Week 12 Football Notes

Updated 9/6/1997

Last week Marshall secured a spot as the East Division champion in the MAC Championship game set for Dec. 2 in Huntington and to be televised nationwide on ABC-TV. This week Western Michigan can do the same. The Broncos will represent the West Division if they win at home against Eastern Michigan. If WMU loses, the Toledo will play the Thundering Herd for the right to go to the Motor City Bowl on Dec. 27 to face an opponent from Conference USA.

MAC East Division Update:
Marshall secured its fourth straight berth in the MAC Championship game with a solid 51-31 triumph over Miami Saturday night. The Thundering Herd improved to 5-0 in the division with one game remaining (at Ohio) and have the tiebreaker against the only other East Division team with one loss (Akron at 4-1). An Ohio win over Marshall and an Akron win at Kent State on Saturday would give the Zips a share of the East Division title.

MAC West Division Update:
Western Michigan must win at home this Saturday in a game against Eastern Michigan in order for the Broncos to advance to their second consecutive MAC Championship game. If WMU loses, Toledo (4-1) will represent the West. WMU, 3-1 in the division, lost a 21-17 decision at Central Michigan last week. A win would have secured the championship berth for the Broncos. The Rockets have guaranteed no less than a co-championship in the West Division.

Two MAC players are listed among the semifinalists for prestigious national awards. Akron's Dwight Smith is among the 12 semifinalist candidates for the Jim Thorpe Award that has been presented annually to the nation's outstanding defensive back. The three finalists will be announced Nov. 21 and the winner will be revealed Dec. 7 during ESPN's College Football Awards Show from Disney World. Western Michigan's Robert Sanford is among the eight semifinalists for the Doak Walker Award, given to the nation's top running back. The three finalists will be named Nov. 30 with the winner announced Dec. 7 on ESPN's College Football Awards Show.

And the Winner Is...:
The on-going Presidential election spillover 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 one week remaining. Sanford has gained 1,363 yards, an average of 136.3 yards per game, while Taylor's 1,336 yards compute to 133.6 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, so, reflecting national politics, the MAC rushing title will not be decided until Dec. 2.

Best Comeback:
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 4-6 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 eight receptions and 39 yards shy of the MAC career standard of 229 receptions and 3,513 yards set by Kent State's Eugene Baker from 1995-98.

National Player of the Year Candidate:
Akron's Dwight Smith, first nationally in interceptions with nine, is among the 15 players listed as semifinalists for The Football News Defensive Player of the Year. Smith 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 picked off a pass attempt from Heisman candidate Michael Vick, just one of five interceptions thrown by Vick this season.

Bowl Bound:
Several MAC student-athletes have been selected for postseason bowls. Miami's starting 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. Western Michigan wide receiver Steve Neal has been tapped for the Hula Bowl. Akron defensive back Dwight Smith is slated to appear in both the Tyco Gridiron Classic and Delchamps Senior Bowl.

Pinkel Moves Up:
Toledo's 31-3 win over Ball State was the 52nd league win for Rocket head coach Gary Pinkel, third best all-time. Pinkel's 72 overall wins as a MAC head coach are fourth all-time, behind Herb Deromedi (110, 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. Blackney will coach his final game with the Falcons on Nov. 22 as BGSU travels to Toledo for the 65th meeting in that rivalry.

2-3-4 All-Time:
Three of the league's top four all-time leading pass receivers in history are current players. Western Michigan's Steve Neal is second with 222 receptions, while Northern Illinois' Justin McCareins and Marshall's Nate Poole are tied for third with 198.

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 (274.2 yards allowed per game), and rushing defense (81.6) and rank second in scoring defense (10.8), ranking sixth, fifth and third nationally, respectively, in those categories.

Among The Voters:
Both Western Michigan and Toledo continue to receive notice in the national polls this week. In the respective Associated Press and USA TODAY/ESPN Coaches' polls, Toledo is 29th and 30th, while WMU is 35th in both polls.

