MAC Football Notes - Week 5

Updated 10/3/1998

In just 63 days from Saturday, Sept. 30, the MAC Championship football game will be staged at Marshall Stadium in Huntington, W.Va. Several keys games this week will tell which of the league's 13 teams will make it that far.

MAC East Division Update: Akron, fresh off a 23-20 conquest at Ohio, plays host to Miami this week in a key East Division matchup between two teams that are 1-0 in divisional play. Miami is coming off a 45-14 win over Kent State. The Golden Flashes host Bowling Green with both teams standing 0-4 overall. Marshall, three-time defending MAC champion, opens league play at home against Buffalo. The Bulls snapped an 18-game losing streak last week with a 20-17 win against Bowling Green. Ohio plays at West Division member Western Michigan.

MAC West Division Update: Western Michigan's 21-14 win over Toledo, in the initial league game for both teams, gives the Broncos a step up in the divisional race. This week the Broncos host East member Ohio. Divisional matchups feature Central Michigan at Toledo and Northern Illinois at Ball State. Eastern Michigan goes out of conference and hosts Central Florida.

Christian Cruises To MAC Record: Eastern Michigan wide receiver Kenny Christian established a league record with 20 receptions in the Eagles' 49-40 loss at Temple. Christian's total bypassed the former MAC standard of 16 set by Jamie Hess of Western Michigan versus Ohio in 1987, and the EMU record of 14 set by Ontario Pryor in 1996 against Central Michigan. Christian had 198 yards receiving and added 86 yards on kickoff returns. He leads the nation with 9.25 receptions per game.

Smith Leads The Nation: Akron defensive back Dwight Smith picked off two enemy passes, both in the fourth quarter, during the Zips' 23-20 win at Ohio. Smith has a national best six interceptions this year, including five in the last two games. The MAC record for interceptions in a season is 12 by Eastern Michigan's Bob Navarro in 1989.

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 37 receptions and 419 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 eight receptions for 75 yards in WMU's 21-14 victory over Toledo.

Another Bronco Record: Western Michigan continued its assault on the MAC attendance record book. The Broncos set the league record for the third time in the last two years with a MAC record crowd of 36,361 in its 2000 home opener, a 56-0 conquest of Indiana State. The previous record for Waldo Stadium was 36,102 last year versus Central Michigan.

This Week's Games

Northern Illinois Huskies (1-2) at Ball State Cardinals (0-3), 1:00
Ball State Stadium (21,581/grass) Muncie, Ind.

The Coaches: NIU-Joe Novak (Miami 1967) 9-38/fifth season; BSU-Bill Lynch (Butler 1977) 21-38/sixth season.
Series: BSU leads 17-8-2

This is the first conference game for both teams ... the Cardinals will try and break its 20-game losing streak against the team it last defeated, beating the Huskies October 3, 1998, 18-13 in Muncie ... NIU captured last year's meeting 37-17 in DeKalb by scoring two defensive touchdowns ... prior to NIU's 1999 win, BSU had won the last seven games in a row in this series ... the Huskies are coming off a 31-14 loss at No. 20 Auburn ... flanker Justin McCareins grabbed 11 receptions for 189 yards and a touchdown versus the Tigers ... with that performance, McCareins moved into 11th place all-time in league history with 159 career receptions and 12th place with 2,170 receiving yards ... QB Chris Finlen completed 15-of-29 passes for 218 yards and a touchdown ... defensively, FS Buster Sampson was in on 15 tackles, 11 of those solos ... BSU was idle last week and last played on Sept. 16 in a 76-0 loss at No. 7 Kansas State.

Ohio Bobcats (2-2) at Western Michigan Broncos (3-1), 1:00
Waldo Stadium (30,200/prescription athletic turf) Kalamazoo, Mich.

The Coaches: Ohio-Jim Grobe (Virginia 1975) 28-31-1/sixth year; WMU-Gary Darnell (Oklahoma State 1970) 25-13/third year.
Series: tied 27-27-1
Television: Ohio Sports Network

