Players of the Week
MAC East Division Update:
Three-time defending MAC Champion Marshall moved to within one game of clinching a berth in this year's title game with a 20-13 win at Bowling Green. If the Thundering Herd wins at home this week versus Miami, Marshall will be in the Dec. 2 game to determine the league's representative to the Motor City Bowl. Marshall holds the tiebreaker against Akron, and a win by the Herd against the RedHawks would give Miami its second division loss with one game to play. Miami can win the division if it beats Marshall this week and Buffalo on Nov. 18, and if Akron loses against either Buffalo this week or Kent State on Nov. 18. Akron would need Marshall to lose both its remaining games (Miami and Ohio) and the Zips would have to win their last two games in order to win the division.
MAC West Division Update:
Western Michigan needs to win just one of its two remaining games (Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan) to secure a spot in the league's Dec. 2 title contest. The defending champion Broncos hold the tiebreaker against Toledo, the only other West Division team with just one loss. The Rockets could win the division if WMU loses twice and Toledo beats Ball State this week.
No Voters Needed:
The upcoming Presidential election has nothing on the close race for the MAC rushing title. Western Michigan's Robert Sanford and Toledo's Chester Taylor are neck-and-neck for the league's rushing title with two weeks remaining. Sanford has gained 1,180 yards, an average of 131.1 yards per game, while Taylor's 1,175 yards compute to 130.6 yards per game. In addition to the regular-season stats, the rushing yardage from the league's Dec. 2 championship game will be included in the final stats and one of the two will be in that game. Taylor rushed for 230 yards in UT's 38-24 win at Northern Illinois this week while Sanford keyed WMU's 42-3 win at Ball State with 151 yards.
After not completing a pass in the first-half (0-1), Miami's Mike Bath was 9-of-18 for 213 yards and two touchdowns in the second half as the RedHawks rallied for a 27-24 win over Ohio. Miami came back from a 24-13 fourth-quarter deficit. Earlier this year, Miami beat Vanderbilt 33-30 after trailing 30-20 with under three minutes in the game.
Marshall's special teams sparked a Herd victory for the second straight week. Maurice Hines' 60-yard punt return for a touchdown with 2:45 remaining in the fourth quarter gave Marshall a 20-13 win over Bowling Green. Hines' heroics was the final play in Marshall's 17-0 fourth-quarter scoring blitz. Two weeks ago, Curtis Jones' 83-yard kickoff return set up a Herd touchdown in its comeback win at Akron.
Bring In the Closer:
In its last three wins, over East Division foes Kent State, Akron and Bowling Green, Marshall has outscored its opposition 44-7 in the fourth quarter.
The most wins by a MAC team that was winless the previous year is five, set in 1966 by Ohio University. The Bobcats were 0-10 in 1965 and improved to a 5-5 mark the next season. This year's Ball State team is 4-5 after an 0-11 slate in 1999.
Neal Nears Record:
Western Michigan wide receiver Steve Neal has his eyes on the league's all-time record for receptions and receiving yards. Neal is 12 receptions and 95 yards shy of the MAC career standard of 229 receptions and 3,513 yards set by Kent State's Eugene Baker from 1995-98. Neal's most recent outing resulted in five receptions for 63 yards in WMU's 42-3 win at Ball State.
National Player of the Year Candidate:
Akron's Dwight Smith, second nationally in interceptions with eight, is among the 15 players listed as semifinalists for The Football News Defensive Player of the Year. Smith is the only MAC player listed on either offense or defense for the national awards. He was also the subject of a column in the Oct. 23 issue of Sports Illustrated under the title of "Akron's Interception King." In the Zips' opening game of the season, Smith had a pick off a pass attempt from Heisman candidate Michael Vick, just one of five interceptions thrown by Vick this season.
Several MAC student-athletes have been selected for postseason bowls. Miami's tarting left tackle Alex Sulfsted has accepted an invitation to the 2001 Rivals.com Hula Bowl scheduled for 8 p.m. (EST) on Jan. 20 at War Memorial Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii. Wide receiver Sly Johnson will play in the 2001 Delchamps Senior Bowl slated for 2 p.m. (EST) Jan. 20 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala. Toledo linebacker Kevin Rollins has also been selected for the Hula Bowl and Northern Illinois' offensive tackle Ryan Diem has been tapped for the Blue-Gray Classic Senior Bowl and Tyco Gridiron Classic.