This Week's Games - Saturday, November 18

Miami RedHawks (5-5, 3-2 MAC East) at Buffalo Bulls (2-8, 2-3 MAC East), 1:00
UB Stadium (31,000/grass) Buffalo, N.Y.
The Coaches: Miami-Terry Hoeppner (Franklin College 1969) 12-9/second season; UB-Craig Cirbus (Buffalo 1980) 19-46/sixth season.
The Series: Miami leads 2-0.
Miami will be looking for a winning season for the seventh consecutive year, having last dropped below the .500 mark in 1993 with a 4-7 campaign ... the Bulls are trying to send head coach Craig Cirbus, whose contract was not renewed, out on a winning note ... both teams are coming off of losses on the road, Miami 51-31 at Marshall and Buffalo 49-14 at Akron ... the RedHawks' loss was their fourth straight on the road, the first time since the end of the 1992 and start of the 1993 seasons that has happened ... this will be the first time ever Miami has played at Buffalo ... RedHawk wide receiver Jason Branch continued his surging play, catching a career-best seven passes for 86 yards and a TD at Marshall, one week after catching the game-winning pass against Ohio ... RB Steve Little registered his fourth 100-yard plus game in the last six contests with 103 yards on 22 carries ... Little's 85 ypg average ranks sixth in the MAC ... QB Mike Bath passed for his 49th career touchdown, tied for seventh best in MAC history ... Bath's 231 passing yards per game is second in the MAC this season ... UB's Marquis Dwarte rushed for a career-high 163 yards in the loss at Akron ... Dwarte's previous best was an 87-yard effort at Ohio ... Bulls' QB Joe Freedy continues to rank among the league leaders in passing efficiency (9th at 110.1) and total offense (8th at 174.3 ypg) ... a win by Buffalo would improve the team's total by three from last year's record ... Miami's two previous wins in the series came last year, 43-0, and in 1951, 27-7, both in Oxford.

Connecticut Huskies (3-7, Independent) at Ball State Cardinals (4-6, 2-3 MAC West), 1:00
Ball State Stadium (21,581/grass) Muncie, Ind.
The Coaches: UC-Randy Edsall (Syracuse 1980) 7-14/second season; BSU-Bill Lynch (Butler 1977) 25-40/sixth season.
The Series: first meeting.
Expect a close game as UConn is 2-1 against MAC teams this year with a combined score of 87-88 (wins over Akron, 38-31, and Buffalo, 24-21, with a loss to Eastern Michigan, 32-25) ... Ball State is looking to snap a two-game losing streak and is coming off a 31-3 loss at Toledo ... the Huskies have lost three in a row, with the most recent a 26-21 loss to Rhode Island ... BSU's Marcus Merriweather had his streak of consecutive 100-yard rushing games stopped at three as he was held to 25 yards on nine carries by the nation's fifth-ranked rushing defense last week ... Merriweather still ranks fourth in the MAC with 95.3 rushing yards per game and needs 142 to reach 1,000 for the season ... freshman Talmadge Hill led the league in passing efficiency two weeks ago and still ranks fourth in the league with a 126.7 rating and his 60.1% completion rate is second in the league to EMU's Walter Church ... Hill's 12 TD passes are the eighth most in school history, with the record 17 by Mike Neu (1993) and Dave Wilson (1977) ... Ball State has dropped 11 non-conference games in a row since defeating James Madison, 24-6, on Sept. 6, 1997 ... UConn is in its first year of Division I-A football and will join the Big East as a football playing member in 2005 ... the six opponents who have defeated the Cardinals this year have a composite record of 40-12 (76.9%) and include nationally ranked Florida (No. 4), Kansas State (No. 9), Toledo (No. 29) and Western Michigan (No. 34).

