Kent State will play for a Mid-American Conference championship for the first time since 1972. Two more long touchdown runs on a career day by Dri Archer helped the No. 25 Golden Flashes secure their first ever East Division title and punch their ticket to the Marathon MAC Championship Game in Detroit with a 31-24 win at Bowling Green on Saturday.
Archer finished with 241 yards on just 17 carries, including a 79-yard sprint to the end zone in the second quarter and a sideline-to-sideline 74-yard score early in the fourth.
Even after those electrifying runs, the Golden Flashes still needed a late seven-yard touchdown keeper by quarterback Spencer Keith to claim the lead before holding off one final drive by Bowling Green.
The Falcons bid to either win or force overtime reached the Kent State 17-yard line. That last chance came up empty as safety Luke Wollett secured the win with a fourth-down interception of Bowling Green quarterback Matt Schilz in the end zone with just 21 seconds on the scoreboard clock at Doyt L. Perry Stadium
One kneel-down later and the celebration was on, complete with a lemon-lime Gatorade bath for head coach Darrell Hazell amid chants of "Detroit, Detroit, Detroit."
"This is definitely the biggest game of my life, especially with the way it ended," said Archer, "It was just wild."
And there is still much more to come.
Kent State (10-1, 7-0) will try to complete a perfect MAC regular season when it hosts Ohio University in an 11 a.m. home finale on Friday. The Golden Flashes will then pack their bags for a Nov. 30 meeting with Northern Illinois in the Marathon MAC Championship game at Ford Field. Then on Dec. 2, the team will learn where it will go for its first appearance in a bowl game since 1972.
The Golden Flashes have now won 14 of their last 16 games since tinkering with their offensive line during the bye week of the 2011 season.
"To think what our team has accomplished this season and at the end of last season is mind boggling," said Hazell. "It tells you when guys put their minds to something and they work the plan, so much can be accomplished."
With confidence growing every week during a nine-game win streak that is now the longest in program history, the Golden Flashes have reached a point where they believe they will win every time they take the field.
"We definitely had some doubt before this year, and that's just because of our history," said Keith. "Now every game there is never any doubt in our minds. We go into every week believing we will win."
Doubt never crept in on Saturday even as Bowling Green took advantage of a string of rare Kent State mistakes.
Blown coverage led to easy touchdown passes of 72 yards in the first quarter and 81 yards in the fourth quarter by the tandem of Schilz and tight end Chris Gallon. The first connection cut into some second-quarter momentum after Kent State grabbed a 10-0 lead. The second Schilz-to-Gallon touchdown re-tied the game at 24-24 with 14:11 remaining in the game.
The Falcons scored their other 10 points by capitalizing on a pair of Kent State fumbles. The Golden Flashes rebounded from each error.
After falling behind for the first time on a Schilz-to-Shaun Joplin touchdown pass of 27 yards early in the fourth quarter, the Golden Flashes answered with a six-play, 76-yard drive that ended with Keith finding Eric Adeyemi on the sideline for a 32-yard score. Kent State's lone touchdown pass deadlocked the game again, 17-17 at the 7:47 mark of the third quarter.
Keith threw for just 91 yards on a 9-for-17 passing afternoon that included one interception. The senior quarterback was an important complement to Archer in the running game, however, with 39 yards on 12 carries, including the game-winning score.
Keith also delivered a key block at the tail end of the 74-yard Archer touchdown that vaulted Kent State back into the lead in the fourth quarter at 24-17. Bowling Green appeared to have Archer stopped at midfield, but the elusive back somehow slipped out of a tackle by Ted Oulett near the left sideline before reversing his field.
"That was probably the most exciting run I've ever had," said Archer. "I just did not want to go down."
Archer's per-carry average of 10.3 yards is the best in one season by any in Division I college football player since at least 2000. Houston's Anthony Alridge is the only runner to average better than 10 yards per carry in a season in the new millennium (10.09 in 2006).
"He made our guys miss, just like he makes everybody miss," said Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson.
Despite giving up three touchdown passes, Kent State's pass defense managed to come up with several key stops. Defensive lineman Richard Gray and cornerback Norman Wolfe joined Wollet with tipped-ball interceptions of Schilz.
Roosevelt Nix got his hand on the ball that Gray intercepted. He also dropped into coverage and batted down a fourth-down throw by Schilz to force a turnover on downs late in the fourth quarter.
The three interceptions increased Kent State's season total to 21.
MOUNT PLEASANT - Junior running back Zurlon Tipton went over 100 rushing yards for the fifth straight game and the Central Michigan football team scored twice off Miami turnovers to claim a 30-16 win over the RedHawks on Senior Day on Saturday afternoon at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.