Both teams opened league play with key divisional contests last week ... Ohio dropped a home outing to Akron, 23-20, while WMU edged Toledo, 21-14, at Waldo Stadium ... the Bobcats have won the last three in a row, including last year's game, 37-35, also at Waldo Stadium ... prior to Ohio's current three-game winning streak in the series, the Broncos had won 10 in a row ... in last week's win over the Rockets, WMU held Toledo, which had been averaging 35 ppg, to just one offensive touchdown ... the Broncos' win was their first over Toledo since 1993 and the second in the last 12 meetings ... after being ranked 97th nationally in total defense last year, the Broncos are 16th (267.0) thus far in 2000 ... WMU is 14-3 at home under Gary Darnell ... WR Steve Neal moved into second place all-time in the MAC in pass receptions as his eight catches upped his career total to 192 for 3,094 yards, second behind Kent State's Eugene Baker (229 and 3,513) ... after replacing school record-holder Tim Lester, Bronco QB Jeff Welsh has stepped up to complete 56.8% (71-of-125) of his passes for 874 yards, five TDs and two int. ... WMU's Robert Sanford needs five rushing yards to reach 3,000 for his career ... Ohio rushed for 284 yards against Akron but turned the ball over three times (2 interceptions, 1 fumble) to no turnovers by the Zips ... Jamel Patterson rushed for 107 yards on 10 carries to lead an Ohio ground game that averaged 6.2 yards per carry and leads the MAC at 5.6 yards per carry and 313.8 yards per game ... the Bobcats' 313.8 yards per game also ranks fourth nationally ... Ohio FS Duffer Duffey had 14 tackles in his second career start.

Central Florida Knights (2-2 ) at Eastern Michigan Eagles (1-3), 1:00
Rynearson Stadium (30,200/artificial turf) Ypsilanti, Mich.

The Coaches: Mike Kruczek (Boston College 1976) 15-11/third year; EMU-Jeff Woodruff (Kent State 1979) 1-3/first season.
Series: UCF leads 2-0.
Television: Sunshine Network.

The Eagles are coming off a 49-40 shootout at Temple that resulted in a bevy of school records ... WR Kenny Christian grabbed a school and MAC record 20 receptions for 198 receiving yards ... Christian's performance of 20 receptions was the fifth highest in NCAA Division I history, but he did not catch a touchdown pass ... Christian leads the nation in receiving with 9.25 catches per game ... Eagles' QB Walt Church completed 34 passes on 50 attempts for 364 yards and three touchdowns - two to Kevin Walter (11 and 21 yards) and one to Kevin Zureki (5 yards) ... Church established a school career record, boosting his total to 7,724 yards and eclipsing the mark of 7,592 set by Charlie Batch ... TB John White had his first ever 100-yard rushing performance with 111 yards on 25 carries ... EMU is averaging 115 rushing yards per game after an average of 82.6 yards per game last year ... the Knights' 2-2 record includes wins against Northwestern State (19-7) and William and Mary (52-7 last week), and losses to Georgia Tech (21-17) and Akron (35-24).

Bowling Green Falcons (0-4) at Kent State Golden Flashes (0-4), 6:00
Dix Stadium (30,520/artificial turf) Kent, Ohio.

The Coaches: BGSU-Gary Blackney (Connecticut 1967) 58-45-2/10th year; KSU-Dean Pees (Bowling Green 1971) 2-24/third year.
Series: BGSU leads 47-15-6.

BGSU, which ended the 1999 season by winning its last three games, has dropped its last four, including a 20-17 setback at Buffalo last week ... the Falcons' injury list of players who are sidelined this week is extensive and includes two receivers who combined for 88 receptions last year - Kurt Gerling (53) and Aaron Alexander (35) - QB Ricky Schneider (1,121 yards, 11 Tds in '99), RB Godfrey Lewis (500 yards, team leading 6 rush TDs in '99), starters Eric Curl at center and Andre Davis at strong safety and top linebacker backup Mitch Hewitt ... this will be the Falcons' fourth road game in the first five weeks of the season ... following the Kent State game, the Falcons play four of their next five games at home ... the Golden Flashes have won two of the last three meetings in this series, but the Falcons had won the previous eight contests and have won 22 of the last 25 ... KSU is coming off a MAC-opening 45-14 loss at Miami ... Chante Murphy rushed for 98 yards on 14 carries and Booker Vann contributed 71 yards on 15 attempts ... Murphy's 81.5 yards per game ranks fourth in the MAC ... Mark Strickland and James Harrison both have a MAC-leading seven tackles for losses for the Flashes ... KSU has lost six in a row dating back to last year and the Flashes' 41-27 win over BG last year snapped what was then a 16-game losing streak.

Buffalo Bulls (1-3) at Marshall Thundering Herd (1-2), 7:00
Marshall Stadium (40,000/artificial turf) Huntington, W.Va.