Pinkel Moves Up:
Toledo's 38-24 win at Northern Illinois was the 51st league win for Rocket head coach Gary Pinkel, third best all-time. Pinkel's 71 overall wins as a MAC head coach are fourth all-time, behind Herb Deromedi (107, CMU, 1978-93), Bill Hess (108, Ohio, 1958-77) and Doyt Perry (77, BGSU, 1955-64).
Blackney Ties Schudel:
Bowling Green head coach Gary Blackney, who earlier in the year announced his resignation effective the end of the 2000 season, earned his 60th career win in the Falcons' 20-6 triumph over Eastern Michigan Oct. 21. The win ties Blackney with former Ball State coach Paul Schudel (1985-94) for eighth place all-time. It was also Blackney's 47th MAC win, tying him with Schudel for seventh on that list.
Ball State's four-game winning streak was snapped in a 42-3 loss to Western Michigan. The Cardinals' success was the team's best since a four-game winning streak to end the 1997 season. Redshirt freshman quarterback Talmadge Hill led the Cardinals to their four wins by completing 60-of-95 passes (63.2%) for 759 yards, eight touchdowns and six interceptions. Hill also picked up 177 rushing yards in the four games. The last time the Cardinals won as many as five in a row was during an eight-game winning streak in 1996.
Cardinal Sophomore Dazzles:
Redshirt sophomore Marcus Merriweather rushed for a MAC season-high 257 yards and added three touchdowns in the Cardinal's 38-34 win at Central Michigan two weeks ago. Merriweather added 113 yards against Western Michigan last week and has rushed for 548 yards in the last three games.
The league's second, third and fourth all-time leading pass receivers in history are current players. Western Michigan's Steve Neal is second with 218 receptions, Northern Illinois' Justin McCareins is third with 195 and Marshall's Nate Poole is fourth with 189.
Third Time Through:
Western Michigan's Robert Sanford became the first MAC player to reach 1,000 rushing yards (1,029) this season with his 183 at Kent State on Oct. 28. Sanford, now with 1,180 yards also has 1,000-yard seasons to his credit in 1999 (1,092) and 1997 (1,033).
Rock(et) Solid Defense:
Toledo's defense recorded its third shutout of the season in its 42-0 win over Marshall on Oct. 14. The Rockets lead the MAC in total defense (273.4 yards allowed per game), and rushing defense (81.7) and rank second in scoring defense (11.7), ranking eighth, fifth and fourth nationally, respectively, in those categories.
Among The Voters:
Both Western Michigan, a 42-3 winner over Ball State, and Toledo, a 38-24 victor at Northern Illinois, continued to receive notice in the national polls this week. In the respective Associated Press and USA TODAY/ESPN Coaches' polls, WMU is 27th in both, while the Rockets stand 34th and 31st.
Of the eight teams nationally who have not allowed as many as 30 points in a single game this year, three are in the MAC (Ohio, Toledo and Western Michigan). The others are Florida State, TCU, Texas A&M, Colorado State and South Carolina.
This Week's Games - Saturday, November 11
Ball State Cardinals (4-5, 2-2 MAC West) at Toledo Rockets (8-1, 3-1 MAC West), 1:00
Glass Bowl (26,428/artificial turf) Toledo, Ohio.
The Coaches: BSU-Bill Lynch (Butler 1977) 25-40/sixth season; UT-Gary Pinkel (Kent State 1975) 71-37-3/10th season.