The Chippewas (5-6, 3-4 MAC) won for the third time in their past four games behind Tipton’s 112 yards and two touchdowns and a defense that forced four turnovers by the RedHawks (4-7, 3-4 MAC).
Miami outgained the Chippewas, 434-386, but the CMU defense stopped two of the RedHawks’ three fourth-down attempts. Miami managed just 74 rushing yards on 36 attempts, while the Chippewas racked up 184 yards on the same number of carries.
After the Chippewas couldn’t capitalize on a Miami fumble on their very first play from scrimmage, they made the most of a Miami turnover on downs on their third drive. Central stuffed a run up the middle at the CMU 35 on fourth-and-one to retake possession.
Freshman running back Saylor Lavallii had a pair of big plays on the ensuing six-play, 64-yard drive - a 22-yard rush and a 16-yard pass from senior quarterback Ryan Radcliff - that culminated in a 12-yard diving touchdown run from Tipton to give CMU a 7-0 lead with 1:51 left in the first quarter.
Radcliff finished the day 13-of-23 for 202 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Less than a minute later the RedHawks responded with a 68-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Zac Dysert to Nick Harwell to tie the game, 7-7, with 55 seconds left in the period.
The RedHawks were poised to strike first in the second period after a 36-yard diving catch put Miami at the CMU nine-yard line, but a sack for a loss of six by senior defensive lineman Joe Kinville derailed the drive. Two plays later a pass by Dysert into the endzone was deflected and intercepted at the one-yard line by senior safety Jahleel Addae and returned to the CMU 17.
The Chippewas marched 83 yards down the field in eight plays in the following 3:37, thanks in large part to a 57-yard pass from Radcliff to freshman wide receiver Andrew Flory, to score on a one-yard touchdown run up the middle by Tipton to give CMU a 14-7 edge with 3:54 left in the quarter.
The touchdown was Tipton’s 15th of the season, tying him for fifth on the single-season rushing touchdown list with Curtis Adams (1983) and Dan LeFevour (2009). Flory led the Chippewas in receiving yards for the second consecutive weekend with 62 yards.
Miami advanced to the CMU 48 on the following drive, only to be pushed back 11 yards on a sack by Addae and defensive back Cunningham, forcing a short 25-yard punt.
A pair of Tipton rushes totaling 20 yards and another catch for 13, and a pair of Radcliff-to-sophomore wide receiver Titus Davis connections for 25 yards set the Chippewas up for an eight-yard touchdown pass from Radcliff to junior tight end Connor Odykirk with 16 seconds left in the half for a 21-7 lead.
The RedHawks opened the second half with a nine-play, 62-yard drive that was capped by a 39-yard field goal, cutting the Chippewas’ lead to 21-10 with 11:14 left in the third period.
Miami also opened the second-half scoring with a one-yard touchdown by Dysert to cut CMU’s lead to 21-16, but sophomore defensive lineman Leterrius Walton broke up the two-point conversion that would have put the RedHawks within a field goal.
Central Michigan answered on the very next drive, going 76 yards in seven plays and culminating with a 10-yard run into the endzone by Lavallii for a 28-16 lead with 10:28 left in the game. The drive also featured a 24-yard reception by senior receiver Cody Wilson, extending his consecutive games with a catch streak to 40, and a 14-yard scamper by Lavallii to set up his touchdown run on the following play.
Lavallii’s touchdown was the first of his career, and Wilson’s streak is the second longest in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision.
Miami threatened to answer, driving as close as the CMU 15, but defensive pressure on the RedHawks’ fourth-and-four attempt and a quarterback hurry by Blake Serpa forced a turnover on downs to avert the danger with 5:38 left in the game.
The Chippewas effectively ended the RedHawks’ comeback aspirations with a safety as the result of a sack by senior Caesar Rodriguez, giving CMU a 30-16 lead with just 1:05 remaining in the game.
The Chippewas will look to get to .500 and become bowl-eligible as they close out the regular season on Friday with a 3 p.m. game at UMass.
Eastern Michigan 29, Western Michigan 23 Final Stats
Kalamazoo, Mich. – Behind a career-high three field goals from Dylan Mulder and 142 total yards from Alex Gillett, the Eastern Michigan University Football team retained the Michigan MAC trophy by downing Western Michigan, 34-31, Saturday afternoon, Nov. 17, at Waldo Stadium.
Gillett ran nine times for 60 yards, caught five passes for 45 yards that included a touchdown grab, and threw a 37-yard pass to lead the Eagles to victory. Tyler Benz was 13-21 for 137 yards and two touchdowns through the air, and Bronson Hill (Grand Rapids, Mich.-Catholic Central) rushed 17 times for 77 yards.
Despite losing the offensive yardage battle 369-443 and giving up 328 passing yards, the EMU defense battled all afternoon to force three WMU field goals and two WMU turnovers in Eastern territory.
