UB is still more than a month away from playing its Mid-American Conference opener. The Bulls are six weeks away from their first game within the division. But the East race could become a little clearer on Saturday when the division’s defending champion, Kent State, entertains Bowling Green in a battle of acknowledged contenders.
“The second you lose one conference game you’re counting on help," said Bowling Green head coach Dave Clawson, the former Lew-Port quarterback and UB assistant.
Bowling Green geared up for Kent in impressive fashion, ripping a Tulsa team picked to win Conference USA West by 34-7. It marked the eighth time in the last nine regular-season games that the Falcons have held their opponent to 14 points or fewer — an incredible run in today’s wide-open college game. The only blemish in that streak? Kent State.
The Golden Flashes got two Dre Archer touchdown runs of more than 70 yards in last year’s 31-24 victory. The question is whether Archer, a sure-fire NFL Draft pick, will be available this week after suffering a foot injury in the first quarter of Thursday’s 17-10 win over FCS team Liberty. First-year coach Paul Haynes said on Monday’s MAC conference call that his standout runner, receiver and return man is day to day.
If Archer can’t go, Bowling Green can stack the box to neutralize power running back Trayion Durham and force freshman quarterback Colin Reardon to move the ball through the air. Reardon was 21 of 28 for 198 yards and two TDs against Liberty.
“He played pretty good for his first start,” said Haynes, a former Kent player named coach after Darrell Hazell took the Purdue job. “As a young kid, he didn’t make too many mistakes and that’s really what we kind of talked to him about is managing the offense. You don’t have to go out there and try to make crazy plays. We just need you to manage the offense.”
Managing the offense is tougher against Bowling Green than most defenses. The Falcons held Tulsa to just 12 first downs while forcing and recovering a pair of fumbles.
“We always believe that turnovers and big plays decide every game and last year Kent made more big plays than we did,” Clawson said. “It was 24-24 and we threw a pick deep in our own territory and they cashed in on it and that proved to be the difference in the game.”
Week one awards
UB senior linebacker Khalil Mack was named the MAC East Defensive Player of the Week and cbssports.com national defensive player of the week for his dominant performance in Saturday’s 40-20 loss at Ohio State. Mack went off for nine tackles, 2.5 sacks and returned an interception for a touchdown, an effort that drew national attention.
Here’s what Baylor coach Art Briles had to say about Mack on Monday’s Big 12 coaches teleconference:
“He’s definitely different. He’s a guy that you certainly have to account for from an offensive standpoint. He’s very dynamic. I’ve seen where he’s been rated as the No. 2 linebacker in America this year so he sticks out. As soon as you put the film on – we started watching yesterday – it takes about one play to figure out who their guy is. I mean, he’s it. He’s good. He’s earned his reputation.”
The other awards in the East went to Bowling Green running back William Houston and Falcons punt returner Ryan Burbrink. Houston plunged for three 1-yard touchdowns in his collegiate debut while Burbrink returned a punt 67 yards for a score.
Northern Illinois received two of the three West Division honors after knocking off Iowa, 30-27 (making it seven straight seasons a MAC team has beaten a Big Ten foe). Quarterback Jordan Lynch was named the top offensive player as he passed for 275 yards and three touchdowns. Matthew Sims earned the special teams nod by kicking three field goals, the last a 36-yarder with four seconds remaining.
The West defensive award went to Western Michigan defensive back Donald Celiscar – game-high 10 tackles and two pass breakups in a 26-13 loss at Michigan State.
Western Michigan faced a third-and-10 at Michigan State when quarterback Tyler Van Tubbergen left with a concussion. On came redshirt freshman Zach Terrell to run the first play of his collegiate career. The result? A 14-yard touchdown pass to tight end Clark Mussman. Terrell finished 12 of 28 for 120 yards, two touchdowns and a pick and remains the backup heading into Saturday’s game against Nicholls State.
“If Tyler Van Tubbergen is healthy, Tyler Van Tubbergen will play,” said WMU coach P.J. Fleck. “He’s our starting quarterback.”
There wasn’t much to choose between Ball State and UB when the two schools met in the third game of the 2011 season. The Cardinals beat the visiting Bulls, 28-25, on a 4-yard touchdown hookup between Keith Wenning and Willie Snead with 29 seconds left. But for Ball State and its new coach at the time, Pete Lembo, that game proved a launching pad. The Cards are 16-10 under Lembo after pulverizing FCS Illinois State, 51-28, in their opener.
What’s up with Ohio?
Some 11 months ago Ohio was 7-0, owned a victory over Penn State and was being labeled “the next Boise State.” Since then the Bobcats are 2-5. They were never in the game Sunday in bowing at ninth-ranked Louisville, 49-7. That makes four straight regular-season losses for the Bobcats in which they’ve been outscored, 153-54.
Ohio isn’t the first team to be lit up by Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, a top Heisman candidate. And the Bobcats won’t be the last, especially given Louisville’s cake schedule. But the defeat was startling in its soundness.
“We couldn’t find any consistency or the ability to move the ball on offense,” Ohio coach Frank Solich said. “Defensively we were inept against them. And special teams we did not perform at all up to our capabilities.
“They’re an excellent football team. We were playing some young players. I expect that we’ll be a good football team but it’s obvious we’re not there yet.”