop any teams lately, leading to another frustrating blowout loss. Buffalo’s offense hasn’t been able to run the ball lately, causing some problems for a leaky and tired defense.

Next: vs. Ohio, Oct. 24.


Game: Central Michigan 51, Buffalo 14: Jessie Kroll caught seven passes for 133 yards and a touchdown and quarterback Cooper Rush passed for 313 yards and four touchdowns to spark the Chippewas.

Central Michigan’s defense had a solid showing in the win, holding Buffalo scoreless in the second and third quarters and just 92 yards rushing.

Takeaway: Central Michigan is a dangerous team, armed with a potent offense and solid defense. The Chippewas rebounded from a tough loss to Western Michigan, and still in contention for the MAC West title.

Next: at Ball State, Oct. 24.


Game: No. 22 Toledo 63, Eastern Michigan 20: Eastern Michigan netted a pair of field goals in the first quarter and held Toledo scoreless in the opening quarter before Toledo exploded for 28 points in the second quarter.

Eastern Michigan quarterback Reginald Bell passed for 121 yards, but was sacked four times and threw an interception. Darius Jackson rushed for 113 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Eagles.

Takeaway: The Eagles played strong in the first 15 minutes, but came unglued in the final three quarters. Reginald Bell and Brogan Roback both took snaps, so a changing of the guard at quarterback might be in store for the next game.

Next: at Northern Illinois, Oct. 24.

KENT STATE (3-4, 2-1)

Game: Kent State 15, UMass 10: The Zips moved into a second-place tie in the Mid-American Conference East Division with a solid win. Freshman quarterback George Bollas, in his first start at Kent State, completed 20 of his 25 passes for 135 yards, including a one-yard touchdown pass to Charles Chandler.

“Our defense did a really good job and a lot of guys played and contributed,” Kent State coach Paul Haynes said. “I’m proud of team effort. The defense did a very good job, but when your offense plays like it did and doesn’t turn the ball over, you always have a chance to win.”

Takeaway: Don’t count out the Golden Flashes yet in the East Division race, not with a showdown against divisional leader Bowling Green this Saturday. The Golden Flashes aren’t flashy or filled with playmakers, but they have a solid defense and rapidly improving offense.

Next: vs. Bowling Green, Oct. 24.

MIAMI (1-6, 0-3)

Game: Northern Illinois 45, Miami 12: Northern Illinois scored 21 first-quarter points and Miami failed to score a touchdown until the fourth quarter to drop its sixth game of the season.

Fred McRae hauled in a 25-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Billy Bahl early in the fourth for Miami’s lone touchdown. The RedHawks finished with 309 total yards, but Northern Illinois tallied 514 yards of total offense.

Takeaway: The RedHawks had nine penalties and Billy Bahl threw an interception and was sacked four times. Miami is stuck in another lost season, vying just to win games is a struggle.

Next: at Western Michigan, Oct. 24.


Game: Northern Illinois 45, Miami 12: Joel Bouagnon rushed for 134 yards and three touchdowns and Drew Hare passed for 203 yards and a touchdown to spark Northern Illinois to its first road win of the season.

The Huskie defense finished with four sacks and an interception, while only allowing a fourth-quarter touchdown.

Takeaway: The Huskies played solid, but not outstanding in a workmanlike win over a struggling Miami team. NIU’s defense had a solid effort in the win, harassing Miami freshman quarterback Billy Bahl. The Huskies rushed for 311 yards and five touchdowns.

Next: vs. Eastern Michigan, Oct. 24.

OHIO (5-2, 2-1)

Game: Western Michigan 49, Ohio 19: Ohio junior Jordan Reid caught a career-high seven passes for 107 yards, but Western Michigan scored 28 straight points to runaway with the victory.

Derrius Vick passed for 167 yards and a touchdown, but Western Michigan’s Daniel Braverman set the tone with a pair of second-quarter touchdown receptions.

“It’s something I can’t explain other than we’ll have to take a look at the film to see where the breakdowns were,” Ohio coach Frank Solich said. “It looked like we made it way too easy for them in the second half, whereas in the first half, we stopped the run very well and made a lot of good plays defensively. And offensively, we struggled to have any sort of consistency and that hurt a little bit. I don’t like what transpired special teams-wise. They won the special teams game and that was also a huge part of it. So I don’t really have an explanation. It was kind of baffling to me to see us fall apart against the run the way we did in the second half, so I’m very anxious to watch the film and see how that transpired.

Takeaway: After a scoreless first quarter, Western Michigan’s offense was unstoppable for the final three quarters. Ohio entered the game one drive away from a perfect 6-0 record, but Western Michigan exposed the Bobcats with a potent offensive attack and further showed the imbalance in the league between the East and West Divisions.

Next: at Buffalo, Oct. 24.