Eastern Michigan Eagles (3-7, 2-2 MAC West) at Western Michigan Broncos (8-2, 3-1 MAC West), 1:00
Waldo Stadium (30,200/prescription athletic turf) Kalamazoo, Mich.
The Coaches: Jeff Woodruff (Kent State 1979) 3-7/first season; WMU-Gary Darnell (Oklahoma State 1970) 30-14/fourth season at WMU.
The Series: WMU leads 21-12-2.
This is a game with major implications as Western Michigan needs a win to advance to the league's championship game on Dec. 2 ... a win by Eastern Michigan would give the title berth to Toledo ... the Broncos were knocked off at Central Michigan last week, 21-17, snapping an eight-game winning streak ... the Eagles won their second consecutive game for only the second time in five years with a come-from-behind 39-32 win over Northern Illinois, that after trailing 32-12 with nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter ... Eagles' QB Walter Church, this week's MAC Offensive Player of the Week, passed for two touchdowns in the final three minutes, including the game-winner to Kevin Walter with 25 seconds remaining ... Church's final numbers read a school-record 36 completions on 50 attempts for 372 yards and two TDs with no interceptions ... Church has 11 TD passes this year with just five interceptions and leads the MAC in passing percentage at 61.1% (223-of-365) ... he also is the first player in EMU history to have three consecutive seasons with 2,000-plus passing yards and his 9,002 career passing yards is fourth highest in MAC history ... EMU's rushing game was bolstered by true freshman Ashanti Watson, who rushed for three touchdowns (44, 3 and 4 yards) ... Walters' 199 yards pass receiving versus the Huskies is the most by any MAC player this season, one yard better than teammate Kenny Christian ... Christian's 81 receptions this year lead the MAC and are the fifth most in league history, at No. 4 is Buffalo's Drew Haddad with 85 (1999) ... WMU was averaging 33 points a game but was held to 17 at CMU, including just one offensive touchdown ... the Broncos' Josh Bush returned a fourth-quarter punt 73 yards for a score and a 17-14 lead before the Chippewas' rally ... Bush is second in the MAC in punt returns with a 14.7 average ... QB Jeff Welsh is averaging 208 passing yards per game but was held to just 99 last week, the first time he's been under 100 this year ... Welsh still ranks fifth in the league in passing efficiency at 121.9 (170-of-296 for 2,077 yards and 11 TDs) ... Steve Neal needs just eight receptions and 39 yards to become the all-time MAC leader in those categories ... the balanced WMU attack also features the league's most productive rusher in Doak Walker semifinalist Robert Sanford (1,363 yards, 17 TDs) ... Sanford has rushed for 100-plus yards in six straight games and for over 150 yards in five consecutive outings ... WMU has won the last three meetings, however EMU's last win came in Kalamazoo in 1996 (19-12) ... last year's game was a thrilling 40-37 overtime contest won by the Broncos.

Akron Zips (5-5, 4-1 MAC East) at Kent State Golden Flashes (1-9, 0-5 MAC East), 2:00
Dix Stadium ( 30,520/artificial turf) Kent, Ohio.
The Coaches: UA-Lee Owens (Bluffton 1977) 24-41/sixth season; KSU-Dean Pees (Bowling Green 1971) 3-29/third season.
The Series: Akron leads 22-18-2.
This is the 43rd meeting in the rivalry with the campuses just 15 miles apart ... the Zips snapped a three-game losing streak with a solid 49-14 win over Buffalo last week ... the Golden Flashes were idle and have not played since a 20-17 overtime loss at Buffalo on Nov. 4 ... KSU will be out to snap a four-game losing streak ... UA's defense is led by Dwight Smith, who leads the nation with nine interceptions and is a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award ... Akron's potent offense, which averages 30 points and 417 yards per game, is directed by senior QB Butchie Washington ... Washington leads the MAC in passing efficiency at 132.4, completing 132-of-263 passes for 2,206 yards and 16 TDs ... his totals this year in passing yards and passing TDs are school records ... UA's deep threat of Lavel Bailey (42 rec., 857 yds., 8 TDs) and Jake Schifino (38, 719, 4) are averaging 20.4 and 18.9 yards per catch, respectively ... Brandon Payne needs just 105 rushing yards to reach 1,000 for the season and would become the first Zip in the school's I-A history to reach that plateau ... the Zips themselves can make it back-to-back winning campaigns for the first time ever at the I-A level with a victory and the first time over since the 1985-86 seasons ... the Golden Flashes' week of rest should benefit Jurron Kelly, who has played in just eight games to date but is averaging four receptions per game ... KSU's offense will also rely on TB Chante Murphy, whose 74 rushing yards per game is the eighth highest total in the MAC ... James Harrison is listed among the league's top defenders with his 12 tackles for a loss for minus 43 yards ... in last year's game at the Rubber Bowl, KSU had a 21-6 third-quarter lead but lost a close 37-34 contest when Washington scored from four yards out with 38 seconds left.