The Series: tied 12-12-1
Toledo kept its slim West Division title hopes alive with a 38-24 win at Northern Illinois last week ... UT can only take the divisional championship if it beats Ball State and if Western Michigan losses its two remaining games ... in its win over the Huskies, Toledo allowed no points in the second half for the fifth time this year ... the Rockets have won 11 of their last 12 games dating back to last year ... Ball State had its four-game winning streak snapped last week in a 42-3 loss to Western Michigan ... Cardinals' QB Talmadge Hill went into the WMU game as the league leader in passing efficiency but was held to 7-of-19 passing for 55 yards by the league's No. 2 team in total defense ... Hill still is ranked second in passing efficiency at 132.4 (93-of-156, 1,118 yds., 12 TDs, 10 int.) ... BSU's Marcus Merriweather continued his efficient running with 113 yards and is listed fourth in the MAC in rushing with 104.1 yards per game ... Merriweather is 167 yards shy of becoming the ninth player in school history to run for 1,000 yards in a season ... BSU, in compiling a 4-1 mark its last five games, has averaged 223 rushing yards per game, that after an average of 90.5 its first four games of 2000 ... BSU has also forced 10 turnovers in those five games ... the Cardinals' defense will be challenged by the multi-talented Rockets' offense that features the league's second top rusher and second best scoring offense (35.3 ppg) ... UT's Chester Taylor dashed for 230 yards against Northern Illinois to close within five yards of the leader (WMU's Robert Sanford) in the league's rushing race with 1,175 yards ... QB Tavares Bolden has 10 touchdown passes and just three interceptions while completing 59.5% (144-of-242) of his passes for 1,341 yards ... Mel Long has a team-high 44 receptions and has caught a pass in 44 consecutive games ... Long's 18 career touchdown receptions are a school record ... UT has won the last two in the series and four of the last six ... a win for the Rockets would be their third nine-win season in the last six years.
Western Michigan Broncos (8-1, 3-0 MAC West) at Central Michigan Chippewas (1-8, 0-3 MAC West), 1:00
Kelly/Shorts Stadium (30,199/artificial turf) Mount Pleasant, Mich.
The Coaches: WMU-Gary Darnell (Oklahoma State 1970) 30-13/fourth season at WMU; CMU-Mike DeBord (Manchester 1978) 1-8/first season.
The Series: WMU leads 30-39-2
Television: ESPN Plus
The Broncos can secure the West Division berth in the MAC championship game with a win at a place where they've gone 0-10-1 since 1973 ... CMU has dropped its last seven in a row since a 17-7 win over Akron on Sept. 9 ... WMU's eight-game winning streak includes last week's 42-3 triumph at Ball State, the team's fourth consecutive win on the road ... CMU lost a 31-15 decision at Eastern Michigan ... WMU's Robert Sanford is leading the MAC in rushing at 131.1 yards per game and will face a defense allowing the most rushing yards per game in the MAC (274.3) ... Sanford has five consecutive games with 100-plus rushing yards with a recent outing of 151 at Ball State ... Sanford became the Broncos all-time leader in touchdowns with 41, which is also fourth best in league history ... Josh Bush leads the MAC in punt returns (14.6 ypr) and is on pace to become the first Bronco since Randy Blackmore in 1982 to lead the MAC in that category ... QB Jeff Welsh, in his first year as a starter, has completed 58.7% (162-of-267) of his passes for 1,978 yards and 11 TDs with seven interceptions ... WMU leads the MAC and ranks third nationally in scoring defense, allowing 11 points per game ... CMU's 12.2 ppg is tied for 12th in the league, but the Chippewas have averaged 19.5 ppg in their last two outings ... the Chippewas have scored first in five of nine games this year, including the last three in a row ... Brian Leigeb became the school's all-time leader in tackles with 450 to break Ray Bentley's mark of 443 ... although Eric Salani has just nine receptions, four of those are for touchdowns ... QB Pete Shepherd completed 12-of-19 passes at EMU but suffered his first interception of the season ... Shepherd entered the game with no interceptions in 116 attempts before throwing two picks, nevertheless his 118.4 efficiency rating is sixth best among MAC QBs ... Tedaro France had his fifth interception of the season last week, which ties him for the second highest total in the conference ... the teams have alternated wins in the last six meetings of the series with WMU a 38-16 victor last year.
Northern Illinois Huskies (5-4, 1-2 MAC West) at Eastern Michigan Eagles (2-7, 1-2 MAC West), 1:00
Rynearson Stadium (30,200/astro turf) Ypsilanti, Mich.
The Coaches: NIU-Joe Novak (Miami 1967) 13-40/fifth season; Jeff Woodruff (Kent State 1979) 2-7/first season.
