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
game remaining for each. Sanford has gained 1,504 yards in 11 games, an average
of 136.7 yards per game, while Taylor's 1,336 yards through 10 games 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.
Turner Turns It On:
Northern Illinois freshman running back Michael Turner established
several records with his 52 rushing attempts and 281 rushing yards in Saturday's 40-6
win over Central Michigan. His 52 rushing attempts are an NCAA record for a freshman,
breaking the old standard of 49 set in 1996 by Wisconsin's Ron Dayne versus Minnesota.
In addition, the 52 carries set a MAC record, overshadowing the old mark of 49 held by
Central Michigan's Eric Flowers (1998 vs. Eastern Michigan). The 281 yards are a MAC
freshman record and the most in the nation this year by any freshman.
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 was 5-6 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 five receptions
and eight 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 stats from the Dec. 2 MAC
championship game will count toward the record.
National Player of the Year Candidate:
Akron's Dwight Smith, first nationally
in interceptions with 10, 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.
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.
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 225 receptions,
while Marshall's Nate Poole is second with 205 and Justin McCareins third with 204.
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 are second in the MAC in total
defense (274.2 yards allowed per game), and first in rushing defense (81.6) and
rank second in scoring defense (10.8), ranking seventh, fifth and third nationally,
respectively, in those categories.
Among The Voters:
Both Western Michigan and Toledo continued to receive notice
in the national polls as of Nov. 13. In the respective Associated Press and USA TODAY/ESPN
Coaches' polls, Toledo is 29th and 30th, while WMU is 35th in both polls.
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
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 continuous 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 4-5 versus BGSU.
Saturday, Dec. 2 at 1 p.m. (ET) - MAC Championship Game
Western Michigan Broncos (9-2 overall, 7-1 MAC overall, 4-1 MAC West) vs.
Marshall Thundering Herd (6-5 overall, 5-3 MAC overall, 5-1 MAC East)
Marshall Stadium (40,000/artificial turf) Huntington, W.Va.
The Coaches: Marshall-Bob Pruett (Marshall 1965) 56-9/fifth year;
Western Michigan-Gary Darnell 31-13/fourth year.
The Series: WMU leads 22-9
The fourth Mid-American Conference championship game will be a rematch between
three-time defending title holder Marshall and Western Michigan ... the Broncos
will be out to reverse last year's outcome when the Herd's Chad Pennington, now
with the New York Jets, tossed a one-yard, game-winning touchdown pass to tight
end Eric Pinkerton with four seconds remaining in a 34-30 Marshall victory ...
the respective head coaches, Gary Darnell of Western Michigan and Marshall's Bob
Pruett, coached together on the staff at Wake Forest in 1986-87 ... WMU won this
year's regular-season meeting between the teams, dropping a 30-10 loss on the
Herd on Oct. 5 to end Marshall's 33-game home winning streak ... WMU leads the
MAC in total defense (allowing 270 ypg) and is third in scoring defense (31.4 ppg) ...
Marshall's offense is producing nearly 30 points a game and features the league's top
rated passer in Byron Leftwich (132.7 pass effic., 249-of-411, 2,995 yards, 19 TDs, 9 int.) ...
WMU's Jeff Welsh is also in his first year as a starter and has completed 184-of-320 attempts
for 2,273 yards, 13 TDs, 11 interceptions for an efficiency rating of 123.7 ... the Broncos
have the advantage in the ground game with Robert Sanford producing a MAC high 1,504 rushing
yards, 136.7 per game and 18 touchdowns ... both teams suffered late-season losses that cost
them outright divisional titles ... WMU dropped a 21-17 decision at Central Michigan Nov. 11
and Marshall was dealt a 38-28 setback at Ohio on Nov. 18 ... Marshall's defense has the MAC
sack leader in defensive end Paul Toviessi (11) and tackles for a loss leader in Jimmy Parker
(20) ... each team also has one of the MAC's all-time leading receivers in their lineup ...
WMU's Steve Neal has 225 career receptions for 3,506 yards and 26 touchdowns while Marshall's
Nate Poole has 205 catches for 2,669 yards and 18 touchdowns ... Marshall has appeared in the
last three Motor City Bowls while WMU last made a bowl game in 1988 with a California Bowl
appearance against Fresno State in a 35-30 loss.