TOLEDO (6-0, 3-0)

Game: No. 22 Toledo 63, Eastern Michigan 20: Toledo quarterback Phillip Ely completed 18 passes for 327 yards and four touchdowns and Terry Swanson ran for 97 yards and a touchdown to keep Toledo undefeated.

The Rockets finished with 373 yards rushing and 238 yards on the ground. Toledo receiver Cody Thompson caught two passes for 110 yard and a touchdown and Corey Jones added seven catches for 90 yards and a touchdown.

Takeaway: The Rockets keep on winning big. The Rockets had a nice balance between the run and pass, with quarterback Phillip Ely playing at a high level through the first six games of the season. The Rockets have another easy contest next week, traveling to UMass before beginning a brutal four-game stretch of games against Northern Illinois, Central Michigan, Bowling Green and Western Michigan.

Next: at UMass, Oct. 24.

UMASS (1-4, 0-1)

Game: Kent State 15, UMass 10: Blake Frohnapfel passed for a season-low 171 yards and did not throw a touchdown, as the UMass offense only rushed for 86 yards in the loss.

Takeaway: For an offense that is known for scoring points in the last year and a half, UMass struggled moving the ball against a Kent State squad. The Minutemen scored all 10 of their points in the second quarter.

Next: vs Toledo, Oct. 24.


Game: Western Michigan 49, Ohio 14: Western Michigan rushed for 430 yards on 44 carries to post an impressive win at Ohio. The Broncos averaged 9.8 yards per carry, with Jamauri Bogan rushing for 149 yards and LeVante Bellamy adding 135 yards.

Takeaway: Don’t look now, but Western Michigan might be finally living up to their potential. The Broncos evened up their record after a sluggish start and are 2-0 in the MAC West Division. The running game is back, and the passing game has been steady all season.

Next: vs. Miami-Ohio, Oct. 24.


–Central Michigan quarterback Cooper Rush passed for 313 yards and four touchdowns, completing 23-of-30 passes with one interception.

–Central Michigan receiver Jesse Kroll had a big day in the win over Buffalo, catching seven passes for 133 yards and a touchdown.

–Toledo scored 56 unanswered points in a blowout win over Eastern Michigan after trailing 6-0 early in the game. The Rockets racked up a season-high 611 yards of offense, with 238 on the ground and 373 passing.

–Toledo’s offensive line has gone largely unnoticed most of the season. The Rockets’ O-line did not allow a sack in the win over Eastern Michigan, and not allowed a sack for six straight games in a string of 206 pass attempts without a sack this season.

–Toledo running back Terry Swanson is proving to be capable fill-in for Kareem Hunt, averaging 24.2 yards on four carries in the win over EMU. He had a career-long 90-yard run in the second quarter to finish with a team-high 97 yards rushing.

–Western Michigan’s Keion Adams finished with two-and-a-half tackles for a loss against Ohio. He added a career-high seven tackles for a loss.

–Western Michigan’s duo of Jamauri Bogan and LeVante Bellamy both rushed for 100-plus yards against Ohio, marking the first time two WMU players had over 100 yards rushing since 2010.

–Northern Illinois junior running back Joel Bouagnon is a touchdown machine. He rushed for a team-high 134 yards and three touchdowns against Miami. For the season, he has 591 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Our defense was spectacular, but when you look at the statistic see 430 yards rushing, that’s our football team right there. That’s a football team. When you can do that all the other stuff opens up. I’m really proud of our team.” — Western Michigan coach P.J. Flecking following a 49-14 road win over Ohio.



1. The two best teams in the Mid-American Conference might reside less than 45 minutes away from each other. Toledo, ranked No. 22, destroyed a hapless Eastern Michigan team on Saturday, while Bowling Green had its best defensive effort of the season. Don’t be shocked if these two close rivals meet for the a second time this season in the MAC title game.

2. Western Michigan is improving every week. The Broncos have a dangerous mix of quality receivers and running backs. Unlike last season, when the Broncos relied on Jarvion Franklin, the WMU offense has three quality backs and can chew up clock with their running game. A 35-point road win over Ohio was definitely the biggest shocker in the conference this week.

3. Northern Illinois is not as powerful as some of its past teams, but quietly building momentum for a stretch run. Quarterback Drew Hare, for the second straight game, has been putting up big numbers in the passing game. Junior Joel Bouganon is a workhorse, with 10 rushing touchdowns this season.

4. Central Michigan destroyed a quality Buffalo team, notching a 51-14 triumph to keep in the thick of the MAC West Division race. The Chippewas can control their own fate if they run the table.

5. Kent State coach Paul Haynes is a doing a nice job this season with his program. The Golden Flashes are in second place in the MAC East Division following a 15-10 win at UMass. Kent State is relying on a solid defense and improving offense to stay in games. The Golden Flashes host East leader Bowling Green on Saturday. The defense will face their toughest test to date against the high-powered BGSU offense.

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