MAC Players of the Week
Around the MAC
Defending MAC champion Marshall survived a challenge from Miami with a convincing 32-14 triumph over the RedHawks before a Yager Stadium record crowd of 30,087. The Herd defense held Travis Prentice in check and received 297 passing yards from Chad Pennington, 164 of those yards and two touchdowns going to James Williams. Ohio and Akron won to keep pace with the Herd and either the Bobcats or Zips, who play each other this week, will come away with their third league victory of 1999. The Bobcats have not allowed a touchdown in the last two games. In the West, Western Michigan remained the lone undefeated team in league played with a 38-23 win over Central Michigan before a MAC record crowd of 36,102. The Broncos travel to Eastern Michigan for a Saturday night game with the Eagles. Miami faces a stern test at Bowling Green against a rejuvenated Falcons team that beat defending West Division champion Toledo behind 302 passing yards by redshirt freshman Andy Sahm. Northern Illinois won its first game and returns home to face Ball State. Toledo hosts Kent and Central Michigan is at Buffalo to round out the MAC schedule. Marshall is idle until Oct. 14, a Thursday night ESPN game at home against Toledo.
In the Polls: Marshall University continued to climb in the Top 25 national rankings. In this week's USA TODAY/ESPN Coaches' Poll, the Thundering Herd is listed #15 and in the Associated Press poll is also slotted at #15, the highest listing ever for the school. The highest finish ever by a MAC team was the #10 ranking in the final UPI and AP polls attained by the 1974 Miami team that produced an 10-0-1 record.
NCAA Record Watch: Miami's Travis Prentice became the all-time NCAA leader in multiple-touchdown games as his four TDs against Eastern Michigan on Sept. 18 gave him 22 such performances, bettering the old mark of 21 set by Ricky Williams of Texas. Prentice added two rushing TDs at Central Michigan on Sept. 25, boosting his career rushing touchdown total to 64, tied for second best all-time with former Indiana running back Anthony Thompson. Prentice is eyeing the all-time mark of 72, also held by Williams.
MAC Record Setter: Miami's Travis Prentice also became the league's career leader in rushing yards with his 116 against Eastern Michigan on Sept. 18, increasing his career numbers to 4,369. Since then, Prentice has upped that total to 4,576, which ranks 21st all-time on the NCAA rushing list. Prentice has six regular-season games remaining and a possible MAC championship game to add to his total.
Pennington Sets Record: With four TD passes in Marshall's 63-3 victory over Liberty on Sept. 11, Chad Pennington increased his MAC career total to 67 scoring passes, breaking the tie he held at 63 with BG's Brian McClure. Pennington has since upped that total to 77. Western Michigan's Tim Lester is now second with 70 career TD strikes.
Setting Another Record: Marshall University has another record to add to its collection. The Thundering Herd program has won 105 games in the 1990s - more than any other football program has ever won in a decade. The Herd's mark of 106-25 is better than Alabama's 103-16-1 record in the 1970s. Marshall is 27-4 at the I-A level (1997-99) and 79-21 at the I-AA level (1990-96) during its run.
MAC On the Slant: Akron's Jon Eaton was not only named as an honorable mention All-America Farm Team member, but he's also been selected for a feature story on "The Slant" - a weekly college football magazine show produced by Host Communications and aired nationally on FOX Sports Net. Targeted to air the second week in October, Eaton will be profiled because of his remarkable comeback from a horrible ankle injury suffered in July 1997. Eaton required four surgeries and 32 days in the hospital.
Record Crowds: Football is alive and very well in Kalamazoo, Michigan, home of the Western Michigan Broncos, and elsewhere in the MAC. For the third time in the last seven home games dating back to last year, WMU established a MAC record for single game attendance with 36,102 against Central Michigan, bypassing the mark set earlier this year at Waldo Stadium of 35,874 for the Youngstown State game. Single game records for attendance were also set this year at Buffalo (20,835 versus Akron) and Miami (30,087 versus Marshall).