Central Michigan Chippewas (2-8, 1-3 MAC West) at Northern Illinois Huskies (5-5, 1-3 MAC West), 1:05 (CT)
Huskie Stadium (31,000/ astro turf) DeKalb, Ill.
The Coaches: CMU-Mike DeBord (Manchester 1978) 2-8/first season; NIU-Joe Novak (Miami 1967) 13-41/fifth season.
The Series: CMU leads 21-13-1.
CMU is coming off one of the biggest wins in school history, a 21-17 conquest of rival Western Michigan, a game which snapped both the Chippewas' seven-game losing streak and WMU's eight-game winning streak ... NIU lost a fourth-quarter, 20-point lead and fell to Eastern Michigan, 39-32, last week ... the Huskies are looking for an above. 500 record for the first time since a 6-5 mark in 1990 ... NIU keeps finding running backs, most lately turning to freshman Michael Turner, who responded with 230 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries in his first career start at EMU ... Turner's 230 yards is the most in the nation this year by a freshman ... outside of Turner, however, NIU piled up 192 yards of total offense, including 144 passing yards ... the Huskies' loss was the second in a row and third in their last four games ... senior flanker Justin McCareins leads the MAC in all-purpose yards (177.8 ypg), receiving yards per game (106.2), punt returns (18.3) and receiving touchdowns (9) ... McCareins also ranks nationally in all-purpose yards (fifth), receiving yards (sixth) and punt returns (eighth) ... injuries have tapped the versatile talents of Randee Drew, a walk-on freshman, who appeared in 34 plays at EMU, 14 at CB, 15 at WR and five on KO returns ... NIU's 37 ppg tops the league's scoring chart, as does its total offense output of 423 yards per game ... the Chippewas holding WMU, who had been posting 33 ppg, to just 17 points, was the school's best defensive effort since its 17-7 win over Akron on Sept. 9 ... the Chippewas' defense also produced the league's defensive player of the week in free safety Brian Leigeb, who was credited with 10 tackles and an interception in the upset win ... the victory was keyed offensively by freshman QB Derrick Vickers, who completed 16-of-28 passes for 228 yards and two TDs ... Vickers' 77-yard scoring pass to Ira Gooch gave CMU a 7-0 lead and added to the school's long TD passes this year that also covered 86 and 83 yards ... Vince Webber added a season-high 86 rushing yards to lead the ground game ... the CMU victory kept WMU winless in Mount Pleasant since 1973 ... in the CMU-NIU series, the Huskies have won the last two meetings overall and the last four meetings in DeKalb.