The Series: NIU leads 16-12-2
EMU snapped its seven-game losing streak last week in a 31-15 win over Central Michigan, a contest which gave Jeff Woodruff his first-ever MAC win as a head coach ... NIU has dropped two of its last three after last week's 38-24 loss to Toledo, but has a chance to close with a winning season for the first time since 1990 ... the Eagles' John White rushed for 137 yards and two touchdowns, which marked just the second 100-plus yard rushing outing this year by an EMU player (White had 111 yards at Temple) ... James Willingham sealed the win versus CMU with a 56-yard interception return for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter ... also leading the Eagles' defensive charge was LB Kenny Philpot, whose big plays included two forced fumbles and three tackles for a loss ... QB Walter Church has completed 59.4% (187-of-315) of his passes for 1,814 yards, nine TDs and five interceptions with his top target the league-leader in receptions in Kenny Christian (68 rec., 696 yds., 3 TDs) ... NIU, meanwhile, boasts the league's top passing efficiency QB in Chris Finlen at 133.0 (110-of-193 for 1,560 yds., 9 TDs, 7 int.) ... FL Justin McCareins is the MAC leader in all-purpose yards (175.9 ypg), receiving yards (112.9 ypg) and receiving touchdowns (9) ... with McCareins, Finlen and TB Thomas Hammock (1,083 rushing yards), the Huskies have a 1,000-yard receiver, 1,000-yard passer and 1,000-yard rusher for the first time since 1978 ... Hammock's 16 rushing TDs is tied for the best in the MAC, however an ankle sprain slowed him versus Toledo, but only after he gained 160 yards ... NIU leads the MAC in scoring with 337 points, which is just eight shy of the school record ... Kevin Selover is 11 tackles short of 300 for his career and is tied for 17th on NIU's all-time list ... NIU has won the last two meetings in this series, including last year's 30-23 contests.
Ohio Bobcats (5-4, 2-2 MAC East) at Bowling Green Falcons (2-7, 1-4 MAC East), 1:30
Doyt L. Perry Stadium (30,599/natural grass) Bowling Green, Ohio.
The Coaches: Ohio-Jim Grobe (Virginia 1975) 31-33-1/sixth season; BGSU-Gary Blackney (Connecticut 1967) 60-48-2/10th season.
The Series: BG leads 30-20-2.
Both teams saw fourth-quarter leads disappear last week, leading to defeat ... BG led Marshall 13-3 before losing 20-13, while Ohio had a 24-13 margin slip away in a 27-24 loss at Miami ... the Bobcats also saw their three-game winning streak go away ... Ohio QB Dontrell Jackson rushed for 211 yards on 41 carries, an average of 5.1 yards per attempt ... Ohio also received 91 yards from Joe Sherrill, 48 from Raynald Ray and 42 by Chad Brinker as the team rushed for 399 yards ... the Bobcats have a MAC leading 319.4 rushing yards per game with Jackson's 82.6 ranking seventh and Brinker's 56.3 10th ... Dave Zastudil moved into second place nationally in punting (45.5) as his four kicks at Miami went for an average of 50.2 yards, including a long of 69 yards ... Zastudil, a junior, led the MAC in punting his freshman and sophomore seasons ... PK Kevin Kerr became Ohio's single-season kick scoring leader with 66 ... BG held a 13-0 halftime lead at home versus Marshall, thanks to a 22-yard TD pass from Andy Sahm to David Bautista and two Mike Knapp filed goals (22, 27) ... Bautista caught six passes for 78 yards and ranks third in the MAC with 55 receptions and fourth in receiving yards with 689 ... freshman Janssen Patton nabbed his fourth interception of the year ... the Falcons' defense is allowing a MAC low of 2.9 yards per rush and will match up against Ohio's potent option attack that averages 5.5 yards per rushing attempt, the league's best ... Ohio has won three of the last four meetings but have not won at BG since a 21-20 victory in 1980 ... the Bobcats' win last year came in a 17-10 contest in Athens.
Buffalo Bulls (2-7, 2-2 MAC East) at Akron Zips (4-5, 3-1 MAC East), 7:00
Rubber Bowl (35,202/astroturf) Akron, Ohio.
The Coaches: UB-Craig Cirbus (Buffalo 1980) 19-45/sixth season; Lee Owens (Bluffton 1977) 23-41/sixth season.
The Series: Akron leads 1-0.