Heisman Watch: 1998 MAC MVP running back Travis Prentice of Miami and two-time first team All-MAC quarterback Chad Pennington of Marshall are being touted as Heisman candidates, complete with impressive numbers and web sites. Prentice, a senior from Louisville, Ky., who rushed for 1,787 yards and 19 TDs last year, can be checked out at www.tdtravis.com, while Pennington, a senior from Knoxville, Tenn., who passed for 3,419 yards and 24 touchdowns, can be found at www.HerdQB.com. Prentice is also a candidate for the Doak Walker Award and Pennington for the Davey O'Brien Award.
Butkus Award List: Two Mid-American Conference linebackers are listed on the Butkus Award Watch list released by the Downtown Athletic Club of Orlando. First team All-MAC linebackers Dustin Cohen of Miami and Jason Lamar of Toledo were recognized as two of the 65 candidates for this year's award as the nation's best collegiate linebacker. Cohen, a senior from Cincinnati, Ohio, led the MAC in tackles last season with 146 and was named third team All-America by Football News. Lamar, a senior from Ypsilanti, Mich., was second on the Rockets' squad last year with 119 tackles and tied for the team lead with 12 tackles for a loss. The Butkus watch list will be trimmed to 10 semi-finalists on Oct. 21. Then three finalists will be announced via a national teleconference on Nov. 11. The winner will be announced Dec. 10 during the 15th Butkus Award Gala.
Thorpe Award: Marshall's Rogers Beckett is among those listed for the Jim Thorpe Award that goes to the nation's top-rated defensive back. Beckett, a senior from Apopka, Fla., is not only a three-year starter and a first-team All-MAC player, but he is the student body vice-president at Marshall for the 1999-2000 academic year.
Mallory Honored at NIU: Bill Mallory, the only coach in MAC history to lead two schools (Miami in 1973 and NIU in 1983) to league football titles as well as win MAC Coach of the Year honors, will be inducted into the NIU Hall of Fame this weekend. The HOF festivities are a part of Northern Illinois 100th Anniversary Season Celebration and Homecoming. Mallory began the 1999 season ranked fifth all-time in winning percentage (64-30-0, .681 pct.) in MAC history.
This Week's Matchups
Central Michigan Chippewas (1-4, 0-2) at Buffalo Bulls (0-4, 0-3)
Date/Time: Oct. 9/1:30
Site: UB Stadium (31,000/Natural Grass) Buffalo, N.Y.
Series: First meeting
Coaches: CMU-Dick Flynn (Michigan State 1965) 27-33/6th year;
UB-Craig Cirbus (Buffalo 1980) 17-31/4th year.
Game Notes: Both teams are looking for their first MAC win and are looking to break current losing streaks, four games for the Chippewas and eight games for the Bulls. Since a season opening win, CMU has dropped all four of its games including three of four on the road. Buffalo's Drew Haddad leads the MAC and ranks 10th in the nation in receptions (7.5) and 15th in receiving yards (101.25 per game). Haddad has 13 career games with 100 or more receiving yards, including the last three in a row. UB will have to shut down opponents on third down attempts as the Bulls are allowing foes to complete 60 percent of such plays (34-of-57). Youth is being served at CMU. Chippewa redshirt freshman Jammarl O'Neal grabbed a career-high seven passes at Western Michigan and his 95.5 receiving yards per game ranks 20th in the nation. Another redshirt freshman, Darvin Lewis, has three interceptions in five games to tie for the MAC lead. CMU quarterback Pete Shepherd has passed for 200 yards in a game for the fourth time this year and is fifth all-time at CMU with 3,582 passing yards. Joe Adam leads the MAC with 57 yards in tackles for losses.
Western Michigan Broncos (3-2, 2-0) at Eastern Michigan (1-3, 1-1)
Date/Time: Oct. 9/6:00
Site: Rynearson Stadium (30,200/AstroTurf) Ypsilanti, Mich.
Series: WMU leads 19-13-2
Last Meeting: WMU 45, EMU 35, 1998
Coaches: WMU-Gary Darnell (Oklahoma State 1970) 18-9/3rd year at WMU; 21-13/4th year overall; EMU-Rick Rasnick (San Jose State 1982) 17-31/5th year.