The Green and White picked up its first MAC victory of the season, moving to 1-6 in conference play and 2-9 overall. With the loss, Western Michigan ends its season at 4-8 (2-6 MAC).
With the victory, EMU defeated WMU in consecutive seasons for the first time since the Eagles rattled off three straight victories against the Broncos from 1989-1991.
EMU started off the contest with great field position after Tyler Allen took the opening kickoff to the EMU 47-yard line. Three straight penalties opened the contest with an Eastern delay-of-game penalty followed by two offside penalties on Western, putting the Eagles in Bronco territory. Benz took advantage of the field position by converting two crucial third downs before it was capped off by a Dominique Sherrer three-yard touchdown run. The 11-play, 53-yard opening drive put the Eagles up 7-0 with 9:22 remaining in the first quarter.
Western Michigan responded by marching quickly down the field going 50 yards in six plays. However, with the Broncos on the EMU 22-yard line, defensive tackle Travis Linser forced WMU quarterback Alex Carder to fumble, and free safety Alex Bellfy came up with the recovery.
Following the WMU turnover and a short loss on first down, the Eastern continued to shine as Gillett took a quarterback draw 42 yards down the field. The following play, Benz found Hill for a 19-yard pass completion setting up first-and-goal from the 4-yard line. After WMU held strong on two rushing plays, Benz dropped back to pass, finding Donald Scott in the middle of the end zone for a five-yard touchdown pass and reception. The offense marched 64 yards in only six plays to put the Eagles up 14-0 with 3:46 remaining in the opening quarter.
WMU countered the EMU scoring drive with one of its own as the Broncos drove 65 yards in 10 plays taking only 3:51 off of the game clock. On the first play of the second quarter, Carder found WMU wide receiver Blake Hammond in the corner of the end zone from one yard out to make it a 14-7 ballgame in favor of the Green and White.
The Eastern Michigan offense looked efficient once again as a 13-play, 75-yard drive led to a Mulder 22-yard field goal to increased the EMU lead to 10 points, 17-7 with 8:21 remaining in the first half.
After the EMU defense forced Western Michigan to punt, the Eastern offense stalled as well. On fourth-and-four from their own 25 yard-line, the Eagles lined up to punt; however, the special teams changed the formation as Sherrer took a direct snap to fake the punt. The Broncos were not fooled as Sherrer was stopped for no gain, giving WMU great field position at the EMU 25-yard line. The very next play, Carder found receiver Justin Collins on a 25-yard hook-up to make it a 17-14 game with 2:48 to go in the second quarter. Following punts by both teams, the Green and White headed to the locker room with a 17-14 advantage.
WMU opened the second half with the ball, driving 46 yards in six plays leading to a 37-yard field goal from Andrew Haldeman. With the Eastern defense holding the Broncos to three points, the game saw its first tie at 17-17 with 13:11 to go in the third quarter.
On the Eagles' first offensive play of the second half, Hill rumbled 24 yards into Western territory to the 44-yard line. Seven plays later, Mulder kicked a career-long 43-yard field goal, his second of the afternoon, to give the lead back to the Green and White at the 9:06 mark in the third quarter.
With the Eastern Michigan defense holding strong and forcing another Broncos punt, the EMU offense drove down the field again. During the drive, Gillett took a snap and completed a pass to Hill down the sideline for 37 yards, setting up first-and-goal from the WMU 9-yard line. Facing third-and-goal, Gillett was on the receiving end of a touchdown pass from Benz, the first touchdown reception of the senior's career, with 1:55 remaining in the third quarter. However, Mulder missed the extra point to keep the score at 26-17.
On the next WMU drive, Marcell Rose intercepted Carder at the EMU 28-yard line to give the Eagles the ball back and retain a nine point lead heading into the final 15 minutes of the game.
Eastern was forced to punt, giving the ball back to Western. Carder marched his team down the field and, on third-and-goal from the EMU 8-yard line, appeared to have connected on a touchdown pass to Antoin Scriven. However, replays showed that Scriven was down short of the goal line, and the Broncos settled for a 19-yard field goal to make the score 26-20 in favor of Eastern Michigan with 7:59 remaining in the contest.
Looking to hold on to the lead, the EMU offense succeeded, setting up Mulder for a 34-yard field goal with only 2:33 remaining in the game. The nine-play, 52-yard drive drained 5:26 off of the clock, and the three points made it a two possession ballgame 29-20.
Western Michigan did not give up as the Broncos quickly worked their way into the EMU red zone in just over one minute on the game clock. Nonetheless, the Eastern defense forced WMU to settle for yet another field goal. Haldeman's 28-yard field goal, his third of the day, made the score 29-23 with just 49 seconds remaining.