Marshall Thundering Herd (6-4, 5-0 MAC East) at Ohio Bobcats (6-4, 3-2 MAC East), 4:00
Peden Stadium (27,605/grass) Athens, Ohio
The Coaches: Marshall-Bob Pruett (Marshall 1965) 56-8/fifth year; Ohio-Jim Grobe (Virginia 1975) 32-33-1/sixth season.
The Series: Ohio leads 28-13-6
Television: Ohio Sports Network
The Thundering Herd will be looking to maintain its momentum from Saturday's 51-31 win against Miami, a game which clinched a berth in the league's Dec. 2 championship contest for the Thundering Herd ... the Bobcats are coming off a narrow 23-21 win at Bowling Green ... Ohio is out for a seven-win season for only the second time since 1977 ... head coach Jim Grobe's 1997 squad went 8-3 ... Grobe, a native of Huntington, and Marshall head coach Bob Pruett, coached together as assistants on the Marshall staff of Sonny Randle from 1979-82 ... in Marshall's win over Miami, the Herd jumped to a first-quarter lead of 17-3 and extended that to 37-3 at the half ... Franklin Wallace piled up 116 yards on nine carries in the first half before a strained groin sidelined him for the second half ... Wallace also latched onto a 70-yard scoring pass from Byron Leftwich ... Leftwich, the MAC's leader in touchdown passes, completed 21-of-33 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns ... WR Nate Poole had nine receptions for 123 yards and a touchdown and is tied for third place all-time in receptions in MAC history with 198 ... DE Paul Toviessi has taken over the MAC lead in sacks with 11 while teammate Jimmy Parker has a MAC-best 20 tackles for a loss from his defensive tackle position ... Marshall's entire defense will be tested by the Bobcats' potent running game that leads the conference and ranks second nationally with 315 rushing yards per game ... Ohio has six players averaging over 25 rushing yards per game, led by QB Dontrell Jackson (78.2) and includes Chad Brinker (57.8), Jamel Patterson (56.2), Raynald Ray (43.2), Joe Sherrill (38.4) and Keland Logan (25.4) ... Ohio also ranks among the MAC leaders in several key categories, among them, first in net punting (39.9), second in third-down conversions (43.3%) and a surprising fourth in passing efficiency (125.5) with 10 TD passes in 120 attempts ... Ohio's Dave Zastudil is aiming for his third consecutive MAC punting title with a league-best 44.7 average, which also ranks sixth nationally ... Marshall has won the last four meetings in the series, including three straight since rejoining the MAC in 1997 ... Ohio's last win over the Herd came in 1987 in Athens, 23-15.

Wednesday, Nov. 22

Bowling Green Falcons (2-8, 1-5 MAC East) at Toledo Rockets (9-1, 4-1 MAC West), 6:30
Glass Bowl (26,248/astro turf) Toledo, Ohio.
The Coaches: BGSU-Gary Blackney (Connecticut 1967) 60-49-2/10th season; UT-Gary Pinkel (Kent State 1975) 72-37-3/10th season.
The Series: BGSU leads 34-26-4
Television: ESPN2
A national television audience will witness the 65th meeting in this rivalry that dates back to 1919 and a 6-0 Toledo win ... this game will also mark the 112th and final game for BGSU head coach Gary Blackney, whose resignation takes effect at the end of the season ... the Falcons have dropped their last two games by a total of nine points (23-21 to Ohio; 20-13 to Marshall) and have lost four games by seven points or less ... NT Brandon Hicks is tied for third in the MAC in sacks with eight and sixth in tackles for a loss with 13 and leads a defense that ranks third in the conference in total defense, allowing 342 yards per game ... the 20 takeaways by the Falcons defense has the team listed third in the league in turnover margin at +7 ... BG's strength is in its defensive line of ends Ryan Wingrove and D.J. Durkin and tackles Hicks and D.J. Owchar, who have started every game this season, the only unit to do so for the Falcons ... senior left tackle Rob Fehrman will be making his 44th career start at Toledo ... the Rockets have the league's best record at 9-1 and will challenge the stubborn BG defense with plenty of skill people ... TB Chester Taylor ranks second in the MAC with 1,336 rushing yards and third with 15 rushing TDs ... QB Tavares Bolden has 12 TD passes to just three interceptions and the UT offensive line has allowed just five sacks all year ... WR Mel Long has grabbed 46 passes for 486 yards and two TDs and has caught a pass in 45 consecutive games, tied for the longest current streak nationally ... Kevin Rollins and DeJuan Goulde both have eight sacks and Goulde has 15 tackles for a loss, second in the league ... this series has been continous since 1948 ... BG won last year's game, 34-23 in QB Andy Sahm's debut, but UT had won the previous four games ... Blackney is 5-4 all-time versus Toledo while Pinkel is 5-5 versus BGSU.