Game Notes: Western Michigan is the only team in the West Division without a league loss, but the Eagles can tie for first place with a win. EMU is tough at home as evidenced two weeks ago when they drubbed Akron 38-17 at Rynearson Stadium. Despite a 45-10 loss at Louisville, EMU's Eric Powell turned in his best rushing performance of the season with 98 yards on 22 carries. EMU has won its last two games at home dating back to the final game of the 1999 season. The Broncos have won the last two meetings and six of the last seven in the series. WMU's high-powered offense is propelled by Tim Lester, who has tossed 70 career touchdown passes and a MAC best of 17 thus far in 1999. EMU ranks 13th in the MAC in pass defense, allowing 273.0 yards a game. WMU's Steve Neal (26 rec., 292 yards) and Joshua Bush (20, 216) ranks among the league's leading receivers, as does EMU's Jermaine Sheffield (14, 237). A WMU win would be its third in a row.
Kent Golden Flashes (1-4, 1-1) at Toledo Rockets (2-2, 1-1)
Date/Time: Oct. 2/7:00
Site: Glass Bowl (26,248/AstroTurf), Toledo, Ohio
Series: UT leads 21-20
Last Meeting: UT 48, Kent 14, 1994
Coaches: Kent-Dean Pees (Bowling Green 1971) 1-15/2nd year; UT-Gary Pinkel (Kent 1975) 59-33/9th year.
Game Notes: Toledo has won the last three meetings and six of the last seven. Kent last won at Toledo in 1977, a string of eight consecutive Rocket wins in the Glass Bowl. Both teams are coming off losses on the road, Toledo 34-23 at Bowling Green and Kent 31-3 at Ohio. Toledo received 209 rushing yards from Chester Taylor, who ranks second in the MAC and 14th in the nation in rushing with 126.25 yards per game. Taylor's 209 total is the best in the MAC this year. UT linebacker Jason Lamar paces the MAC in tackles per game with 12.0, with 15 of those coming last week against the Falcons. The three points produced by Kent was a drastic dropoff from the 41 points put up against Bowling Green the week prior. Forty-eight of Kent's 162 yards of total offense at Ohio came on the team's opening drive. Kent quarterback Jose Davis became the schools all-time leading passer against Ohio by increasing his career total to 5,622 passing yards. Davis needs 302 yards of total offense to establish another Kent mark. Since moving into the starting lineup three games ago, Chante Murphy has averaged 100.7 yards per game for the Golden Falshes.
Ohio Bobcats (2-3, 2-0) at Akron Zips (3-2, 2-1)
Date/Time: Oct. 9/3:00
Site: Rubber Bowl (35,202/Artificial Turf) Akron, Ohio
Series: Ohio leads 9-5-1
Last Meeting: Ohio 28, Akron 14, 1998
Television: WVPX-TV 23
Coaches: Ohio-Jim Grobe (Virginia 1975) 23-26-1/5th year; UA-Lee Owens (Bluffton 1977) 15-34/5th year.
Game Notes: Ohio has won its last two games and Akron three of four since a season opening loss at the #2 Penn State. The Bobcats have won four straight in the series, including the last two played in the Rubber Bowl (21-17 in 1997 and 29-23 in 1995). In Akron's 31-9 win at Ball State, the Zips exploded for 24 second quarter points. A 96-yard scoring drive, punctuated by a 28-yard scoring pass from James 'Butchie" Washington to Lavell Bailey, ignited the Zips' outburst. UA also scored on an eight-yard fumble return by Mike Hughes for a commanding 21-0 lead. Ohio broke away from a close 7-3 halftime lead against Kent with third-quarter touchdown runs by Jamel Patterson and Dontrell Jackson. The Bobcats, who rank sixth in the nation with 256.8 rushing yards each game, piled up 298 yards on the ground against Kent. Three Ohio players had 67 or more yards; Patterson (110), Jackson (80) and Chad Brinker (67). Ohio, 2-0 in the MAC for the third time in the last four year, has not allowed a touchdown in back-to-back games for the first time since 1996. Ohio's Dave Zastudil ranks second in the nation in punting (47.5 yards per kick) and is on pace to challenge the MAC single season record of 46.8 ypk set in 1990 by Bowling Green's Chris Shale.