Buffalo, despite the announcement last week of head coach Craig Cirbus not having his contract renewed, snapped a four-game losing streak with a 20-17 overtime win against Kent State, the first OT game in school history ... Akron was idle last week but has dropped its last three games, all at home, and the last two by a total of six points ... the Zips still have a chance for a winning record with wins against Buffalo this week and Kent State next week ... it would mark the first time ever at the I-A level the Zips have produced back-to-back seasons above .500, they were 7-4 last year ... Akron had back-to-back winning seasons in 1985 (8-4) and 1986 (7-4) while at the I-AA level ... Zips' QB Butchie Washington ranks third in the MAC in passing efficiency at 128.1 (120-of-239, 50.2%, 13 TDs, 9 int.) ... two of Washington's receivers also rank among the top MAC pass catchers in Lavel Bailey (37 rec., 746 yds, and 7 TDs) and Jake Schifino (34, 583, 3) ... UA's Brandon Payne is just 146 yards shy of the first Zip at the I-A level to rush for 1,000 yards in a season ... Dwight Smith's eight interceptions continues to lead the MAC and also ranks second nationally ... in UB's win over Kent State, QB Joe Freedy passed for a career-best 323 yards, completing 63.8% (23-of-36) of his passes ... Freedy's 203 passing yards per game is the league's fifth highest total ... his targets last week found Andre Ford for 10 receptions and 158 yards and Dahnel Singfield for six receptions and 115 yards, the first UB duo to reach 100-plus receiving yards in a game in two years ... LB Duane Williams recorded his MAC-leading ninth sack of the season ... the Zips won the only other meeting between these teams last year in Buffalo, 17-10, in what was the Bull's first-ever MAC game.
Miami RedHawks (5-4, 3-1 MAC East) at Marshall Thundering Herd (5-4, 4-0 MAC East), 7:00
Marshall Stadium (40,000/Artificial turf) Huntington, W.Va.
The Coaches: Miami-Terry Hoeppner (Franklin College 1969) 12-8; Marshall-Bob Pruett (Marshall 1965) 55-8/fifth year.
The Series: Miami leads 29-6-1
Television: ESPN Plus.
Both teams are alive for the berth in the MAC Championship game slated for Dec. 2 in Huntington ... Marshall clinches that berth with a win over Miami ... the RedHawks can take the title with a win over Marshall this week and Buffalo next week, but must have Akron lose one of its two remaining games ... both teams are coming off of fourth-quarter comeback wins ... Marshall won at Bowling Green, 20-13, after trailing 13-3 in the final quarter ... Miami fought back from a 24-13 fourth-quarter deficit for a 27-24 win at home versus Ohio ... RedHawk QB Mike Bath, who was 0-1 passing in the first half, rebounded to direct the comeback with a 9-of-18 performance for 213 yards and two touchdowns, both to Jason Branch (54 and 37 yards) ... Branch, replacing the injured Ty Buxton, totaled five receptions for 143 yards ... Steve Little went over the 100-yard mark for the third time in five games with a total of 133 yards and two touchdowns ... freshman MLB Terrell Jones had 23 tackles, (16 solo, 7 assisted) including two sacks and a forced fumble ... Marshall has a three-game winning streak and can secure the school's 17th consecutive winning season with one more win ... at BG, the Herd defense came up with a season-high three interceptions with Max Yates and Sam Goines recording their first ever picks and Chris Crocker grabbing his third of the year ... Nate Poole needs 11 receptions to reach 200 for his career ... Marshall QB Byron Leftwich had a streak of 97 pass attempts without an interception snapped on his first attempt at BG ... Leftwich has a MAC-high 14 touchdown passes and is tied for the league's best passing percentage at 59.6% (202-of-339) ... Marshall's winning touchdown came on a 60-yard punt return by Maurice Hines with 2:45 left in the fourth quarter ... Marshall has won the last two meetings in this series.
Idle This Week But Worth Noting:
Kent State (1-9): The Golden Flashes lost a 20-17 overtime game at Buffalo and close out the season Nov. 18 by hosting rival Akron ... KSU and UA will be meeting for the 43rd time with the Zips holding a 22-18-2 series advantage ... versus Buffalo, QB Jeff Valentino passed for a career-high 185 yards on 18-of-30 attempts ... LB Matt Rayl registered 15 tackles, five tackles for a loss and a sack versus the Bulls.