As the calendar flips to its November page we start to realize some things. Fall is in full-swing, the weather is chillier (supposedly), and college football is nearing the home stretch. Thanks to the Mid-American Conference, November also means football every single day of the week.
No longer do we have to suffer through the mid-week blues that are caused by having no football to watch on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. The brilliant people of the MAC felt our pain and did something about it.
#MACtion officially began on Tuesday when the Northern Illinois Huskies went to Toledo for a showdown with the West division-leading Rockets.
Less than an hour before kickoff, the College Football Playoff Selection Committee awarded the undefeated Rockets with the twenty fourth spot in their first rankings of the season. That ranking will go down as the shortest-lived in history.
Northern Illinois at #24 Toledo
This game was entertaining from the jump. The Huskies fumbled on their third play from scrimmage and got bailed out by their defense forcing a turnover on downs. After an NIU punt, the Rockets opened the scoring with a touchdown pass from Phillip Ely to Alonzo Russell who skied to make a great catch in the end zone.
The Huskies answered immediately as Tommylee Lewis flew by the Toledo secondary, caught an easy pass from Drew Hare and waltzed into the end zone untouched. The game was tied at seven, midway through the first quarter.
Terry Swanson and Kareem Hunt took charge on the Rockets’ next drive. The running back tandem accounted for all 83 yards on the drive, including a 58-yard dash from Swanson whose crisp spin move will end up on his career highlight reel. (Speaking of crispy, how bout those all golds Toledo busted out for this one?) Anyway, Hunt took over in the red zone and punched it in, recapturing the lead for the Rockets.
Then things got a bit sloppy. Hidden in that sloppiness was an unlikely conversion on third and 39, after an errant snap had pushed the Huskies way behind the sticks. Three field goals, three turnovers, and four punts later it was halftime, the score 17-16 in favor of Toledo.
Before halftime Northern Illinois suffered two strange and seemingly debilitating injuries to their offensive playmakers. Quarterback Drew Hare and receiver Tommylee Lewis both went down with non-contact injuries that prevented them from returning. The odds were stacked against the Huskies as the second half began.
Four consecutive punts opened the third quarter as both teams played conservatively coming out of the locker room. Then Kareem Hunt took matters into his own hands again, leading the Rockets down the field with a long run and then adding another touchdown.
Each team kicked a field goal on their next possession, making it 27-19.
It’s unfortunate to have to say, but the officiating crew left their mark on this game. A questionable personal foul call on Toledo extended Northern Illinois’ next drive. The Huskies did what good teams do by taking advantage.
Kenny Golladay made an unbelievable one-handed grab in the corner of the end zone that should get some votes for play of the year in college football. Down by two with less than 10 minutes to play Northern Illinois head coach Rod Carey decided to go for the tie. Toledo snuffed out the option attempt to preserve their narrow lead, 27-25.
After Toledo missed a field goal the Huskies had about five minutes left. Their offense shifted into another gear. Stepping up in the absence of Tommylee Lewis, Kenny Golladay made two crucial plays on the drive, one to convert on third down, and the other to get his team into the red zone. Joel Bouagnon, who had been quiet for the majority of the game, took it from there and then gave the Huskies their first lead of the game with a tick under two minutes to play.
The Northern Illinois defense intercepted Phillip Ely’s first pass on the next drive to put the game on ice.
Toledo’s first loss of the season unseated them from the top of the West division. That spot now belongs to Western Michigan who is 5-0 in conference play.
Ohio at Bowling Green
The MAC’s Wednesday night follow-up wasn’t nearly as tight as Tuesday’s premier. Even so, it was nice to have a football game to watch on an otherwise boring Wednesday night. Plus, it was good for people to see how potent this Bowling Green offense is. The Falcons took full advantage of a banged up Ohio Bobcat defense that was simply overmatched.
The Falcons got off to a slow start and had to punt on their first drive of the game. They punted just twice more the rest of the contest. After the first one, they scored on their next four drives.
The first two scores came on runs from Travis Greene. Ohio, however, had an answer for both touchdown drives and it was 14-all with ten minutes to play in the half. Sebastian Smith provided the Bobcats’ highlights, pulling off an amazing leaping catch on the first scoring drive and a tremendous diving grab on the second.
Determined not to be outdone, Bowling Green’s Ronnie Moore caught a pass and turned it into a touchdown by looking like the only guy who knew what was going on. The Falcons had taken the lead for good.
The Falcons’ special teams got in on the action too, blocking a punt on Ohio’s next drive. That setup Bowling Green with a short field that they were able to take advantage of. Quarterback Matt Johnson floated a ball into the corner of the end zone perfectly for Gehrig Dieter to run under it and reel it in. It was 27-14 Falcons at the break.
The second half was all Bowling Green as they pulled away by outscoring Ohio 21-3 in the third frame.
It was one of those nights where everything the Falcons did seemed to be working well, as evidenced by Gehrig Dieter’s circus catch and second touchdown of the night.
Ohio backup quarterback JD Sprague, who had come into the game for the injured Derrius Vick, was not welcomed kindly by the Bowling Green defense. Dernard Turner intercepted a pass that shouldn’t have been thrown and took it 85 yards the other way for a pick six. The rout was officially on.
The Falcons’ next drive ended on an easy pitch-and-catch from Johnson to Roger Lewis, something you’ve seen frequently if you’ve watched any of their games this season. Then, unsatisfied with just two rushing scores, Travis Greene added a third by blazing down the sideline to make it 55-17 midway through the fourth quarter.
On the ensuing possession Maleek Irons delivered punishing blows to multiple Bowling Green defenders on his to the end zone for six pride points. You have to admire a guy who’s still out there playing like that in a game like this.
Even the Falcons’ backups had some fun. James Knapke connected with Teo Redding on a screen pass with three and a half minutes to go, closing the scoring at 62-24.
So, what did we learn? Well, you now know, if you didn’t already, that the MAC offers highly entertaining games in the middle of your dreary work week.
Be advised: the biggest games are yet to come.
Next week’s MACtion includes two games with serious conference championship implications. Toledo hits the road to face Central Michigan on Tuesday as both try to keep pace in the West. Then on Wednesday we get to see a possible MAC championship preview when Bowling Green heads to Western Michigan for a clash of undefeated teams.
Stay tuned down the stretch as we follow mid-week MACtion.