Ball State Cardinals (0-5, 0-2) at Northern Illinois Huskies (1-4, 1-1)
Date/Time: Oct. 9/2:00
Site: Huskie Stadium (31,000/AstroTurf) DeKalb, Ill.
Series: BSU leads 17-7-2
Last Meeting: BSU 18, NIU 13, 1998
Coaches: BSU-Bill Lynch (Butler 1977) 21-27/5th year at BSU; 57-41-3/10th year overall; NIU-Joe Novak (Miami University 1967) 4-34/4th year.
Game Notes: Ball State earned its lone win of 1998 against the Huskies, and since then the Cardinals have dropped 11 in a row, the nation's second longest current losing streak behind South Carolina's 14. BSU has won the last seven in a row and 16 of the last 17 against NIU. NIU hasn't won at home against Ball State since 1973, a streak of nine consecutive Ball State wins in DeKalb. NIU is coming off its biggest offensive production in the Joe Novak Era. The Huskies posted 45 points, 453 yards and 28 first downs in the 45-21 win at Buffalo. NIU was paced by William Andrews' 113 rushing yards and his 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in winning its first game of 1999. NIU did not punt at Buffalo, the first time that a Huskie team has not called on a punter since a Sept. 30, 1972, 24-7, win against Marshall. NIU free safety Donnovan Carter is 16 tackles away from 300 for his career. Tight end Bob Lesher's 52-yard reception was the longest by a Huskie tight end since the 1971 season. Senior punter Brad Kroft has been a positive for the Cardinals. Kroft ranks fourth in the MAC (42.0) and is coming off a 43.5 performance (4 punts, 174 yards) against Akron. Another BSU kicker, Thomas Pucke, has returned to action. Pucke was BSU's top placekicker last year but had not seen action this year due to injuries, however an injury to Kevin Jennings pushed Pucke back into kicking duties at Army on Sept. 25. Pucke is 3-for-4 on PATs and 1-for-1 on field goals (40 yards) this season.
Miami RedHawks (3-2, 2-1) at Bowling Green Falcons (2-3, 1-2)
Date/Time: Oct. 9/1:00
Site: Doyt L. Perry Stadium (30,599/Grass) Bowling Green, Ohio.
Series: Miami leads 33-18-5
Last Meeting: Miami 24, BGSU, 12 1998
Coaches: Miami-Terry Hoeppner (Franklin (Ind.) College 1969) 3-2/1st year; BGSU-Gary Blackney (Connecticut 1967) 60-32-3/9th year.
Game Notes: The Falcons have won two of the last three meetings against Miami and have won six of their last seven home games overall. BG snapped a two-game losing streak with a stunning 34-23 triumph over Toledo last week while Miami dropped a 32-14 contest to then #17 ranked Marshall. Redshirt freshman Andy Sahm sparked the Falcons by completing 20-of-30 passes for 302 yards and two touchdowns. Godfrey Lewis provided the ground game with 124 yards and two touchdowns. BG did not have a turnover and was whistled for only two penalties. BG placekicker Jason Strasser had made 13 consecutive field goals before missing a 45-yard attempt in the second quarter. The MAC record is 14. Miami features the league's top rusher and the nation's 13th ranked rusher in Travis Prentice (127.8 yards per game). Prentice also ranks sixth nationally in scoring (12 ppg). The injury bug has infested the RedHawks with backup quarterback John Schacke suffering a season ending ACL tear to his left knee in the Marshall game. Earlier in the week, Miami lost leading receiver Sly Johnson and defensive tackle Gino DiGiandomenico. Miami linebacker Dustin Cohen leads the MAC in sacks (6) and tackle Andy Aracri has a MAC high 13 tackles for a loss.
Crowning A Champion: The Mid-American Conference championship game will be played at Marshall University Stadium/James F. Edwards Field on Dec. 3 at 7:30. Marshall (East Division) and Toledo (West Division) have met in the two previous title games with the Thundering Herd emerging victorious each time. Should the Herd, preseason choice by the MAC News Media Association to win it again, get to the championship contest, they will have to do it by winning road games at Miami (4-0 at home last year) and at Western Michigan (4-1 at home in 1998). The MAC joins the Big XII and the Southeastern Conference as the only Division I conferences with a championship game. The MAC title game will be televised live by ESPN2.