With such little time remaining and only one timeout left, Western Michigan attempted an onside kick. EMU sent out its hands team who completed the job recovering the football. Two plays later from victory formation, the clock ran out to give the Green and White a 29-23 victory.
Due to Eastern, Central, and Western all going 1-1 against each other this season, EMU retains the Michigan MAC Trophy for at least another year, the fourth time to be exact which is more than any other school. By defeating both Central Michigan and Western Michigan last season, the Eagles claimed the Michigan MAC Trophy for football.
The Eagles will be back in action at home for the final game of the 2012 season Friday, Nov. 23 against Northern Illinois. It will be Senior Day as EMU will honor its 18 seniors with a pregame ceremony down on the field. Kickoff from Rynearson Stadium is scheduled for 1 p.m. as ESPN3 will provide the telecast.
Buffalo 29, UMass 19 Final Stats
FOXBOROUGH, MA – The University at Buffalo football team rallied from a 13-0 halftime deficit to beat Massachusetts, 29-19, at Gillette Stadium on Saturday afternoon. It was the Bulls' third straight win and first road win since the 2010 season.
"To be able to win this game on the road says a lot about the character of these kids," head coach Jeff Quinn said. "It was a great team win and that's what it's all about. I know our kids are excited about getting three wins in a row. It's been a long time since we have been able to do that."
The Bulls have won three straight games for the first time since 2008 and the just the second time in their Division I-A era (since 1999).
Buffalo (4-7, 3-4 MAC) played without running backs Branden Oliver and Devin Campbell and early on the UB offense looked to struggle because of it. The Bulls compiled just x yards of offense in the first half and lost the field position battle throughout the first 30 minutes. However, the Bulls' defense kept UMass from building a larger first half lead.
It took a special teams play to spark the Bulls early in the third quarter. Adam Redden came off the edge to block the UMass punt and Kyndal Minniefield scooped up the ball and scampered 33 yards for a touchdown. Because the ball crossed the line of scrimmage, it was considered a punt return, marking the first time since Aug. 29, 2002 a UB player returned a punt for a touchdown. The 10-year drought was the longest in the nation.
"I couldn't be more proud of Adam Redden stepping up and Kyndal Minniefield being able to take the ball and put us on the board for the first time, because we were really flat offensively, Quinn said."
UMass answered by scoring a touchdown on its next drive. However, the Minutemen botched the extra point, making the score 19-7 with 6:49 left in the third quarter.
The UB offense caught fire after that and it was all Bulls from there on out. Joe Licata found Jimmy Gordon from three yards out to cut the UMass lead to 19-14 with 2:13 left in the third quarter. The key play on the drive was a Licata to Fred Lee hook up for 34 yards on 3rd and 16.
After forcing a UMass three and out, Buffalo got the ball back and methodically drove 77 yards on nine plays to take its first lead of the game. Rolling to his right, Licata threw across his body to Alex Neutz for a 6-yard touchdown. Again it was a Licata to Lee connection, this time for 44 yards, that keyed the scoring drive.
Brandon Murie put the exclamation point on the win with a 12-yard touchdown run with two minutes left to put UB ahead, 29-19.
The UMass offensive line was no match for a relentless UB defense pursuit late in the game. Buffalo sacked UMass quarterback Mike Wegzyn five times on the Minutemens' last two drives.
Khalil Mack may have had the best game of his career. The All-MAC linebacker had a career-high 15 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. He broke the school record for tackles for loss in a career with 53.5. The previous record of 50.5 was held by Vince Canosa (1992-95).
Steven Means also had a career day with nine tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and a career-high three sacks. Colby Way added a career-high nine tackles and 1.5 sacks. As a team, the Bulls registered a season-high eight sacks in the game.
With Oliver and Campbell out, the Bulls turned to Murie and seldom-used Rashad Jean to fill to role of running back. Murie finished with a career-best 90 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown. Jean was an even bigger surprise. A former defensive tackle, converted to fullback last season, Jean didn't have a carry in his career. He finished with 73 yards on 17 carries.
"There was a lot of great effort out of Rashad Jean," Quinn said. "I couldn't have been more proud of him and the offensive line."
Licata won his third straight start since being named the starting quarterback. The redshirt-freshman signal caller went 18-for-30 for 226 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
The UB secondary had another solid day with a pair of interceptions and four pass breakups. Okoye Houston and Najja Johnson each notched an interception.
With 168 yards rushing in the game, Buffalo improved its season total to 2,091 - a UB Division I-A single season record. It is just the sixth time in program history the Bulls have rushed for 2,000 yards in a season.
Buffalo wraps up its season on Friday when it takes on Bowling Green in Columbus, OH at 2:00 pm.