The Coaches: UB-Craig Cirbus (Buffalo 1980) 18-41/sixth year; Marshall-Bob Pruett (Marshall 1965) 51-6/fifth year.
Series: Marshall leads 3-1
Television: FSN Pittsburgh/Empire

While Buffalo comes into the game having snapped its 18-game losing streak with a 20-17 win over Bowling Green, the Thundering Herd lost its second in a row, 20-15 at North Carolina, following its 18-game winning streak ... this game matches two QB's ranked in the top 10 in the MAC in passing - UB's Joe Freedy and Marshall's Byron Leftwich ... Freedy is ninth in passing efficiency (104.1 rating, 90-of-158, 833 yards, 5 TDs) and Leftwich is second (129.9, 60-of-99, 652, 6) ... the Bulls' defense is led by outside linebacker Duane Williams, who won last week's MAC Defensive Player of the Week with a school-record four quarterback sacks against against BG ... the Bulls' defense is allowing a MAC best of just 152.5 passing yards per game and the UB defense is ranked third overall in the league, allowing 338.0 yards per game, but has allowed a league high 20 touchdowns ... despite two losses in a row, Marshall still holds a 32-game home winning streak, the longest current in the nation ... Marshall's 1-2 record is the school's worst start since the 1987 squad, who finished as I-AA national champion runner-up, also started 1-2 ... the Herd has a MAC-best 34 ppg scoring average, but has scored just 29 total points in its last two games ... true freshman WR Darius Watts hauled in four passes for 74 yards and a touchdown at North Carolina ... Curtis Head leads the MAC and ranks third in the nation in punting with a 45.4 ypk average ... Marshall will play three of its next four games at home.

Central Michigan Chippewas (1-3) at Toledo Rockets (3-1), 7:00
Glass Bowl (26,248/AstroTurf) Toledo, Ohio.

The Coaches: CMU-Mike DeBord (Manchester 1978) 1-3/first year; UT-Gary Pinkel (Kent State 1975) 66-37-3/10th year.
Series: CMU leads 13-12-3

Central Michigan plays its first divisional game and is coming off back-to-back losses to Wyoming and Boise State ... Toledo had its six-game winning streak snapped last week in a 21-14 loss at Western Michigan ... Chippewa redshirt freshman Derrick Vickers threw his first career touchdown pass to Eric Salani for CMU's only TD ... it was also Salani's first career score and fellow receiver David Hannah nabbed a career-best six receptions for 60 yards ... senior Brian Leigeb added 12 tackles to increase his career total to 389, just 54 shy of the school record ... CMU QB Pete Shepherd is the league's leader in passing efficiency (131.4, 52-of-85, 632 yards 2 TDs, 0 int.) ... the Rockets went into the WMU game averaging 35 points a game but were held to just one offensive score, that on a 17-yard run by Chester Taylor with 8:41 remaining to close the gap to 21-14 ... Taylor leads the MAC and ranks 10th nationally in rushing at 130.3 yards per game and ran for 132 yards on 19 carries at Western Michigan ...UT's other score came on a blocked punt and 12-yard return by Paul Dye ... DE Frank Ofili is tied for the league lead in sacks with five ... Dye and Ofili are both redshirt freshman ... UT has won the last five in this series ... CMU's last win came in 1994, 45-27 in Mount Pleasant ... the Chippewas' last win in Toledo came in 1993 by a 38-7 count.

Miami RedHawks (3-1) at Akron Zips (2-2), 7:00
Rubber Bowl (35,202/AstroTurf) Akron, Ohio.

The Coaches: Miami-Terry Hoeppner (Franklin College 1969) 10-5/second year; Akron-Lee Owens (Bluffton College 1977) 21-38/sixth year;
Series: Miami leads 7-3-1.

The winner of this game will be 2-0 in the East Divisional race ... Miami topped Kent State last week 45-14 behind four first-half rushing touchdowns by Cal Murray ... the Zips got two fourth-quarter interceptions by Dwight Smith and a last-minute (0:24) Zac Derr field goal for a tough 23-20 win at Ohio ... Miami QB Mike Bath is producing a MAC-best 275.5 passing yards per game and 308.5 yards of total offense each outing ... three RedHawks are listed among the league's leading receivers - Sly Johnson (18 rec., 369 yards, 4 TDs), Ty Buxton (21, 274, 1) and Eddie Tillitz (22, 267, 1) ... one of them will have to contend with the Zips' Smith, who has five interceptions in the last two games and a national-best six for the season ... Akron faced only 15 passing plays in last week's win at Ohio with the Bobcats completing just four for 92 yards ... Miami is averaging 39 passing attempts per game and leads the MAC in passing offense (281.8 ypg) and is tied for the MAC high of eight touchdown passes ... Akron's Lavel Bailey grabbed six passes for 92 yards to boost his career total to 2,036 receiving yards ... QB Butchie Washington added 258 passing yards (20-of-32, no int.) to increase his career numbers to 5,197 ... Washington also led the Zips on a 15-play, 90-yard drive that resulted in Derr's game-winning field goal at Ohio ... Akron will play five of its next six games at home ... Miami has won the last three meetings in this series and five of the last six ... it was two years ago that Miami won its first game at Akron since the Zips joined the MAC, 20-14 ... the RedHawks are aiming for their third 4-1 start in the last four years ... Miami plays its fourth road contest in five games.